Code-X (1)
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: Codebreaking, Semiotics


Here’s a code that we might call CHILD-ADULT, which is dominant in a cultural category that we might call KIDS’ ENTERTAINMENT.

t rex

Definition: Guileless, naïve, gormless, simple-minded, childish behavior in adult form.

donkey shrek

Notes on this code: (1) The child-adult is a holy fool, who speaks truth to power — their lack of maturity and sophistication makes them uniquely capable of summing up situations, perceiving truths that are so obvious they’re invisible. (2) The child-adult makes adulthood look less boringand forbidding, something that children might enjoy. (3) They’re silly, inappropriate, a bull in a china shop, always screwing up — they’re loveable losers, and they humanize the hero, who otherwise might be impossibly perfect. (4) They keep it real — add an element of unpredictability to a good vs. evil narrative that might feel too predetermined.




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Joshua Glenn is a cultural and brand semiotician, and co-principal of the agency SEMIOVOX LLC. He is editor and publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age sci-fi paperback imprint HILOBOOKS. He is author of (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY (2008) and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY (2011), and editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY (2007) and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (2012). With Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Tony Leone, Josh produced the popular family activities guides UNBORED (2012), UNBORED GAMES (2014), and UNBORED ADVENTURE (2015), not to mention two UNBORED activity kits from MindWare. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons.