USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘television’
Childhood
general

“If you watch too much TV, your eyes will turn to squares”

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

 

Transcript:

“Me: You were saying something about ‘eyes turning into squares’…

M: Yes. When [son] would watch the television to much I would tell him to be careful or his eye would turn into squares.

(Makes impression of squares around eyes, with eyes turning from round into square)

Me: So it would happen slowly to him if he watched to much TV, not like ‘all of a sudden’?

M: Yes.

Me: Was it to stop him from watching to much TV?

M: No really (laughs), it was for fun, como el Mano Peludo. ”

 

Analysis: El ‘mano peludo’ is a myth involving a hairy hand that would attack children in their sleep, sometimes associated with children that misbehaved. In reference to M explaining that it was similar to el mano peludo, she is explaining that it is used by adults to often tease children, it is not necessarily tied to any sort of moral lesson.

In regards to the ‘eyes turning into squares’ piece of Folklore, there appears to be many references to it on the internet:

http://athome.readinghorizons.com/blog/why-sitting-too-close-to-the-television-makes-your-eyes-go-square

The Mystery of the Mad Science Teacher by Marty Chan, 2008, pg, 171.

https://sarahgalvin.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/dont-watch-too-much-tv-or-your-eyes-will-turn-square/

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/british/square-eyed

 

The myth itself appears to be addressed directly by many of the above authors as something heard during their childhood. This particular piece of Folklore thus appears to be used quite a lot in recent times, as the television as a fairly recent invention, this isn’t surprising. Though M did not use this particular piece of Folklore moralistically,  it appears to be quite available for such usage. Her use of it rather, may be closer to the use of the Boogeyman, a way to tease children via their trust in adults.

Legends

Cram it, Clownie!

The informant grew up in various parts of California, due to his father needing to relocate for work. The contemporary legend described below was first heard by him in Norwalk, CA when he was 9 or 10 years old in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The informant’s older brother and his friends (older by 3 years) first told the story and the informant overheard them. He remembers seeing the Bozo show, but he does not remember this specific episode. He tells this story when reminded by a story about similar defiant acts by children or when televison-related urban legends are brought up.

The story is as follows (paraphrased):

There was a television show in the 1960’s called Bozo the Clown that had children as guest stars on each episode. It was supposed to be an honor to be one of these guests, and most kids were happy to be there. These programs were not heavily edited and time-delayed like the television shows of today. There was one kid, though, that was not having it. When Bozo asked the child to do something or answer a question as was normally done, the child loudly said “Cram it, Clownie!” This was obviously not the expected response and is probably why this story gets told.

The story caused my informant to laugh as he told the story. My informant had not actually seen the episode in question, and the show was probably not rebroadcast if this did occur. This really shows the unpredictability and unfiltered nature of some children, which was entertaining even to 10-13 year old boys in the 1960’s. This wouldn’t be entertaining if children were ‘supposed’ to be like that, so the fact that the story is still entertaining shows something about how children realize that they are not supposed to behave that way. I think he remembered this legend because he has seen instances of children misbehaving like this in public throughout his life and career and therefore enjoys an example that was publicly broadcast. Because he has raised two children (19 years old and 22 years  old) I think he has a different perspective now as a parent than he did when he first heard the story as a child who wasn’t much different in age from the child in question.

 

Folk Beliefs

St. Clare of Assisi.

The informant (L) is a senior film major at California State University Los Angeles. L also nannies on the weekends. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and attended Catholic schools before coming to Los Angeles for college. Though her interpretation of Catholicism is more modern than those of the previous generation, she still calls herself Catholic. I asked her if she had any religious folklore and she responded by telling me about the patron saint of television. She said that it was something her friends told each other and she had read in a book when she was about 10 years old. Below is the paraphrased story that she gave as the explanation as to how Saint Clare became the patron saint of television.

Saint Clare of Assisi was a nun in Italy many centuries ago. She was a very devoted nun and never missed a day of mass, ever. One day, however, she got sick and even though she wanted to go to mass, she just could not physically get her body to take her to mass. It was then, in her bedroom, that the Holy Spirit “projected the mass on the wall” of the bedroom so that she could still experience the mass without physically being at the mass. Because this is like what a television does, she was made into the patron saint of television even though she lived a long time before TVs even existed.

Though she had read this in a book, she did not know until later that it was “real” and that Pope Pius XII had actually made her the patron saint of television in the 1950’s. St. Clare is especially important to L because her school and future work life is entirely based on television and film.

It is important to note that L used the word “projected” to describe how St. Clare saw the mass, whereas the more religious sources (like http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-clare-of-assisi/) use other words like display and “able to see.” I think L’s choice of words connects St. Clare to the idea of television (as film etc. used to be projected on to a screen). Additionally, the fact that L skipped a lot of the other important things St. Clare did, like follow St. Francis and other religiously significant things, and got right to the part that mattered: how a saint became connected to television. This says a lot about the way L sees the story: it is a connection between her religion and the way she grew up and the life she is now leading. She feels connected to her religion through St. Clare.

 

Folk speech
Humor
Musical

Barney Theme Song Parody

 “I hate you, you hate me, let’s get together and kill Barney, with a bazooka, and a big ol’ machine gun, boom, boom, boom and Barney’s dead.”

This is a song sung in the same tune as the song from the Barney television show that used to go, “I love you, you love me, we are happy family, with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?”  In a way it is a play on it and mocks the cherished children’s show, which is as classic as Sesame Street and Big Bird.  However, this version is sung by slightly older children, such as the informant from Moorpark, CA, who are aware of more violent objects such as machine guns and bazookas.  The informant learned of this version of the Barney song from her older brother who was in sixth grade and had learned it from his friends at school.  She repeats it because she is at the age where she repeats everything her older brother does, no matter what it is, in order to impress the “grown ups” of how much she knows.  She likes it because she is a very lyrical person and likes to sings rhymes and tunes in the car whenever the family travels.

This is a saying often restricted to children, generally those who have grown up in the 90’s when Barney was still quite popular, who have grown older and are capable of creating such a creative and mocking rhyme.  I think that the kids retell it as a method of proving to other people and kids that they have grown up, almost a hierarchy among children.  Since the older kids know the new and different rhyme, they can distinguish themselves from the “kiddies” and “babies” who still watch Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur.  I think it is a sense of status that causes the children to spread this chant and they enjoy that feeling that they can be different from other students.

 

There are many versions of this mock barney song which can be found at http://www.amiright.com/parody/90s/barney0.shtml For example,

“I hate you, you hate me
Let’s get together and kill Barney
With tanks of water and acid he will drown
Barney escapes but he falls down”

Game
general

Car Game – Zitch Dog

Basically, the point of the game is if you see a dog, you have to be the first person to say, “Zitch Dog!” and then you get a point. Person with the highest score by the end of the car ride gets free dinner.

My informant brought up this game during a long car ride with me and a couple other friends.  He told me that he learned of this game when he was taking a road trip with some of his other friends.  Although, the last time he played, the person with the lowest score would have to pay for everybody’s dinner.

I decided to research the origins of Zitch Dog and found that it came from an episode of “How I Met Your Mother.”  As an avid fan of the television show “How I Met Your Mother,” I had seen the episode before but had assumed that it was already an established game.  I was surprised to find that the writers of the show had invented it.  The one main difference between the TV show version and my informant’s version is that in the show, there is no real prize for the winner, only bragging rights.  When I asked my friend if he was aware that it came from the show, his response was that he had never even heard of the show before.  While folklore has had a big influence over published media, this case is an excellent example of media creating and affecting folklore.

Annotations:
Harris, Chris. “Arrivederci, Fiero.” How I Met Your Mother. Dir. Pamela Fryman. CBS. 26 Feb. 20007. Television.

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