The informant is my mother, who was born and raised in North Vancouver, Canada. She has two older brothers, and both of her parents immigrated from the United Kingdom when they were adults. She worked in accounting until she retired at the age of 50. She is widowed and has two children: myself and my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy.
This is a popular children’s playground game that she played when she was younger.
“Well, Red Rover. You stand in a line, holding your arms together, and then you call someone over and they try to break through the line. “Red Rover Red Rover we call…Jennifer over.” And then Jennifer will come running through and try to choose the weakest spot between the arms that she thinks she can break through, and… if she breaks through, I don’t what, I don’t remember what happens if you break through. I think you get to go back. If you don’t break through, you have to join the line. You’re part of the row—you’re part of the line.”
What’s the goal of the game?
“To be the last man standing, to be the person who breaks through all the time. To be the strongest [laughs].”
This common children’s game may seem fairly innocuous, but I think that it sheds a lot of light on social hierarchies in North American societies. The goal of the game is to keep breaking through the wall of people standing before the player. Not only does this mean that the social currency gained from winning the game is given to the “strongest” player, but it also establishes that one should be looking to break through barriers; those who don’t become part of the conglomerate. This may reflect some of the social values found in capitalist societies.