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mrs. norman maine

YOU are the superhero for coming out against the odious term "graphic novel." I find it unbearably pretentious. But then again, my grandmother had an rabid aversion to the term "pasta," on the same grounds. ("Call in macaroni and cheese, you Yuppies!") At the time I thought she was a bit irrational on the topic.

Speaking of pasta and comic books, a few weeks ago I was rushing happily and nearsightedly over to a section in Waldenbooks that I thought was devoted to "Mangia" but which actually, of course, read "Manga." I was expecting scores of Italian cookbooks and came up with something that looked more like Hello, Kitty.

Exiled in NJ

We have no nine year old here, but Pam and I have been having this doctrinal discussion about whether the female heroine in Pirates of the Carribean should take an enthusiastic part in the fighting, or be more like Olivia deHavilland's Maid Marian. I, the male, have no problem with it, but Pam does not like that part of the film, which we must have seen twenty times now.


We have a four-year old fille here. My third child and her first. I raised the 27 year-old male without violent toys or games. (Until he discovered Doom at a friends house.) He never was violent toward females.

The 18 year-old female was taught self-defense. So will the four year-old who has already learned to modulate her voice to get attention when boys at school get too pushy.

I see it as a matter of size and ability. When my older daughter learned self-defense she was taught not to become aggressive toward smaller males or females. (At 19 she is 5-10 and stronger than her 5-9 brother.)

Maybe your plight is similar to mine? I was raised by a strong woman and taught women could do anything a man could do. But I learned on the streets quickly that the bigger girls could hit us, but we couldn't hit back. It just taught me to be quick like Ali when he evaded the blows.

So censor away and teach him the playing field is not always equal, but there are some moral certainties, of which, "boys don't hit girls" is one.

mrs. norman maine

I forgot to weigh in on the main issue, Edith Bunker that I am. Mine isn't a terribly original viewpoint, but in theory I'd rather see the female fight back than be tied to the railroad tracks.

That's a minor point, however; the real quandary is how much exposure to Star Wars, Batman and the like is too much. Heroic battles these days aren't staged like those kitschy "Pow!"s and "Bam!"s of the old Batman series.

Movies, comic books and TV shows these days, as you point out, contain battles that are gruesome and ugly. At worst, they might give the small fry "ideas."

At "best," taken in large enough doses, they diminish us all, it seems to me.

Anne Laurie

The way my dad explained it to my brothers, hitting is what happens when you've lost the argument. So, if you start hitting, you're admitting you don't have the brains to win with your brilliant repartee and devastating logic. True, there are guys who will hit before they talk, but almost every woman in almost every situation will use words before hitting. Therefore, if you get yourself a reputation as a Guy Who Hits Women, you are telling people that (a) you're not smart enough to argue; and (b) that anyone who has a beef with you might as well cold-cock you from behind rather than starting a discussion. Some guys don't mind having this kind of reputation, but it works best for those who have already finished puberty and are therefore less likely to run into antagonists larger & stronger than they are. Also, being the Guy Who Hits First is a very tiring way to live, because you never know when you're going to get cold-cocked, and that makes you jumpy and keeps you from enjoying the simple pleasures. Ergo - save your energy, don't hit girls!

As for the comic books, and other low media: My mom was rabidly anti-popular-culture. My dad basically let her set the parameters for the kids, but he himself loved stuff like Pogo, Top Cat, and Wonder Wart Hog. So, basically, comic books and television series were the equivalent of Yoo-Hoo, Ding Dongs, and Wise Potato Chips for us... extremely desirable, even though we knew that crap was bad for us. We craved more than we got, and we enjoyed what we got because we knew it was a treat, not an entitlement. This seems like a reasonable compromise, although I'm glad I don't have kids I have to set the parameters of "too much" junk media for! (This also helps define Hitting Girls as cheap & crappy, the kind of thing isn't good enough for Real Serious media, which reinforces the earlier argument.)

Anne Laurie

Wow... only tangentially related to Hitting Girls, Why It Is Not a Good Idea: Entertainment Tonite, that renowned leftist front, just had a sympathetic segment on Cindy Sheehan's vigil! She's got a PSA set to run on local cable channels & ET showed a chunk of it. Sponsored by Gold Star Mothers; Sheehan standing out in the sun speaking straight to the camera, asking Bush "You LIED to us... I know nothing will bring Casey back, but how many more have to die before you bring our children home?" Followed by a clip of Bush's presser/apologia, with him looking shifty & twitchy. Entertainment Tonite... tucked between a "breaking story" about Jessica Simpson getting mobbed, and a retrospective on Miss Elly from Dallas... Not exactly Walter Cronkite turning against LBJ's handling of Vietnam, but I have the feeling El Presidente's approval ratings may be even LOWER than the last few polls have indicated.


Boys don't and shudn't hit girls. This is the only thing my father said, everytime I went chasing my sister around trying to retaliate for the beating I had just received from her. She knew what his response would be and would take great pleasure in taunting and hitting me taking care to always run away.

The point about not hitting girls was that he managed to shame me each time and I would have to go ask my mom for some justice.

I am one of those people who have always been on the receiving side for not having held my tongue. There's been many a time when not backing down and talking back has got me a beating from the stronger guys but I always felt I won the battle. "So, if you start hitting, you're admitting you don't have the brains to win with your brilliant repartee and devastating logic." This is exactly what I used to say in school before running away.

Back in India, we have three ratings for movies. U, U/A and A. Universal -U . Adult - A
But these ratings are a joke as most movies you get to see are violent or condone violence . I've seen movies where the villain was beheaded, arms hacked and these were not adult movies. I have no idea of what kind of an influence this has turned out to be though. The only things my friends were most influenced by was WWF (now the WWE).

I am rambling on again :-)

mac macgillicuddy

And here's a link that's relevant:


I think in the long run the stereotype of women as passive and dependent on men is more likely to get them hit than a video game. A woman might lose in a fight because she has less muscles, but that's not why she stays in an abusive relationship.

All the studies tell us the same thing: violent videogames and movies do not promote real-life violence. Now, perhaps it is regrettable that so many tropes in videogames and movies for kids are violent, but as conflict and its resolution is the most primal driving force for stories and violence is the most primal form of conflict, perhaps it is unsurprising that children find them more exciting and easier to understand than drawing room comedies.

You're probably going to be horrified by this, but it's true nevertheless -- even as your child plays that videogame he is forging his identity. Having girl characters functioning as full participants in his video games, including violence, is helpful and healthy in a society where women are systematically excluded from the stories we tell our children except in very narrow, rigid, roles.

And don't think you can get around this by making your kid read constructive, politically correct children's books where girls and boys get together and help each other bake cookies. If moulding a kid's mind is that easy, we'd have a nation of stepford children.



Very little cookie baking goes on in Chet Gecko, Encyclopedia Brown, Freddy the Pig, or any of the other books my kids enjoy reading.

Plus, I didn't say anything against the presence of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Raven, or Starfire in any of my sons' comic books or video games.

Nor do I have any reservations about Princess Leia or Eowyn in their favorite movies.

And I happen to like Catwoman and Poison Ivy, who are smart, clever, dangerous, and worthy adversaries of the Batman.

The opposite of a violent female henchwoman who exists only to get beat up is not a cringing, passive goody goody victim.

I don't like the brutality in a lot of video and computer games or in many comic books, movies, and TV shows. Whether the violence is directed against male or female characters, it is mostly a glorification of brute force and the destruction of enemies as the only measures of worthiness and success.

I know all about those studies. They remind me of the ones the tobacco industry keeps producing to show there is no evidence that cigarettes cause cancer.

If ugly, stupid, and brutal art has no effect on people's minds and souls, then neither does beautiful and intelligent art and so museums, symphony orchestras, and libraries are just a waste of the public dime.


I'm glad that your kid already enjoys plenty of programs that are non-violent and interesting in content. And I certainly don't want to make it sound like I want to tell you how to raise your kid. This discussion is all academic for me.

As for the difference between high, exalted art and base, crass entertainment, I make less value judgements. I feel like the more people belabor the distinction between the art that's good for you and what people actually consume, the more we're going to see high-art become too rarified and pop-art become ever increasingly inane and idiotic.

Michael McLawhorn


I think I have some idea where you're coming from, having watched Adam West batman as a young kid, and internalized all sorts of chivalrous non-sense in my youth. It wasn't a bad route for me, but it held me back until I was almost in my twenties from the core realization that women were people EXACTLY like me. I suffered from the old cliche where I kept women on a separate, slightly elevated and removed moral state from my own and didn't really grok that they had the exact same kinds of needs, feelings, ambitions and even pettiness that I am and my kind were characterized by. Needless to say, this left me as a clueless sap in a lot of my relationships.

And this gets to the heart of it. Teaching that women should be respected, not a bad thing. Everyone should be respected. Some boys and men will only find it in themselves to respect people after they've been tried in ritual contest. (The old cliche about getting into a fight with someone and becoming best friends after) Other boys and men can form bonds and friendships through other means.

This may be a just-so story, but see if this makes sense. Disaster comes when a girl tries to form a relationship based on emotional tug-of-wars with a boy whose mode of contest and confrontation is physical. She pushes his buttons, he hits her, she's scared of him and he loses respect for her because unlike 'the boys' she doesn't stand up for herself. If she doesn't have enough leverage or respect to cut him off at the knees or to leave him cold, he's now learned that she's weak and can be intimidated. And that's where the poison sets in where he's turned into an abuser and she's turned into a victim.

The thing is, I don't really think this is a sexual warfare condition so much as a conflict of cultures. As much less common as it is, spousal abuse against men can come from the exact same formula with the genders reversed. Batman was deeply chauvanistic, and chauvanism had some value if you could count on women to not have the capability to use physical force and men to do so.

I'm not telling you not to constrain the nine-year-old. But consider this, if there is ever a physical threat to him, do you want him to take the gender of the attacker into consideration? It's more important, MOST important, that you teach him that hurting people who are weaker than him is wicked. Give him some context on why what's good in movies (resolving everything with physical violence and sometimes lethal violence) would not work in the school yard. Make sure he knows that some children barely older than him have tried to use real force like that, and how people were affected.

I don't know. I've rambled on. Violence is not acceptable against anyone, unless you're protecting yourself or your loved ones. I guess that's what he needs to understand. And that Batman, while exhillerating, isn't real.



Wise decision. Be sure to teach him never to discuss matters of an intellectual with the weaker sex either. Ladies have delicate, easily bruised minds, like children and animals.



Funny. Very funny. You want to come over here and tell that one to his mother?

I'll stand behind you to catch you when you fall.


Can you go blind if you drink Sterno? Why would someone want to drink Sterno? Am I behind the times?

I was glad that you restrict the 9-year-old's time with those games because of the "gleeful indulgence" of violence. Violence is far more acceptable at a younger age than images of sex. The other night, during family hour, I saw people get shot up on a 'Law and Order' commercial. They showed the guys taking bullets as the commercial. They used to hide that sort of thing until the show actually aired - usually the woundings were seen as highlights for jaded adults. I don't care if it is guy-on-guy, girl-on-guy, guy-on-girl, girl-on-girl violence (although some people get a little too excited regarding the girl-on-girl violence ... what is up with that?). But violence has become branded as fun. Used to be, kids could get out their aggressive tendencies with sports, but now you can just take a chainsaw to another person in a video game.


Here's an old comic book panel of Batman getting rough with the ladies.

Also, I think kids, certainly at age 9 or older, are better than we give them credit for at knowing that games are not the real world. Otherwise they'd all be jumping off buildings trying to fly.



I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a guy who dresses like that has a few sexual kinks.

The biggest trouble with being a parent for me is having to make all these judgment calls on the fly. There is so much going on around kids, so much being thrown at them, so much they have to process, and it comes at them so fast---a parent can't catch all of it, look it all over, analyze and evaluate, and then deliver a carefully thought out Ward Cleever-wise lecture. You've got to have rules of the thumb. Some things you just can't worry about, some things you deal with on a case by case basis, and some things you just out and out ban just to give yourself time and space to deal with other things.

Here we happen to ban brutality against women. It's not that I think that if he sees Batman beat up a girl he'll go out and hit the next little girl he meets. Pernicious influences don't always work in a simple cause and effect way. They can attach themselves to other bad ideas, to other forms of bad behavior. Kids raised on a lot of brutal video games and comic books probably won't grow up to be wife-beaters or rapists, but their opinion of women, and of men, their idea of what it is to be a decent human being suffers. Ugliness gets into your soul. So we made a decision to protect him from this form of ugliness.

Probably we're missing something else or we've made other decisions that contradict this one somehow.

You can be a bad parent by overprotecting a kid. You can be a bad parent by shrugging everything off too.

You make choices.

And you never, ever know which ones were the right ones.


The biggest trouble with being a parent for me is having to make all these judgment calls on the fly. There is so much going on around kids, so much being thrown at them, so much they have to process, and it comes at them so fast---a parent can't catch all of it, look it all over, analyze and evaluate, and then deliver a carefully thought out Ward Cleever-wise lecture.

Hmm... this could be the lament of a Soviet economic planner. "There are so many choices out there! How can we be sure the people make the right ones?"

I would suggest that the proper role of a parent is to be Alan Greenspan, correcting the economy when it goes off-track, not a Soviet-style micromanager, overseeing and approving every choice.


To add to my previous comment: Obviously, the amount of parental "central planning" required is higher when the child is younger, and decreases as he or she grows up. The key is finding the right balance.


gajinbiker: The ol' "as the twig is bent" argument. I think it is true to the extent that we do have more influence in their behavior while we are their only influences. As soon as our children start school we give a third of their life to the influence of teachers and fellow students. We can only hope our early influence makes a difference.

pepper: sterno filtered to get the alcohol is often called "squeezins". There is a blues tune about it:

blue girl

"Obviously, the amount of parental "central planning" required is higher when the child is younger, and decreases as he or she grows up."

Yes, G-Biker -- all parents of teenagers are VERY well aware of the fact that it's so darn easy! For the teenagers AND parents. There's so little to talk about with them when their say, 13 - 18 -- all the big issues were handled when they were little! And kids are such GOOD listeners, I guess that's the main reason that "central planning" decreases as they grow up!

"The key is finding the right balance."

Wow! Why didn't I think of that? Learn something new everyday. (And I'm even all grown up!)


Okay, blue girl. To dial down the wishy-washiness of my last comment, I think the balance shifts toward the "Alan Greenspan" mode a lot more, and a lot earlier, than Lance suspects.

Most kids quickly develop a fair amount of common sense, and the ones that don't will make bad decisions no matter how carefully you try to guide them.


Slightly off-topic to the current discussion, I think your son might enjoy Miyazaki's "Nausicaa" series. They're a bit pricey, but as far as manga and graphic novels are concerned, they're incredibly powerful and well-written. Female heroine, ecological plot, and complex moral story involving an evolution of what is and isn't right in about a dozen different characters and subplots.

Yeah, there's an obsession with post-apocalyptic worlds, but it's Japanese and they're obsessed after Hiroshima.


I know it's a bit late, but I found this with a search engine and it appears I have to clear something up for a few people: it isn't that boys shouldn't hit girls; it's that NO ONE should hit ANYONE. There is no difference between a boy hitting a girl and the reverse; wrong is wrong no matter how strong you are.

All people -- regardless of size, strength, or gender, -- have the right not to be assaulted, as well as the right to engage in self-defense against their aggressors.



If you really think there is no such thing as a graphic novel, you really haven't read comics. You come across as woefully ignorant. Have you read V for Vendetta? Watchmen? Probably not. These "comic books" as you call them, are more complicated and deep then half the adult books out there. So please don't try to pass off comics as children's literature, unless you've read enough to speek of the subject.

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