When it comes to gender, members of the media just LOVE reporting with breathless astonishment on research that appears to reinforce conventional wisdom. Sometimes it takes a certain amount of squishing to make it fit said conventional wisdom; cf. coverage of just about every study on daycare's impact on the wellbeing of children. An interesting study presented at yesterday's British Psychological Association (BPA) meeting provides a case in point.
Three-year-old Jim leaned over and gave his four-year-old neighbor, Ivan, a big smooch on the lips. "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" yelled Jim's dad, making no effort to hide his distress. The kids didn't seem to notice Dad's outburst, but it's a message that children, especially boys, hear a lot: "Don't be gay."
"Why are there no bad guys in our neighborhood?" Ivan asked me recently, after emerging from a movie theater. The previews had presented a full line-up of villains – in 3-D, no less.
Ivan had been trying hard to find some real-life miscreants, wondering daily about the boisterous youth on our block, who do a lot of shoving and yelling: "Are those bad guys?" I'd been assuring him that while these young men could be more polite, they're not bad guys. Real bad guys are very rare, I always say, but a lot of people do make bad decisions. We can all try harder to be good.
Today I say, "There are a lot more bad guys in the movies than in real life."
"Why?" he wants to know.
"Because," I explain, "the people who make the movies think that bad guys make movies more exciting."
No matter how subtle and cerebral – or in the case of Lewis Carroll's 1865 tale, wonderfully meandering and weird – the original story, these days, Hollywood will figure out how to transform it into an action movie.