Well, wasn’t The He-Man Effect a load of fun? A big theme in this book is nostalgia, and I am definitely sold on the 80s cartoon nostalgia. My sister and I were die-hard He-Man TV cartoon fans in the 80s. Crazy to think its main purpose was as an extended ad to sell action figures!
AUTHOR: by Brian “Box” Brown
ILLUSTRATOR: Brian “Box” Brown
PUBLISHER: First Second
PUBLICATION DATE: July 11, 2023
GENRE: graphic nonfiction
SETTING: history of children’s television, particularly between 1980s-1990s.
GIVE IT TO: adults
AWARDS AND KUDOS
- nothing yet; this book doesn’t come out for two more months
Powered by the advent of television and super-charged by the deregulation era of the 1980s, media companies and toy manufacturers joined forces to dominate the psyches of American children. But what are the consequences when a developing brain is saturated with the same kind of marketing bombardment found in Red Scare propaganda?
THE SHORT VERSION
I loved the content and the graphic nonfiction format. Many adults of a certain age will love this!
WHAT I LIKED
I have not read graphic nonfiction for adults before, but I love this format and hope to read more like it. The closest book I can think of is How to Fake a Moon Landing, which is YA and not one I really loved, TBH.
The He-Man Effect starts out describing a brief history of government propaganda and how it accelerated with WWI and WWII. This stuff just makes me so mad to hear about, and I’m even more irritated that it works as well as it does.
I’ve lived outside the US since 2014, so it’s quite easy for me to tune out US media and the propaganda that goes with it. But I’d be naive to think that I’m totally immune to it. I may not be as exposed to it as I would be if I still lived in the US, but it definitely still trickles down to me through the social media I use, the books I read, and the movies I watch. This manipulation of people’s thoughts is just plain wrong, and I truly hate that it’s so pervasive in today’s media.
Anyhoo, while the propaganda stuff made me mad, I loved the 80s cartoon sections! Apparently, my beloved 80s cartoons were created to sell action figures. How sad to learn that!
My sister and I loved watching He-Man, but I don’t remember either of us ever wanting any He-Man action figures. It made me wonder if, as girls, we weren’t really the market the ads were targeting. Or maybe our parents were just not going to buy this stuff for us, and we didn’t ask because the answer was always a big fat “NO, because I said so.” Christmas at our house was always games and puzzles and books and clothes. We did get one (and only one) new Barbie each at Christmas. For the most part, heavily-marketed children’s toys were considered “junk” in our house. Kudos to my Mom and Dad for being right about that!
There were several references to a show called The Toys That Made Us. I need to watch that because it sounds like more about this interesting topic. It’s unreal how well cartoons-as-marketing worked, even if I didn’t have any action figures. My friends and their siblings certainly did.
There are lots and lots of references in the backmatter. This was well-researched and will be interesting for any child of the 80s and 90s. All the nostalgia certainly brought back some memories!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I loved the whole book! I read it in one sitting and read several parts out loud to my husband, who is also an 80s kid (and who had loads of “collectible” action figures…hmm…).
Many of the people depicted are white males, but that’s who the real people in the story were. Non-specific children (many are male) are diverse in skin tone and hair texture.
There is mention that a lot of the marketing at this time targeted white males, age 6, from middle class families. I felt this because as much as my sister and I loved the He-Man cartoons we never had any desire for action figures. They were “for boys,” after all.
All artwork is black and white pen-and-ink drawings. Lots of drawings of real people, including former US presidents, actors and actresses, film directors, political figures, and marketing executives. My favorite illustrations are of the many cartoons from the 1980s and 1990s.
children’s television, marketing, history of propaganda, toys, 1980s, 1990s, nostalgia, cartoons
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
Would adults like this book? YES, especially if they are age 40+
Would I buy this for my high school library? Maybe, but I’m not sure today’s high school students will understand many of the cartoon references. The propaganda history could be useful though.
Would I buy this for my middle school library? No. I don’t see middle schoolers really getting into this one unless there is some propaganda unit in a social studies class.
Would I buy this for my elementary school library? No.
Language: I think there was some profanity, but I don’t remember anything specifically. It wasn’t gratuitous.
Sexuality: very mild; some discussion of scantily-clad females and female seduction in G.I. Joe.
Violence: very mild; some references to 80s cartoon violence
Other: no concerns