Friday, November 28, 2008

Beauty is the beast

Skin deep suffices

The elongated generations of my family have some interesting consequences. For example, my nieces range in age from 30 to −0.25 (she's due in thirteen weeks). During holiday visits I can ask the older ones about their children and the younger ones about their toys. One size does not fit all.

Two of the younger ones latched on to me during my Thanksgiving visit to my parents' home. The six-year-old needed a compliant adult so that she and her four-year-old sister could play in the basement. Youngsters are not allowed in the family dungeon and storage room without supervision.

“Come on, Uncle Zee. Come on. Let's go down in the basement.” “Lilith” tugged insistently on my wrist and drew me down the hallway to the latched door, her sister trailing behind.

I was just about played out (I'm old and I tire easily), but I don't see my nieces that often and patiently resigned myself to my fate. Sitting as guardian in the basement would not be onerous. My job would entail simply watching the girls to ensure they neither ran up and down the stairs nor delved into the cupboards where their grandfather keeps his old tools and the remains of various do-it-yourself projects. Certainly it would be more relaxing than my attempt to sit quietly on the couch in the living room, which had been seized by small pirates and subjected to a series of cannonades. (“Cannonball” is now a synonym for “pillow.” Their grandmother's home is an especially rich source of ammunition.)

I walked the girls downstairs and sat down on the landing. The girls fanned out into the family museum and junkyard. They inspected my brother's long-abandoned exercise equipment and the old chalkboard I had installed when I was in junior college, but the exercise gear was too uninteresting and the chalkboard was mounted too high on the wall. The ancient pinball machine was mercifully defunct. The girls were soon rolling out the fold-up futons and trying out their trampoline qualities, which appeared to be quite satisfactory for girls whose legs are evidently spring-loaded.

Lilith and her little sister had a brief dispute over naming rights for the resident stuffed animals that were decades older than either of them. A furry pink blob that once belonged to their father was either “Jub-Jub” or “Webster.” The significance of the heated dispute was lost on Uncle Zee, that's for sure. The tears came and went like a summer shower, and dried up just as quickly. Lilith abandoned Jub-Jub to the tender ministrations of her sister, who then announced that she was putting Webster to bed on one of the futons. Lilith decided to escalate the naming game.

“We need new names,” she announced. “I'm going to be Sharpay from High School Musical.”

I am not a student of the contemporary Disney oeuvre, although I am vaguely aware that the High School Musical franchise is a money machine for the evil mouse empire. I had, however, been under the impression that a Shar Pei was a type of dog. Lilith proceeded to inform me that I was not far off the mark.

“Why do you want to be Sharpay?” I asked.

“Because she's so pretty,” Lilith replied. “She's a mean girl.”

Aha. So Sharpay was a Disney bad girl, undoubtedly superficially popular but always conniving and doomed to defeat by the forces of saccharin squeaky-cleanness.

“She's mean? She's a bad girl? So why do you want to be a bad girl?”

Lilith regarded me with mild disdain, apparently slightly disappointed that her elderly uncle could not grasp a point that was entirely obvious to her six-year-old intellect.

“Because she's so pretty,” she patiently explained. “I want to be her!”


I'm not worried at all. Oh, no.


llewelly said...

Jub-jub is a dangerous bird, and Webster is a sorry excuse for a dictionary.

By the way, Disney has been implicated in obesity.

Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

I'm not familiar with the HSM franchise (thank GUT), though I vaguely recall reading disparaging remarks.

I, too, am not too keen on this whole "pretty pretty pretty" business, but it's hardly different from Barbie and whatnot. (I'm grasping to come up with squeaky-clean, pretty starlets from my youth ...).

But I do like the bad girl being a ... goal. This idea about little girls having to be 'good' rubs me the wrong way.

Thrawn said...

Sili, what if a little boy who saw Beauty and the Beast decided that he wanted to be like Gaston because he's so strong?