Friday, June 20, 2008

More on boys, girls and literary heroes

A follow-up on my initial post about the Glenn Beck/Ted Bell interview and heroic literature is at my site, Chasing Ray.

Some folks are not so happy with me. Imagine that?

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A Paperback Writer said...

I tried to leave the following comment on the other blog, but typepad is rather elitist and would not allow a "guest" to comment.
Here's the comment:

Indeed you have touched on graduate thesis material.
And I do think it's important for both boys and girls to see good examples of "heroes," both the real kind and the fictional kind, to which they can relate. Kids need to see people of both genders, of various ethnicities, of different ages, and of different abilities standing up for themselves and doing courageous things.
The city where I teach, for example, has had two really good role models in the past 2 years. The student boy president of the high school 2 years ago was a wheelchair user, and the jr. high pres. last year was a Little Person. Both send all kinds of empowerment messages to kids.
I like to make sure that my students who read books that send "victim" messages about certain kinds of people talk to me about the books. I find the Twilight series to be engaging and a good tale, but I think Bella, who is controlled and victimized by all the men in her life, is NOT a good role model. Bella waits for a "hero" to make her life exciting or make her decisions over and over again. I'm having similar thoughts about Marr's Ink Exchange, for although the heroine, Leslie, is supposed to be a strong survivor of rape, she is shown over and over again as being in the control of men who fight with each other to control her. She must be "saved" in several instances.
Much better are books that show people working together to save each other or someone/something else: Harry Potter, Jack Flint, Cry of the Icemark, etc.
I think you've touched on an extremely important topic, and I applaud your doing so.

Alex Bledsoe said...

Colleen, you wrote on your blog:

It's odd to me that with the deeply entrenched history of heroic literature and stories (both written and oral) that is prevalent in most all of the world's cultures, that there is still so much violence committed against women. If boys grow up learning to save the girl from these stories, then why don't they always do it? Why is it okay instead to harm some women?

At the risk of vast oversimplification, in real life many of these "heroes" become villains when they see their horrendous acts as yet another form of "rescue," teaching ungrateful princesses to respect the heroic prince. It's an ugly truth, for certain.

Colleen said...

Sorry about that - I get spammed over there like you would not believe every time I open up the comments; it's a problem and something I've been trying to fix.

To your comment, yes, it is frustrating when even so-called strong literary models seem to rely on others to compel them to action. I think the more that we think about this subject, the more examples (both good and bad) we could come up with.

It almost makes me wish I was back in grad school....almost!

Colleen said...

Interesting twist, Alex. I'll have to think about that one!

Justin Colussy-Estes said...

The middle school guys book group I run met tonight* and we talked a little about this. What's most interesting to me is that they didn't get the whole issue. I had to explain (multiple times) Glenn Beck's point, and when they finally got it they kind of blew off the idea.

One guy said "Well, if the guy always rescues the girl, what happens when he needs rescuing?" Another piped in with, "Why read about a character, boy or girl, who can't be a hero, can't rescue themselves?"

I had thought this, but the group confirmed it for me: Beck's notions of what constitutes heroism and gender roles is so outside or behind what "kids today" even think about, that the idea of them feeling "emasculated" by these stories is laughable.

*The book we read was Crash, by Jerry Spinelli. A potential sign that today's readers are light years ahead of where adults think they are? In discussing the grandfather's stroke, somebody asked what caused it. Somebody else chimed in, "I thought it happened so Crash could go through a change and become a better guy." When you're savvy to the emotional arc/internal journey of the protagonist of the book, you probably aren't too concerned with whether or not the character with a wee-wee is doing all the "rescuing" or not...