Thursday, November 5, 2009

Peter Pan, Babar, and Barbie

To my dismay, Ezra is reading some new interpretation of Peter Pan and Phaedra asked why I don't allow Barbies and Sylvie was upset that I would not let her check out a Babar book from the library.  These things that seem fairly harmless raise my hackles, and the children want to know why.

I cannot wrap my head around why the story of Peter Pan is so beloved.  I did not see the movie and I only read the book as an adult.  When I read the book, I was appalled at the portrayal of men.  Mr. Barrie presents men as these permanently childish figures who not only avoid maturing, but are enabled by indulgent females.  I kept wondering why Wendy or her mother did not slap Peter Pan or the father and say, "Oh, grow up! We have more important things to tend here than your little temper tantrum!" Not only that, but Mr. Barrie looks lovingly on the situation, as if it's some sort of idyll. Blech!  That is not the gender roles I want to present to my young children.  As for Ezra and this new book, I just told him why I never read the original to him; maybe, he will reflect on it some time in the next 15 years.

As for Babar, the rampant romanticizing of colonialism disgusts me.  So the good little French lady takes the African elephant and shows him how to dress and behave, then the elephant goes and makes all the other elephants do the same, and they all live happily ever after because now they act and dress like good Europeans.  I say again, "Blech!"  Why isn't it fine for an elephant in Africa to avoid a wool suit coat at all costs?

Barbie is a mixed bag.  I actually played with Barbies growing up, but my mother pretty much forbade me having any of my own.  She's not available for me to ask, so I do not know what her reasons were.  The girl down the street had heaps and heaps of Barbies; it was a blast and I really have a pretty healthy self- esteem.  However, as a mother, I look at these terrifically ugly dolls and all their associated merchandising, and I just can't let them in my home.  I simply can't imagine letting the "wonder of Barbie" take over my girls' lives. Blech!

 So there it is.  That is why these beloved characters of childhood have no home in my home, and like I said, maybe at some point my children will not only forgive my controlling nature, but understand my reasons.

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