I know that someday you'll find better things.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bear Problems

People who live in the suburbs have bear problems, too, you know. Just ask Tom Selleck.

The Berenstain Bears was one of my favorite series as a kid. It seemed like there was a book to address just about every childhood situation.

My children needed those bears. How else would they learn to cope with life's challenges?

We scored a ton of them at Recycled in Denton. The prices were so odd --25 cents for some, 37 cents for others. I think the most we paid for one was $1.36. We even got a couple of the old-school hardcover rhyming ones-- The Bike Lesson and The Bears' Picnic.

We made out like bear bandits.

Shortly thereafter, we found out that the book series had become a television show and subsequently, a dvd series.

We had to own it.

[Sidenote-- I verified which dvd we'd purchased. 'The Bears Mind Their Manners' is currently available on Amazon for $29.99. There is NO chance I paid that much. No possible way. My maximum would have been around $8.]

The cartoon was a reasonably responsible adaptation, and it stays pretty true to the picture books' plots. The main problem was the theme song.

They're kind of furry around the torso/
They're a lot like people only more-so.

What the heck does that mean? How can a bear be more like a person than an actual person?! Two giant steps backward for bearkind on that one, PBS.

Guess what? I'm not the only one who has grown skeptical of these bears.

During a Friday night Blue Bloods episode, a promo for the ten o'clock news indicated that Tom Selleck would be revealing his deepest thoughts on parenting, his role as the spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative, and his disdain toward the Berenstain Bears.

Thank goodness some bold soul was finally going to bring this oxy-moronic grammatical problem to light. And it was someone I already respected: NYPD's finest fictional commissioner!

Normally the news is too traumatic to watch, but this seemed manageable.
Manageable and worthwhile.

Sesame-seed Synopsis:
Tom is proud to be a parent.
Tom thinks parenting is important.
Tom feels that our culture has allowed-- and even promoted-- the characterization of fathers as bumbling idiots.


Case in point: Papa Bear of the Berenstain dynasty.

Gee whiz.

Could that be accurate? What kind of messed-up society would place my two heroes in this moral contrast?

I’d have to investigate this for myself.

So, I hauled out our collection of bear books—all 34 of them. (We have two copies of Visit the Dentist, Too Much TV, and Trouble with Friends… not quite sure how that happened…)

As I read through them, I did see shadows of Tom’s concern, but it certainly wasn’t overt oblivion. If what he was saying about Papa Bear was true, Mama Bear was the sister of Stalin.

It seems to me that like so many other things, the truth stands somewhere between the conflicting beliefs.

Papa Bear could be perceived in the way Tom was portraying him, but only if you willfully neglected the intended audience, author’s purpose, and context of the stories.

The books are intended for young children grappling with the monumental task of absorbing morals and values and virtues.

Papa Bear often faces the same challenges as his cubs. Whether it is the temptation of sweets and junk food or the desire to indulge in television instead of physical activity, I think the authors weren’t attempting to denigrate fathers. They were probably just trying to eliminate hypocrisy and show that adults can struggle with these same challenges, too—that it is all part of the human experience.

More(so) or less.

Again, considering the intended audience, I understand why the authors consistently placed Papa in this role. Most children aren’t quite ready for complex characterization. By creating predictable, steady roles for the four main characters, the authors have a greater opportunity to showcase the challenging situation and develop the solution and moral within the constraints of a child’s shorter attention span.

Why not share the ‘humanity’ with Mama? Switching up the fall guy and aligning Mama with the kids might compromise the readers’ trust.

Is this an accurate representation of life? Of course not. Mothers cave to temptations all the time. Mothers have weaknesses, too. I speak from experience—I’m about as flawed as they come.

Papa Bear’s persona isn’t a political statement about fatherhood. He’s just a victim of typecasting.

Surely that is something that Commissioner Reagan—I mean, Tom Selleck—can identify with.

Commissioner Reagan always errs on the side of integrity, even if it conflicts with popular preference.

Does Tom?

Tom, if you’re reading, consider this.

Hero or villain, your most believable character roles were decisive men of action and moral compass. Not all roles—nor all men—share those traits. Would you be willing to trade places with Papa Bear for a bit to give him that opportunity to be the dad you want him to be?

Besides, box office successes are different from critical ones.

Have you no memory of your lackluster saccharine-sensitive side-show in Three Men and a Baby?

It seems to me that you’d likely be as inept at handling bear problems as Papa Bear would be at handling police commissioner problems.

And that’s okay, because I’m starting to realize that maybe actors are a lot like people, only more-so.

No comments:

Post a Comment