- The Galaxy Is Rated G: Essays on Children's Science Fiction Film and Television ed. by R.C. Neighbors and Sandy Rankin
The Galaxy Is Rated G explores the intersections of children's culture, sf, film and television. The book begins with an introduction that articulates the need for such a collection and establishes its parameters, discussing possible definitions for 'sf' and for 'children' while recognising how difficult, problematic and contingent such definitions are. The 16 essays that follow either survey a variety of film and television examples or provide close readings of one or two texts; the essays are divided into three sections designated by thematic focus. The first section, 'D is for Deviance', has five essays concerned with issues of bodies, gender, race and genre. The second section, 'S is for Structures of Power', includes five essays that focus on constructions of national or social identities. The third section, 'F is for Future Shock', contains six essays on estrangement [End Page 436] and socialisation in series such as The Jetsons (US 1962-3), LazyTown (Iceland 2004-7), Lost in Space (US 1965-8) and Flash Gordon (US 1936-40), as well as in films such as We're Back! (Nibbelink, Wells, Zondag and Zondag US 1993), Meet the Robinsons (Anderson US 2007), The Last Mimzy (Shaye US 2007) and Wall-E (Stanton US 2008). The collection as a whole, then, covers a wide range of children's film and television in terms of period of production (from the 1930s to the present), target audience (from the pre-schoolers of LazyTown to the crossover adult audiences of Doctor Who) and use of science and sf conventions.
The Galaxy Is Rated G intends, as its editors R.C. Neighbors and Sandy Rankin state in the introduction, to fill a gap in scholarly conversation. Neighbors and Rankin find it 'unsettling that...[there is] so little scholarly attention to the joining of children's visual media and sf' (1), and this volume is designed 'to spark more dialogue than currently exists' (1) about specific examples of sf film and television and about the larger questions surrounding this combination of audience, media and genre. Any survey of scholarly journals in the fields of sf or children's literature tends to confirm this perceived gap: although any two of the terms (children's culture; sf; film and television) might be brought together, the investigation of the intersection of all three is rare, particularly if sf is narrowly defined. As Neighbors and Rankin acknowledge, 'there is much scholarship available about that which scholars and non-scholars alike explicitly identify as fantasy in children's media' ('Introduction' 3), in part because of the perception that 'fantasy appears to have triumphed in popularity against sf' (3). One of the purposes that the collection serves, then, is to create recognition for the presence of sf in children's culture.
Nevertheless, the problem of genre haunts the collection. Neighbors and Rankin recognise in their introduction the necessity of defining sf to avoid being 'ideologically disingenuous' (2), but part of that necessity appears to be the scholarly policing of the border between sf and fantasy. Neighbors and Rankin cite Darko Suvin, Fredric Jameson and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr, among others, in their attempt to define sf, noting as they do the continuities and disagreements within sf scholarship around genre definitions. Noting that the boundary between sf and fantasy is often blurred, Neighbors and Rankin emphasise cognitive estrangement in their definition of sf, and the technological and scientific aspect of the texts' 'imaginative difference from our mundane world' ('Introduction' 10); the essays are meant to concentrate on these sf characteristics, even if the films or television shows under discussion also have fantastic elements. When some individual essays return to this concern with genre, it sometimes seems as though they do so in order to justify [End Page 437] the discussion of a particular text as 'science fiction', for example by acknowledging that a particular text (such...