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CSotD: What are little girls made of?

According to this Comics Beat story, Target will be the sole dispenser of a new line of Disney graphic novels about princesses.

Well, good. We need more princess-promotion these days.

Perhaps the best place to start would be by conceding that a lot of children’s content is more extruded than created, and that, while I cheerfully watched “Mickey Mouse Club” as a kid, my mother was silently despising the Mouseketeers as plastic, grinning, over-programmed little monsters.

Well, I guess some of Mom rubbed off on me, because we got a Disney book in to review the other day and, when I realized they hadn’t even bothered to put an author’s name on the thing, I declared it an ad and sent it to the donation box.

I mean, James Patterson may push out endless streams of over-commercial, predictable kiddie crap, but at least he pretends it was humanly written, if not exactly artisinal.

And there’s also this: The endless stream of kid’s books about poop and farts encourages childish behavior, but programming little girls to be princesses seems more of a long-term thing.

It’s not that I want everyone to go back to the early 70s and read “The Cinderella Complex” as if it were set in stone. But I wish I felt the conversation it started were not being drowned out by commercial resistance.


And this Rhymes with Orange from 2003 reminds me of the sense of losing control, though I was raising boys in an atmosphere where giving them toy guns was verboten among enlightened parents.

My boys were allowed to have guns, which they played with mostly when their no-gun-totin’ friends came over. The first question of a new friend was “Do you have guns?”

I suppose parents of little girls heard a lot of “Do you have Barbies?”

Though gun-deprived little boys had an advantage, since you can’t make much of a faux-Barbie out of Legos or sticks.


Which reminds me of this, also RWO and also from 2003, and I hope Hilary Price doesn’t mind being dragged in as an unwitting panelist in the discussion.

But  it does raise the question of how much of this is hard-wired, which sends us back to the feminist scholarship of a generation ago, because — according to that research — little boys seem irrepressibly competitive in their play, while little girls are more inclined to play cooperatively in creating scenarios.

Which means that, if you deprive little boys of guns, they’ll yell and quarrel over whether a ball was in-bounds or out-of-bounds and who was out or safe.

Having not raised little girls, I don’t know what happens if you don’t give them Barbies and tiaras and suchlike, but I do wonder, because being hard-wired to cooperate sounds terrific, but waiting around for a prince seems less so and even feminist cartoon icon Brenda Starr seemed to spend a lot of time mooning over Basil St. John.

I do know you can’t lecture people out of these things, and that there’s a difference between holding up role models and trying to over-correct.

I was talking to a children’s book store owner about the flood of preachy little books and said, “I saw one last week about (NASA engineer) Katherine Johnson …” and she sighed and said, “I saw six.”

It’s good to acknowledge Johnson’s contribution, but it’s also good to fold it into a story about teamwork, not a complaint that she’d actually done it all herself.

Plus there’s this: She’s one of a group of Barbie role model dolls, and I would note that there is pushback over the fact that Barbie-Frida-Kahlo plucked her unibrow.


I don’t know what to make of it all, and I’ll defer once more to Hilary Price for what I suspect is the actual answer: Raise your kids right and your values will rub off eventually.


I just hope this stuff is halal.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Paul Fell)

(Tom the Dancing Bug)

Dammit, we knew this.

I covered the apple industry in the Champlain Valley for several years and got to know the Jamaicans who followed the harvests. I understand that the system has become somewhat more complicated, but the bottom line is that the legal way of doing things works.

Or, at least, it works as long as everyone is doing it.

The apple growers are required to advertise for local pickers and may only hire foreign workers to fill in for the spots not taken by American citizens, which is to say, every spot in the orchard, because it is hard work and, as Fell’s cartoon suggests, nobody here wants it.

By contrast, the Jamaicans came back year after year to the same places and they were financing a good lifestyle back home. One man I spoke to was the husband of a teacher and was using some of his money from that year’s harvest to buy a hot-water heater for his daughter, a hairdresser.

Where it falls apart is when you’re competing against cheaters, and Bolling is right: The workers are held accountable, while their employers get to shrug and pretend they didn’t know. Maybe we should confiscate their income from the period in which they were employing undocumented foreign workers.

As Fell notes, requiring American workers would simply result in the work not getting done, and I’m not sure how far you’d have to jack up salaries to fill those positions, but I’m not paying five bucks for an apple or $25 for a pound of hamburger.

Meanwhile, foreign workers are indeed taking American jobs — building motorcycles and air conditioners.

But unemployment is low these days, and a spatula doesn’t weigh nearly so much as a riveting gun, so that’s good, right?


Community Comments

#1 Michael Fry
@ 1:02 pm

Hey Mike,

As one of Mr. Patterson’s writers under his Jimmy Books imprint, I have to take exception to your characterization of his oeuvre (and by inference mine) as crap. It’s true that he writes and co-writes a LOT of books (for kids and adults). Some are good. Some are not. In my case, I am the sole writer/illustrator of my books (How to Be a Supervillain). Jim’s only inclusion with my books is to offer notes (very helpful). That’s it. The rest is on me. Patterson is a brand. A very successful brand. So is Disney (full disclosure: whom I’ve worked with as well). A brand is just a sort hand way of offering an assurance of a certain level of quality. Not for everyone. But, obviously, helpful for many. I’m sure you weren’t specifically dissing on my books, but next tine just be specific and try not to generalize. Thanks.

Michael Fry

#2 Mary McNeil
@ 5:39 pm

For another informative song, nothing can beat Woody Guthrie’s “Deportees.”

#3 Brett Mount
@ 3:09 am

She’s a little young yet, but I’m planning on letting my daughter experience the other feminist comic book icon Modesty Blaise, who’s an excellent model of both self reliance and the proper use of a Kongo.

#4 Mike Peterson
@ 5:22 am

Michael —

Your book has a “James Patterson Presents” banner at the top of the cover. I don’t object to that.

I object to his claiming authorship or “co-authorship” of books he didn’t write. A lot of editors have heavy hands, but they remain editors, not authors.

By contrast, while Walt Disney put his name on his films, he went to great lengths to explain and compliment the collaborative work of the people who actually did the heavy lifting:

Good editors disclaim their work. It’s a principle of management that goes back at least as far as Lao-tzu:

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”

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