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Embodied VisionsEvolution, Emotion, Culture and Film$
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Torben Grodal

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195371314

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195371314.001.0001

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Universalism, Cultural Variation, and Children’s Film

Universalism, Cultural Variation, and Children’s Film

(p.25) 2 Universalism, Cultural Variation, and Children’s Film
Embodied Visions

Torben Grodal

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that cultural diversity and cultural development are compatible with the assumption of a biological human nature that provides human universals. It shows that children’s films are shaped both by innate emotional needs and cognitive constraints and by specific cultural norms, using examples from Finding Nemo, Spirited Away, Lassie, Bambi, and others. It refutes the blank slate theory of the human mind—the strong version of culturalism—and also the arguments for strong biologism. It discusses the mechanisms of cultural variation and also those that promote cultural stability and universality, including a discussion of functional bundles of universally salient story elements. The effect of some of these mechanisms on genre patterns is illustrated, and an alternative, functionalist explanation is provided to Altman’s postmodern genre theory. Finally, the chapter argues against monolithic theories that claim that given periods or cultures—for instance “modernity”—can be characterized by means of homogeneous features, proposing instead that cultures are time-spaces in which many different forms exist and interact, so that heterogeneity is not a property of modernity, but typical of culture in general.

Keywords:   film for children, genre theory, evolutionary theory, cultural evolution, meme theory, cultural migration, cultural universality, cultural change, fairy tales

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