Terrible Lessons I Learned From Children’s Lit (part 1)

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So in re-reading and re-watching some of my favourite children’s/YA books/movies, I’ve realized some really disturbing things.  In fact, I figured I’d share them here so you can all see exactly how my demented mind works.

Let’s start with Mathilda, shall we?  I’m gonna talk about the movie ’cause it’s what I had handy and when you’re dealing with Roald Dahl, the book and the movie are very different things. (Hint: the books are even more terrifying.)  But don’t worry; he’ll turn up  again.  I learn lots of terrible lessons from the film adaptations of his books particularly.  This is what I learned from Matilda:

•If you want a child to grow up intelligent and independent, you should absolutely neglect them, thoroughly. It will make them smart and strong.

•If you are that child, your life has been crappy enough that while you’re generally a good person, you have a free pass to act like a sociopath at least once.

•Acting like a sociopath will get you the life you always wanted.

Some of you are probably wondering if we watched the same movie.  We did.  I’m just more warped than you are.  Still, it’s all there.  Matilda’s parents neglect her from the day she’s born, bringing her home from the hospital in the back of a station wagon and then forgetting her there until, presumably (we’re never told in the movie) she can walk herself in.  Because of this neglect, she learns to take care of herself, cook for herself, navigate a metropolis and manipulate the adults around her.  Oh, wait. We’re not to the sociopathy yet. Forget that bit.

Actually, let’s go ahead with the sociopathy:  If you’re Matilda and you’ve grown up in that atmosphere of neglect and indifference your entire life, you learn to play by a different set of rules and that’s okay in fiction but doesn’t play out well in the real world.  But in fiction, if your parents are “bad,” you can punish them.  In the movie, this takes the form of pranks, mostly, from replacing dad’s hair tonic with mom’s peroxide to gluing his hat on his head.  (Interesting, mom is never punished for her indifference and shallowness. But that’d be another bullet point and in preaching class, I learned 3 points are plenty, thanks.)

Anyway, apart from punishing her dad in order to get her way (which was to make him allow her to go to school), she finds that the principal at her new school is also bad and therefore can and should be punished.   I should probably point out that this is about the time that Matilda learns she has superpowers.  These are important because that’s what she uses to punish the bad adults at that point, through trespassing, theft and vandalism on the principal’s private property on the hunch that it was wrongly obtained (because 7 year olds are notorious for knowing the complexities of any given situation).  Later, she uses those same powers to physically assault the principal.  Trunchbowl is no peach and she definitely is a bully, but thanks to this movie, I learned that bullies just need someone to bully them back with supernatural powers.

In the end, this scares the bad principal while her parents get some federal justice aimed at them. Her parents flee the country, however, but Matilda, who apparently thought about this well ahead of time, had adoption papers prepped so that she could ditch her bad family, have her favourite teacher adopt her and they lived happily ever after in the house that had belonged to evil Ms. Trunchbowl.

So in the end, kids, remember that if you are smarter or more talented than someone else, it’s totally okay to use that to your advantage to manipulate the people around you into doing your will — as long as you have an adorable lisp and an exit strategy.

Join us next time on Auntie Hazard’s Story Time  to find out why it’s okay to take candy from strangers in pimp suits!

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