Unfortunate Events

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Arianna Stonewater
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Unfortunate Events

Postby Arianna Stonewater » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:51 pm

When I was younger, I never wanted to do anything my twin did, so I never read the Series of Unfortunate Events books. But my husband loves them, and with the upcoming Netflix series, we've been reading them out loud together. So far we've gone through The Bad Beginning and the Reptile Room. I found these to be pretty interesting, though I imagine I will enjoy watching them more than reading them because I like NPH, and all of the trailers i've seen look fantastic (I never saw the Jim Carey movie, btw).

One of the things I thought about when reading them was this is the start of what I call "Disney Parenting." Since about 2000 on, shows on the Disney Channel have featured kids with pretty inept parents, its kind of amazing the kids haven't been taken by child services, really. Sure, the parents are always there to teach a life lesson here and there, but the kids have free rein to go out whenever with whomever, they're always doing dangerous/crazy things, and apparently money isn't a concern for any of them! Disney movies were different, it was about kids defying their parents who were trying to do what was best for them (even though the kids almost always ended up teaching the parent a lesson; like in The Little Mermaid when Triton didn't want Ariel to go up to the human world because she was 16 and while Triton was right about it being dangerous, Ariel showed him they're not so different after all and things with the two worlds together could be great!)

In SoUE, the Baudelaires have to raise themselves because somehow the adults can never see through Olaf's disguises, and while they'll all mean well, they're really not helpful to the children at all. It then made me think about how Dumbledore let Harry do all of these things that no unpracticed wizard kid should be doing!

What do you think of this trend? Is it teaching kids to learn to do things for themselves? Or is it teaching them adults can't be trusted and they HAVE to do everything themselves?
Last edited by Arianna Stonewater on Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sky Alton
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Re: Unfortunate Events

Postby Sky Alton » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:00 pm

Really interesting point!
I saw something a while back where someone (might have been an academic or an educational professional) pointed out that YA literature as we know it right now is essentially a parent free space. They’re right, as you proved: they're either not there or inept or inefectual. I’m always struck by The Hunger Games in particular where Katniss’s mother is a phantom who doesn’t even get her own name.

I always call it ‘Drew’ parenting: Nancy Drew’s mother died when she was 3 and her father encourages her every whim. It works out for her (though I’m not sure any parent should approve of the number of times she gets tied up, nearly left to die or what have you) but we’re not all Nancy. But it shows you the dream represented by stories like that: parental beneficence and total respect for the choices you make. (At the cost of always getting rumbled by nasty criminals who you should probably have been more firmly told to avoid)

I’d never actually considered the effect on kids and I honestly don’t know what an intelligent answer to your question would be. I’d be really interested if someone did a study on it (but they’re not going to). I can see how it might erode parental authority and how that in turn could be a very bad thing. I mean, the sad truth is that some people do have inattentive or downright bad parents but in the majority of cases, mother actually does know best…at least about a lot of things. Encouraging people that their parents world view is flawed or clouded not only appeals to the boundary pushing rebel in all of us while we’re growing up but also stops us seeing the sense in what they say for ourselves. If you never learn the difference between 'no for the sake of no' and 'no for very good reasons', your own judgement will be inhibited.

And now I have to admit that I’m a total hypocrite because in my own writing, I portray parents exactly like this. My protagonist’s socially inept, artistic parents dumped her on their personal assistant and dragged her from country to country for the sake of their own careers. She keeps a lot from them and their relationship is not what it should be. And the reason I did that? Convenience. Doing that allowed me to situate her in an essentially adult free world, unprepared for the plot and with no recourse other than to face things herself.

I’m now wondering whether I could have achieved what I did with a proper parental influence in the text. Or is it a requirement of the kind of YA fiction people read these days that the parental voice is absent, deluded, damaging or ineffectual? Would a book with on the ball parents get inside people’s wish-fulfilment-factories as well as one with inept, Disney parents?

Sorry, rambling post! But thanks for giving me stuff to mull over.
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Prof. Tarma Amelia Black
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Re: Unfortunate Events

Postby Prof. Tarma Amelia Black » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:34 pm

Arianna wrote:
What do you think of this trend? Is it teaching kids to learn to do things for themselves? Or is it teaching them adults can't be trusted and they HAVE to do everything themselves?

I've actually not encountered those books or movies. Thank you for calling my attention to them. Now I'll know what I'm are getting into if I read (or watch) them. They are not the only books and movies out, though.

There are other books, and other series, where the parents are 'adult', responsible, helpful and caring and yet encourage the child to go out and experience life (without putting tons of apron strings and smothering them with schka).

In some societies, the older people are respected, because they have earned that respect. They are wise, and patient and have a gnosis knowing which is wonderful and beautiful. They make GREAT parents (and grandparents).

I gradually learned that I had to learn to do things for myself. Some adults that I grew up with could be trusted and some absolutely not. But they were role models -- and it was my choice whether I follow in their footsteps or not. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I followed, willy-nilly, because that is what I was expected to do, and sort of 'forced' into doing, before I found I could say a high-quality no (ie not a 'resistance' no but just 'no') and choose otherwise. Perhaps if I'd seen these movies and read these books it would have occurred to me that willy-nilly was NOT necessary; it would have occurred to me that I could choose otherwise a lot sooner than I did!

The good news is that a person might be reading Harry Potter books (some awesome parenting/adult role models as well as how-not-to-parent role models in them) and then books about parents who are ineffective and that person might wonder about life in general and perhaps they might choose to be different than what they are -- and when they are parents, they are alert and aware of more than just the societies labels of what is true (and what is false).

I'm totally delighted to know of the kids born to parents who are here at HOL Hogwarts and who are exposed to notions of 'magic is' and "it is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Sometimes it is people writing books about stuff like this (Arianna's post) which gets folks to thinking about it and wondering about it -- and then change might happen -- if only for that one person. But that is how change happens ... person by person.
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Arianna Stonewater
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Re: Unfortunate Events

Postby Arianna Stonewater » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:28 pm

Prof. Tarma Amelia Black wrote:I'm totally delighted to know of the kids born to parents who are here at HOL Hogwarts and who are exposed to notions of 'magic is' and "it is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."


We had this funny moment the other day with our friends that we asked to be the Godparents. Angie, the Godmother, was telling her husband (Nick) at a bookstore how excited she was to be able to read Harry Potter to our kid (they're still deciding if they want kids) and watch them discover all of the things we learned as things were slowly released. Nick was like, "If you think for a second that their mom isn't going to share everything with them the day they are born, you are blind!" When they told me, I couldn't help laughing at how true that is!

There are of course many books and movies and shows that feature fantastic parenting, I'm just saying that things that are geared toward children do not feature these things, and the popular things certainly don't. But I'm always glad for things like Harry Potter where there ARE wonderful, responsible (non-parent) adults who are there for kids and aren't shown as oppressive rule-makers.

A note: I love Disney movies, and it was always striking to me to find out how young some of them are, but I always try to remind myself the movies are not set in current times; for Aurora to be married to her betrothed at 16 was totally acceptable in medieval England. But it still doesn't stop me from siding with King Triton or Fa Zhou (Mulan's dad).
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