Posts tagged ‘board games’

Candy Land: Fun for Kids? or Not. (New Publication)

Ever wondered what the board game Candy Land has to do with polio, Hansel and Gretel, and rotten teeth? Now, thanks to the diligent efforts of the Candy Professor Research Labs, all your Candy Land questions are answered.

You can read the full story in the latest issue of The American Journal of Play. My article is called “Polio comes Home: Pleasure and Paralysis in Candy Land.” Since you probably don’t have a subscription yet, here is a handy link to my article.

The article is a bit of an octopus, I start with the origins of the game and then spin out to make connections with candy, literature, parenting, cold-war culture, education, disease and health. It was fun to write (and my apologies if it isn’t as fun to read as this blog, it is a bit, ahem, academic).

I started researching Candy Land because of the candy, of course. But the candy is not the whole story. This game is one of the most successful board games ever. So why is it that most people find it so boring, not fun at all? I began my research with the small fact that Candy Land was invented by a school teacher who was recovering from polio. This led me to consider the connections between the game and broader ideas about childhood, safety, learning, and play. Despite the huge commercial success of Candy Land, I’m not convinced the game has much to do with real kids or fun. Instead, I think the game tells us a lot about adult ideas about children: what children should like, what they should do, how they should play safely.

Keeping kids safe seems to be the major theme of parenting these days. It is so interesting to me that Candy Land repeats this theme both as a game and in the candy image. Better to keep the kids busy with a board game and send their imaginary pawns on an imaginary adventure than let them roam the vicious streets! And better to keep they sated with imaginary pictures of candy than to let them eat the real stuff.

It isn’t just Candy Land of course. It’s helmets and padding and fenced yards and organic snacks and Wii. It’s “don’t” and “be careful” and “you might fall” and “no.” It’s adults who can’t just leave kids to be kids. Candy Land looks fun, but it is a totally fake kind of fun: nothing to do, and no candy to eat. Safe and boring. As far as I’m concerned, Candy Land is a perfect metaphor for the rip-off that is contemporary childhood.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear comments on this project.

May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am 6 comments

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

(C) Samira Kawash

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