Childish entertainments

That perfect child is gone…

I have been reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a serious novel, which happens to have a child as the main character. It has mystery and threat, the sound of someone crying which can never be admitted, a child crushed and broken by Lovelessness and taken to a place of darkness and reclusive suffering, where good people show her care and attention and her own innate resilience and humanity, warmed into love and creativity, produce something beautiful.

From 1911, I note the way they talk of “blacks”. There is the rich person’s way- they were obsequious and servile…they made salaams and called their masters protectors of the poor and names of that sort- then there is the maid’s way- when you read about them in tracts they are always very religious. You always read as a black’s a man and a brother. It is humane.

In the Guardian, I read Why is Frozen so popular? I have just watched it off BBC1, and am a new fan. Lucinda Everett, a fan who loves it for herself not just her children, mentions hearty praise from critics, academics, parents, and equal rights campaigners but the heart is this: The complex, damaged older sister with icy powers that her abusive parents forced her to conceal, was originally the villain of the piece – blue of skin and spiky of hair. But when married songwriting duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez composed Let it Go as an empowering ode to self-acceptance, the film was rewritten and Elsa-mania was born. The sister who turns Anna’s heart to ice is a good person! The attempts to control and hide her gifts and true nature-Be the good girl you always have to be; Conceal, don’t feel– only poison them, hurting her and everyone else; and the way to happiness is accepting and freeing them.

I love it. And there are mean spirited comments. Jeez, the film came out three years ago just Let It Go already. And, The old never bothered me anyway. Those had at least an attempt at wit, a play on words, but then I read, Because some parents are happy to feed their children shit. That is merely vile. Frozen is a complex and subtle work of art. It has humour, it is life-affirming with people coming together, and the opening, the fear-filled attempt to render Elsa safe and under control made me weep at the horror of it. It is funny. The ending is beautiful. Calling it “shit” is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

That mean spirit is everywhere in Guardian comments. The Guardian also spoke up for being Liberal: If liberal means holding true to the values of the Enlightenment, including a belief in facts and evidence and reason, then call me a liberal. And if liberal means cherishing the norms and institutions that protect and sustain democracy, from a free press to an independent judiciary, then call me a liberal. Then the second comment calls for cutting foreign aid, much – or most – of which does not reach or benefit those most in need. I think I hate “EliminatetheNegative” more for pretending to care about effectiveness.

Call me a liberal, too. Love and freedom is in those children’s entertainments, and the meanness of “Suck it up, you lost!” will not overwhelm it. Nigel Farage hates his own voters and party members, mocking them as “low grade people”. (I tried to check the original Telegraph interview for context, but it is behind a pay-wall.) There is something truthful and adult- for all people, for all time- in these children’s entertainments. I will become like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway!

the-secret-garden

5 thoughts on “Childish entertainments

  1. The best kids lit is always something an adult can enjoy, and often vice versa. I recall being about four and finding myself completely absorbed in the Watership Down movie, and enjoying it later as a teen. I liked A Man For All Seasons when I was ten and when I was 25. My favorite TV show of the last decade is a Nickelodeon cartoon about a little kid learning Kung Fu.
    Enjoying these things isn’t childish, it is one of the privileges of adulthood.

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    • I am enjoying Deep Space Nine at the moment, rebroadcast on “CBS Action”. I had noticed before that it had a lower threat level than Babylon 5, but not that they all behave like teenagers, even the soldiers and the 350 year old character. One Jem Hadar warrior says to another at one point, “I don’t like him any more. You can be my new BFF.” Actually he says “Second [in command]” but, Darling! The Subtext!

      Yet it builds in complex themes, and says interesting stuff, as well as having the odd joke. It is still worth my time.

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      • I enjoyed DS9 as a teen, not sure if I would like it today. I recall missing a season or two and then being unable to get back into it, it had metastasized into something pretentious. Old Star Trek was wander around and do stuff, DS9 wanted to develop the political history of the S.T. “universe”, and that is great, but it got out of hand somehow.
        This last year I watched Arrested Development and The Last Airbender, both (esp. the latter) were great precisely because the were short-lived shows, only three seasons. Let them keep a tight story line.

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        • I don’t think it is pretentious, it works at its own level. It always raises issues without really discussing them, but it builds Benjamin Sisko into the Anointed of the Prophets- the “Emissary”- and Gul Dukat into the puppet of the demons, the Wraiths. These characters develop over the seasons. I need to watch it in a forgiving mood: I spot bits which don’t work, and deliberately decide that they don’t matter because of occasional wonders; but the one broadcast yesterday, Wrongs darker than death or night, starts with Dukat playing games with Major Kira’s head, and it is frightening and moving.

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