December 02, 2005

"The Berenstain Bears Meet The Reaper"

John J. Miller has a column up this morning marking the recent death, at age 82, of Stan Berenstain, one half of the creative duo who brought us the seemingly interminable collection of Berenstain Bears children's books.

I've never much liked the BB's and I cringe inwardly every time one of the Llama-ettes asks me to read one of their stories to her. But unlike some people, I don't get especially worked up about the Dumb Ol' Dad/Wise Mom pattern. Instead, my dislike is based on aesthetic grounds: there's a cutesy, fubsy ickiness to the stories that makes my skin crawl. For instance, in one of the books, The Berenstain Bears Make It Fly, there's a series of horrible puns about famous fliers, such as "Wilbear and Orville Wright" and "Amelia Bearhart" that I point-blank refuse to read the way they're written.

Miller also relates a bit of parental editing that made me laugh, since the book he refers to is well known in our house:

Another title in my house is The Berenstain Bears Go Out for the Team. It’s about coping with the stress of baseball tryouts. I don’t like it nearly as much as The Bike Lesson: The all-prose writing is flat by comparison, there’s little humor, and one part pays homage to the nauseating pieties of political correctness. Brother expresses his ultimate nightmare: “The worst thing that can happen is if Sis makes the team and I don’t.” This is of course a very understandable fear for a young boy who competes constantly with his little sister over everything from parental attention to the daily backyard ballgame. So how does Sister respond? “I consider that a sexist remark!” she snaps.

First of all, kids don’t talk that way. Second, we shouldn’t want them to talk that way. Third, this is an authentic dilemma of boyhood and it can’t be papered over by feminist pabulum about boys and girls being no different from each other. At least Mother, overhearing this exchange, chimes in and defends her son: “After all, Brother is older than you and he’s very proud of his baseball ability.” Despite this ninth-inning save, I’ve never read Sister’s line to my kids exactly as it was written. The last thing I need is my kindergarten daughter asking, “Daddy, what’s sexism?”

Amen, brutha. Although I will say in Stan & Jan's defense that, at least in my experience, this is a very rare excursion into the world of what P.J. O'Rourke once called the "perennially indignant".

Posted by Robert at December 2, 2005 10:47 AM | TrackBack

Another sad death: the divine Wendy Jo Spurber

Posted by: beautifulatrocities at December 2, 2005 03:25 PM

I saw that, although I can't say that I ever watched Bosom Buddies. The headlines noted her as a "star" of the Back to the Future movies, which caused me to wonder if I'd missed something somewhere. It took some digging to realize she was one of the McFly siblings.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at December 2, 2005 03:32 PM