Monday, 3 August 2009

Er... a dialogue with a non-existent interlocutor

We are talking about children's books, and he, the author, tells me about a book written specifically for boys - because boys don't read much as we know - which is about some boys who play games of knight errant but are then rescued by girls who "display feminine qualities of courage, persistence, responsibility for others, ingenuity and protectiveness". And what qualities do the boys display?


So there is a drive to get boys to read. What can there possibly be that boys are interested in?

I know! Football!

Nothing else?


No violence though. The authors - male and female - go to their editors who are inevitably female and are told: "That's not appropriate."

Appropriate for who? I ask.


So the girls do the clever caring daredevil stuff and the inventive stuff. Do you ever get children's books where a girl character is, like, stupid? Just a bit stupid?


So everyone is happy and everyone conforms and behaves as they should, especially the stupid boys who only rebel and break rules and can't be trusted to do anything. And still the boys refuse to read? How could that be?!!?!


It is strange, I think, that the sex that seems to have invented most of the things I see about me, things I use everyday, that wrote that Shakespeare and Donne and Dante stuff, that seem to have thought considerably about life, the universe and other things, are always shown so irredeemably brutal, infantile and er, stupid.

Well, that's how it is, you know. That's just how it is.

That's how it is.


Billy C said...

I buck the trend, George. I buy my four grandsons the type of books I was brought up with: The Beano Annual, which features Dennis The Menace and The Bash Street Kids, and then add a bit more spice with a number of Horrid Henry tales. And guess what? They're four 'orrible, normal little boys...and that's how I like them.

George S said...

I loved the Beano. Wrote an entire musical based on the Bash Street Kids. Haven't read Horrid Henry, possibly because the kids were too grown up by the time the series appeared.

Desmond Swords said...

Growing up with only sisters, I began on the comic BC mentions, before graduating to My Guy and Jackie at age seven when my eldest sister began buying them.

TV critic Nina Myskow was the sister behind my liberation, or rather her fictional big sisters Cathy and Clare, the names fronting the Cathy and Clare problem page. The problems where a 90% variation on the identical theme of how far the confused early teens on dates, should go with boys physically. I'm unsure if the term 'date' was as prevelant then, back in the mid-seventies, prior to my own puberty, when I was a very young person.

What I certainly can say is, that as a pre-teen and very early teenage boy, one was as close to being a girl as it is possible to get without actually possessing the necessary internal equipment to be a girl proper. 50/50 though, i can get away with, as not having a brother around, the only influence from one's senior siblings were girly stories and fairy gas going on and on and on and on, about themselves and their dreams and i - silently - listening to their blather, a younger, smaller, weaker sibling: a silly boy who was NOT A GIRL !!

My childhood was spent with the continuous backround dramas of girly magic and pretend: father christmas's little gnomes, rudolph and dresses and - later - ointment, make-up and finally, at 13 and 3/4, around the time I was taking on Malvolio in Twelfth Night in - what is now - year nine (third year in 1980/1): Cosmo.

It was a heady time, growing up to all intent and purpose a 50/50 girl-boy; because pretending to be as one's sisters for a giggle as i did all the time, being a Femminsist came naturally, and this fed into how I approached the first (and only) serious acting role one performed when still a child really, acting as an adult of around 30's or so - i am guessing - and possibly three times my actual age at 13 and three-quarters.

I wish i had something intelligent to say on the Girl-boy conundrum facing the brave and incredibly mature teachers and educationalists now running Education and fighting such a tough battle for the heads of the little lads who seem alienated by whatever it is that's alienating them into not wanting to be like me when i was there age. Terribly tragic, but as i am unmarried and fatherless, not knowing any kids who are failing in school, it can be only lip-service if one were to become carried away with the pretending-in-print to be concerned about it for anything other than mega selfish reasons like:

Am I in any danger off 'em? - these horrors who the brave educationalists are putting themselves at risking for for nothing but no thanks, when they could have put their many gifts to other things, such as becoming famous and rich for doing nothing but being themself, putting themselves on the line for in a tough environment where one wrong look may result in a group assault by boy-girl-men louts with no conscience who do not dream of a now long defunct My Guy and Jackie, princesses and ponies, but crack cocaine and the war on terror. So the most caring of the big-time lefties tell us, i think, and if this is wrong, please accept my apologies, being from SW Lancashire and growing up in a tough, failing rural place where we had no mobiles, i-pods, facey or twitter; life was pretty tough.

Paul Saxton said...

Oh, it's a growing problem this. The way boys and men are portrayed and the unfairness of it all (that you nail so well in your last big paragraph).

My old seventies comic annuals provide a nice antidote for my kids - The Beano, The Dandy, Whoopee!, Whizzer and Chips etc. Although it has to be said that the very best featured a girl - my first love, Beryl The Peril. Who was often mean, brutal and deceitful (though never stupid). Oh, and Leo Baxendale's brilliant and earthy Willy The Kid.

Have you read a copy of The Beano today? Unbearable.

George S said...

I've long been concerned about this, Paul. I am sure that under whatever face the 'ladz' put on there is a deep well of hopelessness and lower than low self-esteem.

And that is what they are fed most days and have been fed for about thirty years.

I suspect we have breeding feral, suicidal male generations. Dangerous for them, and dangerous for others.

witwoud said...

I saw a teenage girl in the King's Road recently wearing a T-shirt saying "Anything boys can do, girls can do better!" Had to stop myself pinning her to the nearest wall and asking for a detailed list of these things. The more female chauvinism I see everywhere, the more, unfortunately, the old male chauvinist comes roaring back.