Helle Strandgaard Jensen

Aarhus University, Denmark

Little elves, black panthers and super 8mm cameras: children’s media in 1970s’ Scandinavia.

Imagine an animated cartoon from 1971 aimed at 3-6 year olds about a little elf and her best friend, a mouse, who decide to go on an adventure to America. When they arrive, it is not a nice as they imagined. Mickey Mouse is a hollow trickster and they meet a black mouse who calls himself the Black Panther. This mouse tells them he has to live a hidden life in a dumpster to avoid being shot by the police. As he is telling them his story, the cartoon shifts to real life still photos of the real Black Panthers being beaten by the police. From todays’ perspective this seems point blank crazy! How was this ever thought to be appropriate for children? In my talk, I want to show how the ways in which views of children and childhood changed in the wake of ‘68’ in Scandinavia led to the development of new modes of making children with reality via television. On the one hand, this involved a development of new genres. These genres often combined ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, which had been strictly separated in past productions. On the other hand, it involved a development of ways in which children could take part in the production of television, for instance by lending them Super 8mm cameras. In the talk, I will demonstrate how a historical approach to development of new genres, modes of production and introduction of new topics in Scandinavian children’s television in the 1970 can work as a reflective backdrop for the study of why and how different genres, modes of expression and topics are represented in children’s culture today.


Helle Strandgaard Jensen is Associate Professor in contemporary cultural history at Aarhus University. Her research focuses on contemporary media and childhood history in Scandinavia, Western Europe, and the US after 1945. She combines historical methods with theoretical approaches from cultural studies and media studies. One part of her research investigates how uses of digital media – in particular digital archives, sources, and research tools – influence the discipline of history. The other is concerned with media productions as historical objects. Jensen received her PhD from the European University Institute in 2013. She has previously been employed as assistant professor in film and media studies at the University of Copenhagen and held a number of visiting fellowships in the US and UK. She is the author of Superman to Social Realism: Children’s media and Scandinavian childhood (2017) as well as many articles and book chapters on childhood history, children’s media culture, and digital archives’ impact on historiography.