Inadvertent lessons

My kids read a lot. A lot. And a huge part of what they read are books I’ve never read. Fiction and non-fiction, all sorts of things. I wonder, reasonably frequently, what they are getting from these books.

I wonder this because I know the sorts of thing I gleaned from the fiction I consumed as a kid. Messages I am certain someone would have corrected, had I told anyone what I was learning. This came to mind when I was putting together the recent post about Disney movies on my youth. Specifically regarding the film Dragonslayer.

Now, Dragonslayer was not a very good film. But I watched it and rewatched it on basic cable, fascinated with certain aspects of the film. I couldn’t care less about the idiot boy pretending to be a wizard — whatevs. But the movie had not merely ONE girl character, it had TWO. And what happened to them is … educational.

Elspeth is the perfect girly girl, a princess, who is protected by the men in her life through a web of lies. When she finds out the truth, she takes a stand, and dies for it. Valerian lies about being a girl, pretends to be a boy and young man all of her life, she lies to protect herself. When she tells the truth and reveals that she’s a girl, the men who control her life attempt to have her killed.

That’s not an exaggeration; that’s the plot of the film. Simply being female is a lottery of death.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I saw Dragonslayer. Twelve, maybe? But the message I clearly got was, when they find out you are a girl, they will hurt you. I didn’t have any real inkling as to who the They was. In Dragonslayer it was everyone. The entire community in conspiracy.

I’m pretty sure if I’d mentioned this worldview to any responsible adult, they would have corrected my misapprehension.

Or, maybe not. Sometimes, the world does not look particularly safe for women. I don’t know what anyone would have said to me, had I mentioned my conclusions drawn from this reasonably terrible Disney film.

Still, I don’t know what my kids are getting from the books they read, the videos they watch. I know what I think the messages are. But I’m not a nine-year-old, trying to make sense of things which manifestly don’t always make any kind of sense. (Try to explain “banned books” to a kid sometime. They give you the BEST “grown-ups are crazy” look.)

So I ask my kids about what they read and watch. I check in, and try to be available for questions. And I pre-emptively talk about the world and how it works. I know things are going to slip through, misconceptions over which I have no control. I hope to catch most of the big ones, though.

:fingers crossed:

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