Kids Rule!

Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship

Kids Rule!

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 30 illustrations Published: September 2007

Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Communication, TV

In Kids Rule! Sarah Banet-Weiser examines the cable network Nickelodeon in order to rethink the relationship between children, media, citizenship, and consumerism. Nickelodeon is arguably the most commercially successful cable network ever. Broadcasting original programs such as Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Rugrats (and producing related movies, Web sites, and merchandise), Nickelodeon has worked aggressively to claim and maintain its position as the preeminent creator and distributor of television programs for America’s young children, tweens, and teens. Banet-Weiser argues that a key to its success is its construction of children as citizens within a commercial context. The network’s self-conscious engagement with kids—its creation of a “Nickelodeon Nation” offering choices and empowerment within a world structured by rigid adult rules—combines an appeal to kids’ formidable purchasing power with assertions of their political and cultural power.

Banet-Weiser draws on interviews with nearly fifty children as well as with network professionals; coverage of Nickelodeon in both trade and mass media publications; and analysis of the network’s programs. She provides an overview of the media industry within which Nickelodeon emerged in the early 1980s as well as a detailed investigation of its brand-development strategies. She also explores Nickelodeon’s commitment to “girl power,” its ambivalent stance on multiculturalism and diversity, and its oft-remarked appeal to adult viewers. Banet-Weiser does not condemn commercial culture nor dismiss the opportunities for community and belonging it can facilitate. Rather she contends that in the contemporary media environment, the discourses of political citizenship and commercial citizenship so thoroughly inform one another that they must be analyzed in tandem. Together they play a fundamental role in structuring children’s interactions with television.


Kids Rule! offers us an interestingly new way of considering children’s culture.” — Norma Pecora, International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics

“[A] fresh and engaging analysis of Nickelodeon. . . . Banet-Weiser’s work offers important theoretical insights in understanding the complex relations between children, young people, and media, and makes an important contribution toward formulating international children and youth media studies project[s].” — Sanjay Asthana, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

“[Banet-Weiser] looks under every cover and analyses every last facet of the network’s attitude to its audience, interviews some fifty children and network executives, analyses the programs and provides an overview of coverage the channel’s received in the media. . . . Banet-Weiser has delivered a balanced study on the core entertainment affecting our children…rubber nipples and all.” — Michael Dalton, M/C Reviews

“[Banet-Weiser] makes a convincing argument that Nickelodeon is more than just a cable TV channel; it’s a lifestyle. . . . [A] compelling and important book. . . .” — Robert Thompson, Duke Magazine

“The focus here, on children as ‘citizens’ within a commercial context, is distinct. Recommended for academic libraries.” — Library Journal

“This is a well-researched and important book for a wide range of research topics, including children’s popular culture, media industries, identity politics, and postmodern citizenship.” — Larissa Faulkner, Canadian Journal of Communication

“Banet-Weiser . . . offers a complex account of the ways in which childhood is important to television and vice versa. . . . The notions of childhood agency, rights and citizenship in an increasingly branded, corporate-run television world are vital ones.” — Rayna Denison, Media, Culture & Society

“Banet-Weiser does an exceptional job of analyzing the development of the Nickelodeon brand. . . . Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Kids Rule! is Banet-Weiser’s analysis of Nickelodeon’s relationship to girl power, diversity, and the ironic approach to gender.” — Ashley Rogers Berner, Hedgehog Review

“Banet-Weiser’s book is a welcomed addition to the field of children’s media studies. Her prose is clear, and her arguments are nuanced and provocative. This engaging, highly-informed, and detailed study of Nickelodeon provides a compelling argument for why children’s media deserves an analytical approach which moves beyond the often-repeated claims that children are innocent victims of television or that they are empowered users of media. . . . This engaging account is an important read, not only for those interested in media and children’s media, but also for those theorizing the nation, postmodern politics, adult animation, or issues of representation.” — Kari R. Hensley, International Journal of Communication

“Banet-Weiser’s Nickelodeon case study is useful for those interested in the contemporary media environment, representations and commodification of gender, class and queer culture in children’s programming, discourses of political and commercial citizenship, and children’s media studies.” — Wendy Keys, Media International Australia

“Recommended.” — C. Sterling, Choice

“The book is Banet-Weiser’s effort to make sense of the contradictions and complexities extant in children’s media, examining Nickelodeon’s stated mission to empower children to be agents of change against the widely held view that children’s television manipulates youth and works to enculturate them above all into the marketplace. . . . Kids Rule! offers an astute unpacking of how these contradictory values can and do coexist in commercial children’s media. . . . Serious scholars of children’s media will want to read the book in its entirety. I recommend it as an addition to their personal libraries.” — Amy Aidman, Journal of Consumer Culture

“With great clarity the author succeeds in taking the concept of consumer citizenship for children out of the realm of theory and into a real world of consumerism and marketing. Kids Rule! illuminates the manner in which this hugely successful network has transformed the former wasteland of children’s programming into a community of juvenile citizens.” — Peter Terry, Foreword Reviews

Kids Rule! challenges us to think about Nickelodeon’s impact on our ideas about childhood, consumerism, and citizenship. With wit and insight, Sarah Banet-Weiser explains how this phenomenal cable and branding success story changed children’s TV while deftly promoting its brand worldwide. A must-read for parents and teachers.” — Ellen Seiter, author of The Internet Playground: Children’s Access, Entertainment, and Mis-Education

Kids Rule! is an immensely important and exciting book. Based on meticulous research, with a strong cultural production approach, it is a book that will be widely read by scholars and students alike. It fills a large gap in this terrain of work and it is lively, thorough, and brimming with insight and argument.” — Angela McRobbie, author of The Uses of Cultural Studies

“In this remarkable book, Sarah Banet-Weiser delves into the political, cultural, and economic forces that drive Nickelodeon. As it has moved from upstart cable network to international conglomerate, Nick has tried to have its cake and eat it too—it is a place where ‘kids rule!’ but also a network that understands the value of pleasing parents. The book compellingly reveals how Nick addresses its young viewers as consumer-citizens and how it commodifies both ‘girl power’ and ethnic diversity to forge a unique place for itself within the children’s television marketplace.” — Heather Hendershot, editor of Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel for Kids


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sarah Banet-Weiser is Associate Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity and coeditor of Cable Visions: Television Beyond Broadcasting (forthcoming).

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

1. “We, the People of Nickelodeon”: Theorizing Empowerment and Consumer Citizenship 1

2. The Success Story: Nickelodeon and the Cable Industry 38

3. The Nickelodeon Brand: Buying and Selling the Audience 69

4. Girls Rule! Gender, Feminism, and Nickelodeon 104

5. Consuming Race on Nickelodeon 142

6. Is Nick for Kids? Irony, Camp, and Animation in the Nickelodeon Brand 178

Conclusion: Kids Rule: The Nickelodeon Universe 211

Notes 219

Bibliography 245

Index 259
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3993-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3976-2
Publicity material