Parents and Kids! Experience Instead of Censorship

* A response to the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae *

I let my seven-year-old son watch Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also let him watch all the previous  Marvel films that came before it. Needless to say, the parents of many of his friends think I am crazy for introducing him to  such mature content at such a young age. He would do well to wait and be exposed to them when he is older; he is just a little guy, after all.

So when I read the article, “All These Choices!-Parents and Censorship”, by Heather Rae, I was momentarily paralyzed with the fear that I was a poor influence on my child. I was, *shudder*, a bad parent! Lucky for me, Rae helped me get over that feeling pretty quickly.

The article begins with a flashback to when  Rae allowed her seven and five year old sons watch Indiana Jones. She had genuine concerns that the maturity level and adult content would upset them. And she was partly right. Her eldest son expressed fear for a characters safety. She found herself wondering if he was able to comprehend the justification of plot choices and resolution of the story.

I had a similar situation occur when my son was five.

Five was, my husband and I agreed, the right age to watch the original Star Wars films. After all, we watched them as five year olds and we turned out all right. But lo and behold, when Darth Vader sliced off Luke’s hand, my son panicked. He was upset. He didn’t understand the brutality of the situation, the purpose of the scene.

One of the strongest points in Rae’s article is that parents should be active participants in their children’s learning. Instead of deterring children from (all) mature content, they should explore that content with their children, offering explanations and encouragement when necessary. My son was fine once he realized that Luke would get a bionic hand out of the confrontation. He was even more excited when he learned that other Star Wars films, and even the Marvel ones, have a hand-chopping scene. Not because we turned him into a sadist, but because we introduced him to science fiction tropes. Through our discussion he comprehends how that scene drives the plot of the series and how directors and writers of other franchises (Marvel, in particular) tip their hats to its importance. I would argue the experience honed his visual literacy skills as he actively seeks out the similar scenes in other films.

Rae rightly suggests that we live in a time where everything has the potential to be censured: superheroes for fighting, Harry Potter for magic, Darwin for evolution. But can we shield our children from everything? More importantly, is it right to?

Libraries and Schools across North America receive challenges for materials frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be an established line between what is a valid concern and an invalid one. Rae reminds us that discrepancies exist when questions of appropriateness are concerned.CCAseal-469x600 What is inappropriate for one person may not be for another. Should we allow materials to be censured so that no one may enjoy them? Should I keep my son from watching an Avengers film because the mothers of his friends deem it unacceptable? No, that’s just not a good enough reason for me.

In my opinion, everything has the potential to be a teachable moment. Our society has shifted from one that creates and instills values in our youth (as Rae mentions, family, church, community were once the harbingers of values) to one that muddles those values. The burden of teaching everything to our children has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of our schoolteachers. They impart lessons in life as much as they demonstrate mathematical equations; and through all of this, while carrying the weight of this new responsibility, parents are challenging the teacher’s choices of content and resources.

As Rae implies, the task of exploring media (books, film, television and the ever increasing popularity of the Internet) should be a partnership between child and parent so that when questions of content appropriateness arise, parents can discuss issues and themes as they relate to their personal values. As she notes, parents need to help children dissect and explore the concepts they don’t understand or like. A teacher alone cannot interpret the values of each individual family, each individual student. But a supportive family environment, along with a teacher’s guidance, can be a life changing lesson for a child.

In the end, kids are going to be exposed to the world around them. Whether it is through a complicated novel, a difficult current issues debate, a questionable film, the brutality within the frames of the nightly news, the lewd entertainment available to anyone with cable television, or the far reaches of the Internet, kids are going to be exposed. Wouldn’t it be great if they had a parent, an adult, to help them navigate this uncharted, perplexing territory?

My son watches superhero movies. He is seven. When he doesn’t understand, my husband and I guide him to insight. He will not be censured because others choose to avoid rather than enlighten. And he is pretty enlightened, for a little guy.

We are a family of superhero enthusiasts. We just superhero responsibly.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

The “Slut” in Superhero

imagesI have been thinking about the Black Widow “slut” naming by Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner, Captain America and Hawk-Eye respectively in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. I know it’s a few days past, apologies have been made, and perhaps lost in the cyber void now, but I am still thinking about it.

I have read the comments of many in the community who say we are an “offended generation”, “all superheroes are sluts”, “Black Widow is a slut, get over it”, and to you folks, I wonder if you will consider the following:

The word “slut” has to go.

It has become a staple of slang in our contemporary culture, but at great cost. Youth, especially, use the term loosely and without consideration of the victim they slap the label onto. The number of girls, virgins and sexually active alike, who have been shamed a slut is immeasurable. And it is so painful. It resonates well into adulthood, playing on confidence, choices, and self-esteem. It is the language of bullies. The power of words resonates with youth, and if they hear their cultural icons so carelessly toss these terms around then the work to diminish the verbal bullying has been set back.

Why Black Widow’s love life is on trial is of itself ridiculous. Do we ask the same about Thor and Cap when we wait for a film release? Black Widow is an equal member of the Avengers, and despite her femininity, she is not measured by the worth of her love affairs. I for one hope she doesn’t have any love affairs on screen, but if she does that’s Ok. We need to turn the conversation around so that young girls and women don’t brand themselves as accessories to men. Yes, some of us adults still do this because of what we learned in the media as children. The phenomenon is real, people.

There is a responsibility that comes with being a public figure. There is also a responsibility that comes with representing fictional figures so admired by children, youth, and adults alike. Certain actions and speech need to be reigned in when you are a professional, regardless of the profession you have chosen. For example, I am a teacher, and as such I need to be cognizant of my actions in and out of the classroom. Needless to say, my raucous binge drinking days have long since come to an end. As a representative of Marvel, and the physical representation of a beloved superhero, these men have similar responsibilities during working hours. Press junkets included.

Jeremy Renner’s apology to have insluted a “fictional character” hurts the most, I think. Every time he goes to work he lives in the fictional realm. He makes a living suspending our disbelief. It must be ok for the audience to connect to the character and their struggles and triumphs. That is why we laugh and cry with them. That is why we revisit these characters time and time again. It is almost crass to reduce them to fiction, as though that is the only place they reside. Black Widow is no less real to me, as an avid reader, than is Elizabeth Bennet or Ophelia. Nor is she any less real to the countless cosplayers who devote hours and hours of their lives bringing her to life.

Let’s just remember, as we comment and go through life blissfully avoiding the impact of words on the world, that they do in fact hurt, they do have a lasting effect, and they are a tremendous disappointment when spoken by heroes. Super or not. We are not an “offended generation”, we are just the first with the world at our fingertips and the ability to reach the far corners of the earth. We women are also a little less repressed than before, so I think each of us should take the opportunity to sound our voices to the masses for the few who will listen and respond in kind.

By Leigha Chiasson-Locke

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/04/23/chris-evans-jeremy-renner-black-widow-slut

Fears for a Female Superhero

Before Captain Marvel was slated to join her fellow avengers in the MCU I had secret hopes that she would stay on the pages of her comics and not make the jump to the big screen. Why? Because Carol Danvers is my favourite female superhero, obviously.-b47ba705-84d3-4e68-9a40-58c4b37b6365

That seems like an odd thing to say. Before his solo film debut, I was eager to see Wolverine get his own arc. I couldn’t wait for Cap to lead his Howling Commandos on the silver screen, and well, there was just not enough patience in the world while I waited for Thor to wield his mighty hammer. But Ms. Marvel, I had my reservations. And here is why, I was worried Carol would be less super and more sexy.

It’s not easy being a female comic fan. On the one hand, I feel like I have to qualify my interests for others in the geek community. I have heard some iteration of “Whoa, are you sure you’re a girl?” more than I can count, and all because I can carry a conversation about superheroes with a predominantly male group of friends. Even at my favourite comic book store, (which I love and consider to be one of my favourite places in the world) I did not feel as welcomed, as I know my seven year old son felt, until I was able to assert my geekery to one of the male staff by throwing around artists and writers names, plot details, and, ironically, little known facts about Jem and the Holograms. On the other hand, I feel like I have to qualify my feminist ideals to myself every time I read a comic.

In the comfort of my own reading nook, I don’t care what Emma Frost wears, how Spider-Woman poses, or how ridiculously high Ms. Marvel’s boots are. I see past it, just as I look past Namor and the suspenders he wears over his bare chest, or T’Challa and the way his panther suit is practically painted over his body. Neither male nor female character are safe from sexual innuendos, and most all are presented with a degree of sex appeal. Maybe Emma Frost and Spider-Woman don’t ring true to me the way Danvers does, and in that sense I am not bothered by their attire. But I do identify with Danvers, and knowing that she was to be taken from the pages of a book and portrayed by an actual living person made me uncomfortable. Let’s face it, when a male actor buffs up and starts saving the world, he is usually well covered from head to toe, and I have yet to see one wear ridiculous footwear. How can a woman prove Carol Danvers has the same world saving tenacity in four inch heels and a body suit permanently on the verge of giving her a wedgie? How does a studio give her character credibility without overtly sexualizing her?

The answer: release a Captain Marvel movie instead. 145a5714d278c1e0b35275e6a0092b2e

Captain Marvel is the hero Ms. Marvel subconsciously longs to be (as seen in House of M), and subsequently, the mantel she inherits. With the new title remains her strength, tenacity, leadership qualities, and a kick-ass jumpsuit. Small thing to get so excited about, but now Carol Danvers looks like the soldier we know and admire. Seeing Carol Danvers grace the pages of her own series looking like the woman my younger self would have liked to be affirms that my feminist ideals are, in fact, intact. I want to see a strong woman save the earth, but more importantly I want to see a strong woman who looks (more or less) like a real woman save the earth. I want her intellect and capacity for emotion not to be clouded by skimpy suites, unattainable flowing hair, and boots that would make it awfully hard to round-house kick.

Marvel’s choice to release Captain Marvel has eased my mind and demonstrated a respect for their female fans. So far the MCU has done well promoting both strength and femininity in their female characters: Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow is significantly less sexualized than her comic counterpart; Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts radiates strength beyond measure, both physical and emotional; and Agent Carter and Lady Siff have proven that women have a place in the chaos and forefront of the battleground, and that even women can devastate in times of war.

In the books, Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel, is exactly the kind of superhero I want my daughter to know, to imagine and pretend to be. Same goes for Gwen Stacy in her run in the new Spider-Verse (the thought that a girl could be bitten by a radio active spider is not just a figment of little girl’s imagination anymore!). Browsing the covers of comics women are everywhere, from the characters on the title page to the artists and writers bringing them to life.

The spotlight on women in comics is starting to brighten. They have been standing on the stage for sometime, but waiting for their moment to shine. Now it’s happening. It’s time to lift the curtain and watch women stand tall as comic giants, not just on the shoulders of others.

It’s time for Carol Danvers to shine on the big screen, too.

The world is ready, so am I.

By Leigha Chiasson   @ldchiasson17