Friday, December 15, 2006

He Shouldn't Have to Know This Yet

The story of Babar sucks.

We were given a Babar book as a baby shower gift for The Mayor but we only read it for the first time the other night.

The first page introduces little baby Babar. The wee elephant is busy
loving life, frolicking happily around with his wonderful Mom...

...and on page two...

Babar's mother is SHOT AND KILLED BY A HUNTER!


Don't even get me started about how the orphaned Babar flees the jungle in fear only to be rescued by a civilized old white lady who teaches him to un-heathenize himself through sartorial elegance.

Babar grows up to be the number one pawn of THE MAN and so he is made King of the elephants.

Only an elephant that dresses and acts like whitey can be King, right?

Heathen elephants without clothes wouldn't know the first thing about how to govern themselves to be sure.

It's subversive material, I'm telling you!

But back to the early and violent death of Babar's mother...

Before K or I could recover, cover-up or otherwise divert and distract, The Mayor was fretting over what happened to the mommy elephant.

He worried his way through the rest of the book and into the next few days.

"Where is Babar's Mommy? What happened to her? Why would the hunter hurt her?"


The Mayor is only two and a half years old.

What kind of idiot was Jean de Brunhoff the author?

Piece of mother elephant killing, neocolonialist scum.

It's not that I believe I can protect my children from the reality of human cruelty forever, but I do think I should be able to do so until... oh, I don't know - their THIRD birthday?! Is that asking too much?

It got me thinking about my childhood, remembering how I learned that people were capable of cruelty.

I used to regularly sleep over at my next door neighbor's house.

Kimmy and I were great friends... though I did once, when angry, konk her on the head with a crab mallet at the property line between our yards. (We lived in Maryland and "Maryland is for Crabs!")

I was sleeping over at Kimmy's house the night the movie "Jesus of Nazareth" was on TV for the first time.

I didn't grow up going to church so I wasn't familiar with the Bible story.

I vividly remember watching right up until Jesus wore the crown of thorns and carried the cross to the crucifixion.

I panicked.

I told Kimmy's mom I didn't feel well and needed to go home.

I ran across our adjoining yards, into my house, down the stairs and into my parent's bedroom.

I buried my head in my mother's lap and sobbed.

I'm sure she must have been taken by surprise. She stroked my hair and asked me what was wrong. I blubbered about what a nice man The Jesus Guy was and wailed about The Mean People hurting him.

I was probably nine years old.

I cried and cried.

My mom suggested that we watch the end of the movie together. She thought it would help if I saw the ending, the resurrection.

I suppose it did help, to an extent, but it didn't erase my new understanding of our human potential for
unfathomable cruelty.

What possible motivation could anyone have had for such evil? I couldn't get my head around it. I could barely believe it was real.

Not too long after that, I watched the movie "Holocaust" with a baby sitter when my parents were out.

It was my introduction to that page of our human history.

Again I was devastated, my heart broken anew.

It happened again when I understood that Isaac, the African-American hired hand on my great grandmother's
rural Virginian farm, wasn't allowed in the house because of his skin color...

...and again in sixth grade when I read the book Roots,...

...and again when I learned the history of Native Americans...

...and again and again and again.

To be honest, it still shocks me and breaks my heart every time.

just yesterday when I read this awful thing on Jen's blog.

In truth, every single day of the year the news is filled with examples of it.

Despite the constant hammering of awful, evil news, I somehow remain a trusting person with great faith in human goodness.

So I want my children to be filled with the same faith, hope, love and compassion.

I want them to believe that good will triumph over evil in the long run.

Because I know that
they will have their hearts broken again and again, just as I did and still do, I don't need any help exposing them to the cruel ways of the world.

From now on, all books
that kill mommy elephants are banned from story time... along with all books that justify colonialism and glorify the bringing of "western civilization" to the jungle... and any books in general that were written by French fucktards in 1931.


Iris said...

It is a really good thing that you are shocked and dismayed by each and every cruel act you hear about. When we stop being shocked and dismayed, our souls are dead.

As for the children's book...I don't really understand where the authors are coming from. Remember Bambi? Dumbo? Any myriad of children's literature from before 1970? Most of them had dead mothers and wicked stepmothers, indifferent fathers.....etc. Not really what I want my kids to think about either.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we don't do Babar around here. Too much conformity in those books for us anyhow.

I must also then warn you away from Curious George, the original version. In the very first one, the Man with the Yellow Hat (or The Oppressor in Yellow as I like to call him), sticks George in a bag and takes him away from his home in Africa. That's right folks, the Man with the Yellow Hat is pretty much a poacher. And what is he rewarded with? George's faithful friendship.

I find it really funny to read kids' stories from other eras.

Bob said...

don't go near grimm's fairytails. They are nothing but cruelty. That seems to be a theme running through so much of "children's" literature before the last half of the 20th century. All of the Disney canon are cleaned up versions of these horror tales.

On the other hand, Barney gives ME nightmares. *shudder*

Plain Jane said...

You would be amazed at the number of kid books that have ended up in our recycling. The only Babar we have is one that is in french and doesn't show any guns.

jen said... thank you for the reminder to pre-read the books...i wouldn't have thought to do that but will now.

and about the rest...i know. it's heartbreaking. and we are helpless to truly protect them in all the ways we want to. and that is very, very hard to actually comprehend and still keep breathing.

Diana said...

I'm thinking Jean de Brunhoff had the same Mommy complex that Disney had, all (or most?) Disney films killed the mommmies...
Horrible things in this world, horrible...

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is funny and SAD. Crazy. When you read those old nursery rhymes too, even the humpty dumpty falling off the wall ... etc etc.. there is some dark dark shit out there for kids.

Who'd have thougth we'd need to edit/prescreen Babar??? I will make a note of that.

Lisa, womenhavingitall (blogger won't let me log in, the bitch.)


S. said...

Here, here!
Sorry the Mayor had to learn that so soon.

J and I were talking about something similar the other day - about how K has no idea how mean people can be, how all he knows is love and innocence. It hurt us both to know that someday he will be exposed to it. We only hope we're close by to comfort him.

bubandpie said...

Stay away from Finding Nemo as well (along with the entire parent-killing-obsessed Disney oeuvre - what is wrong with those people?).

wayabetty said...

I read that book the first time to my sons (6 and 3 y/o's) and they were asking why the hunter killed the mom elephant too, I didn't know how to explain it to them.

How sad and yes, all books concerning killing are off limits in our house too.

And as for the post at Jen's, that is just so sad!! How can one human being do that to another one (in this case, an innocent baby!)is just mind boggling!!

Cece said...

That was what happened when my little one saw Bambi. She was so sad b/c Bambi was now alone & babies shouldn't be alone.

Poor kids, I hope we didn't do too much damage.

wendy boucher said...

Bubandpie said it for me. Watch out for Disney too.

Like there isn't enough time to find out how cruel the world can be. Let kids be kids.

Natsthename said...

And don't forget about Bambi!

That could feel the tears. Good lord. I hope that guy "asleep on the couch" gets what he deserves.

Steven Novak said...

Babars mother deserved it if you ask me... ;)


Momish said...

Oh my God, you remind me of me!!! I wasn't allowed to watch Frosty the Snowman for years because I was so traumatized over his melting death (and Karen crying her eyes out). My mother couldn't handle it. I was always so affected by the sadness and cruelty in kid's literature and film.

In kindergarten one day, the teacher sang, "lady bug, lady bug, go fly home. Your house is on fire and your children, they will burn." I went into hysterics! They had to call my mother to come pick me up and take me home!

Also, I took a psychology class in college that examined the hidden horrors and messages being sent to kids though fables and stories (Disney was the worst). Now, I worry about those stories too since my daughter will be reading soon enough.

Lotta said...

You summed that all up so beautifully! I just really enjoy reading your stuff! And can I add that The Little Prince sucks wads too!

Mrs. Chicken said...

Yes! Yes! Babar is totally AWFUL! I could not agree with this post more. Amen, sister-friend.

mamatulip said...

I tried to comment on this yesterday but Blogger and I were fighting.

As a child, I vividly remember being absolutely HORRIFIED when Babar's mother got killed. Another cartoon that had the same affect on me was Dumbo. I hated that Dumbo and his mother were separated. It scared me and it seemed very unnecessary to me.

I won't let Julia read books or watch movies that had that kind of affect on me because she is just like me. And I know it would upset her terribly.

Rachel said...

I haven't looked at Babar since I was a kid, but I've heard it supports colonialism. We won't be reading it. Thanks for the heads-up.

KC said...

Man, I had such good memories of reading Babar as a child, but I don't remember that. Unbelievable.

Why do we have to protect our children against so much CHILDREN's media out there? That book should get a PG-13 rating. Or like a skull and crossbones sticker on the front.

(p.s. I loved the crab malleting you did! As a Baltimoron for a number of years, I can totally relate).

Thailand Gal said...

As usual, you are thoughtful and considerate about the things you put into your mind and the mind of your child. Kudos!

I've never read Babar books and have no memories of those kinds of chidren's books. As an adult of course, I see the propaganda between the lines of most of them.

And I'm not even a conspiracy theorist! :)



ewe are here said...

I had no idea about Babar's mother!
What was the gift-giver thinking?

I still cry when I see the scene of Dumbo being rocked by his mother through the bars of her little 'jail'. So heartbreaking!

QT said...

Yuck - I agree, with a lifetime ahead of being exposed to the cruelties the human race visits on one another, kids should be innocent for as long as possible. Who knew it would be such hard work to filter through books presumably MADE for kids?

kim said...

awww thanks for reminding me of this .... i had actually forgotten how cruel most of those were ... BT is 8 years younger than the others and just starting to read and watch these movies...
i was traumatized by the wizzard of oz when i was little lol

Starrlight said...

I'll echo the Disney issues. These guys have some SERIOUS women problems. And I remember the original Curious George too. I thought that was kinda off at the time I read it.

But I am with Bob. Barney scares me. Not so much Barney himself. It's the weird "Invasions Of The Body Snatchers" kids.


The Medium Swede said...

I hate Illinois Nazis and French fucktards. Poor Mayor. Just cuddle him and everything will be okay!

Anonymous said...

I never read you Barbar books. As a children's librarian I read lots and lots and lots of children's books and I hated the BarBar books. I did not find them charming or humorous or endearing in any way. Welcome to the club. Love, Mom

PunditMom said...

I, too, had that same experience when R. was younger. "Oh, look we'll read the classic Babar for a bedtime story." Boom, the mom is gone, just as in almost all the Disney movies and I figure there's another session on the therapist's couch when she's grown. I know many of us survived hearing these stories as children, but ...

Anonymous said...

I STILL can't watch certain movies or read certain books because the brutality and hate upsets me. Its even worse now that I'm a mom. I can't even watch the news here in St. Louis anymore because its 30 minutes of nonstop murder, child abuse, rapes, arson, and whatever other violence. (I can believe that St. Louis is the worst city to live in right now. Really! Just watch our news coverage.)

Saw that link. OH MY GOD. That man should be given the same drug and made to die. But suffer even more. But the mom's not exempt from blame. Obviously, he's a piece of shit, but she should be hung from her ovaries because I highly doubt this was her first encounter with his rage.

(Blogger won't let me "sign in" with Beta blogs... -- Lisa from Midwestern Mommy)

carmachu said...

Just wait till Bambi(mother's shot) and Old Yeller(shoots the dog at teh end) and a host of other stories...

BlondeMom said...

Dumbo is the saddest movie EVER. I can't watch the scene where he's separated from his mother or hear "Baby Of Mine" without bawling.

You're right...our kids will be exposed to the cruelities of the world soon enough so why push it?

Poor Babar's mother! (I still have my childhood copy but luckily my girls never request it...probably because it's depressing!)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Excellent post! I noticed when I was a child how cruel and violent most of the so-called "fairy tales" were, esp. the Grimm brother's. I cried for days when I read Steinbeck's The Red Pony, and my first movie was Bambi. They carried me out screaming.

I never read Babar to my children because I vetted it first. I totally agree about the colonialism as well as the vile hunter stuff that kids don't need to know about.

I haven't been here before but I've bookmarked your site so I can get back often.

Kristin said...

This is my issue with Disney... they kill the mother off in the first moments of every damn film!

Cinderella - dead mother

Snow White - dead mother and homicidal so she can be the prettiest stepmother

Bambi - dead mother

Nemo - dead mother

Aladdin - dead mother

Beauty and the Beast - dead mother

The Little Mermaid - dead mother

WTF? It actually really concerns me.

so tired said...

Don't forget Nemo!!!

Just the other day I recorded Babar on tv for the boys. Obviously never read it! So as the scene unfolds I did some serious spin and explained how naturalists shoot animals with tranquilizers so that they can study them...blahblahblah. So in our version, Babar ran away because he didn't understand what was happening, and then he got interested in his adventure before his mom could wake up and comfort him!!

Needless to say, we only watched it once!

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction when I read the first Babar book. The second one is just as bad. We let our children read "Babar and His Children," which has been fairly innocuous. Using children's literature to rationalize French colonialism and its associated racism is very creepy.