Saturday, October 6, 2012

Superheroes, Take 2

My previous post by the same name got derailed. Another thought wanted to be thunk, apparently, so I thunked it, posted it, and now return to drafting the post originally designated for this title.

As the mother of two girls, I thought it would behoove me to spend some time digging around on Miss Representation's website. This indie documentary, in the words of its own website (a new quote, germane to this post, as compared to Superheros, Take 1), "challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself."

I can get behind this one hundred percent, but my still small inner voice is compelled to ask whether girl-children inherently suffer any more than boy-children from the urge to be something more than what they are?

Case in point: when dropping He'en off at preschool last year, I noticed one of her playmates leaping around the room. He would leap, then freeze, crouch, and glare at me. He did this six or seven times.

I confess that I sort of glared back, which must have disconcerted the kid's mother because she tossed me one of Those Looks from across the playroom and said with a little fake laugh, "Oh, he's just pretending to be Spiderman!"

It was on the tip of my tongue to say, Well, tell him not to be Spiderman near my daughter, because it's damned creepy. Instead, of course, I gave a little fake laugh back and weakly chirped, "Awwww, how cuuuute."

So here we are, browsing Netflix on Roku last week [Roku = best $90 a parent will ever spend], and He'en asks to watch the animated Spiderman. I told her nyet. Instead, I said, she could pick a new Barbie movie. Is this because I am trying to drive my daughter into an eating disorder? Hell, no. It's because I don't want my daughter leaping around the room, freezing, crouching, and glaring at strangers! 

Plus, in the wake of the horrible Aurora shootings, I am really hesitant about exposing her to any superhero franchise before it's absolutely unavoidable.  Barbie may not send the absolute best messages for girls, but at least I know that nobody will be beaten up or explode on-screen into bloody goo.  Additionally, He'en is sick of Little Einsteins and refuses to watch Sid the Science Kid because the first episode she watched was about getting shots at the doctor and she is terrified of reliving that experience.  We've watched every episode of Doc McStuffins at least twice. (For those who don't wish to follow the link, this animated series features a female child "doctor" to her stuffed animals, whose mother also is a female doctor, and whose dad is a SAHD. Awesome.)

In real life, I've switched to a great female pediatrician in part because I think she's a terrific role model for the girls. Her professional staff happens to be all-female as well.  And I try to "deprogram" in real-time when I read He'en the books that I had as a child:  "Can girls be firefighters? Of course they can! Can men be nurses? Of course they can! Our neighbor Mister Colin is a nurse. He was the one that you watched using the chainsaw to cut up that tree last summer, remember? Well, his job is helping hurt people get better. Someday Mom will teach you to use a chainsaw, by the way."  And so forth.

I think Miss Representation's messages and goals absolutely are in the right place. But I cannot feel overly guilty about fanning the flames of the Barbie franchise, either.  The raising of girl-children is an exercise in complexity. It's often an exercise in choosing the lesser or least of evils.  All you can do is your best, which I submit is a good and positive message regardless of whether it comes from Mom, Barbie, Doc McStuffins, or Condoleeza Rice.

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