First They Came for the Power Rangers

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Melbourne, Australia childcare facilities have banned superhero costumes because, reports the Herald Sun:

The centres claim superhero costumes transform children into super villains by encouraging aggressive play such as wrestling, hitting, karate kicking and jumping from heights.

[Thanks to readers Clay Young and Gravity Lens' Jeff Patterson]

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  1. joe,

    Of course you’re right that the daycare workers’ proximity to the situation should not be entirely dismissed. It’s easy to spout off on a forum like this (and fun too!), but it’s true many of us might think differently if we were there and our ideas were to be directly put into effect. I almost didn’t hit the post button thinking of that very issue, but then I thought, ah, what the hell, it’s what occurred to me, so I’ll throw it out. Do notice I did say “suspect” (i.e., I never claimed to know for sure), and in fact we all bring our prejudices to whatever situations we face and hopefully you might agree that those on the beat are not automatically the only ones whose opinions matter. Otherwise, we’d have to allow the cops to beat a few heads when they deemed it necessary!

  2. Ray,

    Luddite? OUCH!!! My wife owns a pair of birkenstocks, but WTF, I’m a nuclear engineer and member of the American Nuclear Society for cryin’ out loud! Luddite? I seek out irradiated food at my grocer and have no problem with GM foods, and I mock an astrophysicist acquaintance of mine (behind his back, of course!) for his belief in the sanctity of organic foods. And the only reason I don’t have an SUV is that my minivan has better carrying capacity and gas mileage and is better suited to the narrow WV roads where I live than anything I can find in an SUV. I was a member of the L5 Society 20 years ago, for Pete’s sake! Luddite indeed! ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for my comment that drew such an awful aspersion from you, I was merely pointing out a counter example to your (incompletely stated) rule of child-rearing. There is little science to support the notion that we’re all just people until socialization gets a hold of us, or the converse. I was merely stating that kids do need some discipline, which you have later said you don’t have a problem with (sorry about the dangling preposition).

    My little girls climb rocks, jump off the couch, play ball, play spaceship with their Barbies, etc. I submit that these are “kid” things, not necessarily “boy” things.

  3. Mark A.

    Then you and I are communicating on a flawed premise and so I apologize for lumping you in with JB.

    Ironically enough the book was given to us (I can’t actually prove this but I believe it) by someone who thinks I’m too much of a disciplinarian.

    I am a firm believer in not “reasoning” with a 2 year old and, gasp, spankings. The good old fashioned kind, not comletely walloping the kid.

    When I spoke of “natural” matters it is basically to say let the kids be kids. Yeah they need discipline, of course, but alot of what is going on today consists of deprogramming the masculine nature or attempting to insert girls where they don’t otherwise choose to go.

  4. Folks, I am a huge superhero fan as many of you know, but I think there is a kernel of truth to this belief in heightened agression from masks, costumes and roleplaying- not just in kids but in everyone. There have been many studies done by Zimbardo and others( including the famous “prison” experiment) that illustrate this link.
    That being said, I think that superhero play is no more violent that playing “cops and robbers” or “star wars”. It is merely another way of “morality” play- delineating good and evil and saying there are things worth fighting for. Superheroes in particular also teach important lessons about power and responsibility.

    Any one who wants more info on the Zimbardo research, and to hear me ramble about this type of stuff is invited over to my blog to do so. Click on the name.

  5. So — while we here in western civilization are on the ridiculous path of molding our kids into little bundles of mush, no such transformations are occurring in the Middle East, Africa and various parts of Asia — where aggressive behavior on the part of males tends to be standard M.O.

    Hence, (if such bullshit psychology continues in the west) looking ahead, say, about 30 years, what do you suppose the west will look like?

    Let’s see … I’ve got a pathetic mental picture of big, angry, eastern Rambo types treading all over every western city, shoving marshmallow “males” aside as they make for the wimmin, and running roughshod over the political landscape.

  6. Actually, Ray, though I disagree with JB a lot (maybe 30% of the time), I almost always find myself rooting for that frequently-badly-outnumbered historian, and I don’t think that is such bad company with whom to be lumped together (see what happens when you don’t dangle prepositions?). ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Tim, I think you’re leaving out an important part of “kid-dom,” which is the part that doesn’t have anything to do with toys & what’s on the boob tube. It seems to me that a lot of kids these days are on an awfully short leash, compared to what I remember about being a kid myself. I can recall as a ten year old being pretty much free to go where I wanted in my after-school time, as long as I was back home on time for dinner. This meant playing football or whatever with friends or wandering around the hills and canyons at the edge of town at will.

    There probably aren’t many parents these days who are going to let their kids wander off miles from home without knowing where they’re going — rightfully so, considering how many anti-social psychos are out there now. That the cartoons today are way better than ‘Clutch Cargo’ & its ilk, however, doesn’t seem to me to be an adequate conmpensation for kids losing more of their freedom.

    But maybe that was just how it was in my neighborhood.

  8. “considering how many anti-social psychos are out there now.” ??

    Doug, anti-social psychos have ALWAYS been out there. Even more so in the past than today. When you consider the thousands of little girls and little boys the world over, who were victimized by anti-social psychos in, say the year 700, 1436, 1778, 1863, or (pick any historical year) it must have been a very sad state of affairs indeed.

    The only difference is, we have radio, TV, and the Net now. (So such horrors are now being publicized.)

    You and I were just lucky to have been able to go where we wanted after school, wandering around the hills and canyons at the edge of town.

    Things could’ve been worse …

    You and I might not have been here to write any of this.

  9. “My take on it was, from the standpoint of Dobson’s book, is that there has been an attack in the last 30 years on the very idea of being a boy.”

    Yes, and my point was that you have this “take,” and similar “those damn liberals are ruining everything” takes, pretty much every time you post, whether you have the information to draw an educated conclusion or not. And you’re not alone.

    What does a parent or caretaker do when something, anything, is making the kids act up? They say, “Give me that! Knock it off!” and send the little darlings out to play without the slingshot, plastic spear, or power rangers mask at the center of the maelstrom. Ideally, but not uniformly, this is done before the first child starts crying.

    Mark A., have you ever seen an outraged story about something child care workers did to stop girls when they’re playing rough? Certainly not around here. Stories like that don’t make the paper, or get linked to by websites. I guess that doesn’t set off anyone’s bells.

  10. Ray,

    For what it’s worth, of the organic food types I know, a large segment are right-wingers who homeschool their kids and kill their own meat, as well as anti-vaccination people, etc.

    A few months back there was a favorable article on “granola conservatives” at, of all places, National Review Online.

    The organic foods movement includes a lot of NPR yuppies, but it also includes quite a few of the “get of my land before I blow your ass off” types. As Jesse Walker pointed out a while back, movements like homeschooling and natural childbirth tend to be divided between hippies and fundies.

  11. Jesse Walker pointed out a while back, movements like homeschooling and natural childbirth tend to be divided between hippies and fundies.

    Really? Did he, now. (I must have missed that one.)

    So can we then conclude that,

    Hippies = BAD
    Fundamentalists =BAD

    Ergo

    Homeschooling = BAD
    Natural Childbirth = BAD

    Or did he simply abstain from placing a value judgement on either one?

    And if so, then what is “GOOD?”

  12. I hear castration lowers aggression, I wonder when they will propose that. Sheesh, let these kids play.

  13. The meme afoot whereby normal childhood behavior is cast as pathology continues. . . surely there’s some drug they can take that will allow them to wear their costumes and still behave?

    (Glad I was a kid 30 years ago).

  14. I have fond memories of getting in constant trouble in various daycare settings for my game of “Fortress”.

    The basic idea was that I get younger children who are as bored as I am to build a “fortress” with me out of whatever’s handy. (chairs, tables, playground equipment, etc.) Once we’ve got out fortress ready, I would decided that the other groups of children playing without us are enemy armies plotting to capture our fortress. We would then organize raiding parties and seize their toys to prevent them from being used against us. subject playgroups that acknowledged our superiority would be given their toys back. It was fun until the adults realized what was going on and I had to sit in a corner the rest of the time. Fortunately, though I was gone one of my minions would rise to take my place and continue our glorious cause.

  15. Actually, Cindy, he was sympathetic to both.

  16. Someone gave us one of those Dr.Dobson “how to raise your children” books called “Bringing Up Boys.” I’ve let it collect dust on the shelf, after all, as a kid I was the boy most likely to receive a long prison sentence and now know full well how to deal with my 2 year old son, a chip off the old block.

    But, this book has really helped my wife in that it gives a thorough debunking to the pop-psyche anti-male junk the feminist movement has put out over the last few decades. (The book also gives ample evidence that the boy and I are not the only ones who behave as we do; my wife grew up with 5 sisters and all of this is really new to her.)

  17. Madog — are you now a member of the Bush foreign policy team? ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. If you outlaw superhero costumes, only criminals will have superhero costumes…

  19. I don’t think I was an especially mean kid, though it does seem odd that I turned out as libertarian as I am now. Rather that superheros my main inspiration for violent games was history.

    I guess I was odd as a child, I devoured anything about the middle ages and roman empire I could find. My friends and I would build forts or bases and make swords, armor, and spears out of scrap wood. A lot of kids do that sort of thing, but I brought along reference materials from the library so we’d get it right. ๐Ÿ™‚

    At least I was out of daycare by the time I discovered paleoanthropology and tried chipping hand axes out of stone. I don’t expect stripping down to my boxers and running around with stone weapons would have be acceptable in a daycare setting.

  20. Ray,

    When exactly did wearing super-hero costumes become essential to manliness? Does Dobson also go into great detail about how men hunt giraffes and women stay home and cook?

    Everyone else,

    The entire lot of are arguing for the creation of self-indulgent children who lack self-discipline.

  21. JB,

    More to the point; let children be who they are. Boys are naturally aggressive and silly and girls are naturally more averse to pain, jumping off of the couch and letting boogers drape off the end of their nose.

    Instead of fighting nature, THE classic liberal tendency, flow with it and learn how to get the best out of everyone.

    It is ironic that the birkenstock, granola crowd are the ones who think that human nature is at some point a tabula rasa that can be written to however the social science of the day deems wisest.

  22. Um, just what the hell is this nonsense?

    (Libertarian)
    It’s a private childcare facility. They have the right to demand whatever attire and behavior the wish from the children of their clients.
    (/end libertarian)

    Second, all this hand-wringing, whining, nut-less, “but it’s ANTI-MALE” silliness is the funniest shit I’ve read in along time. They’re not “pathologizing” normal boys- their starting early in letting them know you can’t wear whatever you want wherever you want, a valuable lesson for all. If the rug-rats are strong enough to karate-kick, punch, bully others, and jump off of high things, then they’re strong enough to wear thier costumes at home instead of daycare.

    re: potshots at liberals (the birkenstock, granola) crowd- if that means raising children to be disciplined and treat others with common courtesy, then you are finally right about something (mark your calendars boys and girls).

    Finally- whatever you need to wear to keep the little woman satisfied is wonderfull Ray- you just don’t have to share it with us.

  23. JB,

    I protest! I was merely cracking wise…..

    You are right — kids do need a little structure and discipline.

    Ray,

    The most birkenstocky, granola-esque couple I know are raising a little sociopath using the approach you describe (“Instead of fighting nature, THE classic liberal tendency, flow with it and learn how to get the best out of everyone”). My kids are NOT allowed to play with him. Point = NOT a universal rule

  24. Cause and effect, effect and cause… I suspect about 96.4% of the aggressiveness was there without the costumes, but maybe the aggressive kids are the ones who get into superhero costumes in the first place…?

  25. Dude, I was a kid 30 years ago, and I couldn’t disagree with you more. Though my regrets are too few to mention, I think we are living in an absolutely unprecedented Golden Age of kid-dom. Toys, movies, games, music, books, clothes, tv-I can’t think of a single thing designed for kids that is not way better now than anything that was available when we were kids. Do you remember what fucking dreck they churned out as kids’ movies back in the day? The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again? Herbie the Love Bug Rides Again? (Recall that this was the late decadent phase of Disney’s lamentable live-action period.) Would anybody want to go back to that crapola in preference to Finding Nemo or Sponge Bob or the Harry Potter movies? For that matter, can anybody honestly claim they’d take Encyclopedia Brown or the Beverly Cleary books over Harry Potter? Spoiled or not, overly medicated or not (and from what I see when I take my kid to the playground, I suspect both these memes are exaggerated), I envy kids the fantastic products they have today. (And for all the Jean Barts who want to gripe about materialism, don’t blow smoke up my ass: Products are everything to a kid.)

    Back to the original point about Power Rangers: Back when the MMPRs were really big, a co-worker of mine had a brilliant plan to become his kid’s hero: Hire one of those groups who come and perform in Power Ranger costumes at kids’ parties to do your kid’s birthday-but then beat the shit out of them when they arrive. (You’d have to tip extra to get them to take fake falls and dives while you’re pummeling them.) All your kid’s friends see you beating on the Power Rangers, and you would immediately become legendary as the toughest dad any kid ever saw.

  26. How is “jumping from heights” agressive play? It could be dangerous to a kid (but rarely) but not really aggresive unless the kid is aiming for somebody.

    Just shows to go ya that you should raise your kids at home so when they turn out to be deliquints you have no one to blame but yourself.

  27. The people who know the most about the situation, the daycare workers, say that the children become more violent and more trouble when they wear the costumes. Who are you all to say you know better what’s going on in that Australian day care center?

    If any of you have or had children, you know that some things “set them off,” and elicit troublemaking. So you don’t let them have them, or set aside prescribed times. You don’t let the place get trashed because “it’s natural.”

    To the extent that roughhousing is normal play for these boys, they’ll do it without the costumes. These complaints about shutting down boys’ natural activities have been raised by people who have no idea about the seriousness of the problem, and are writing in facts to fit their own ideological script.

  28. “The entire lot of are arguing for the creation of self-indulgent children who lack self-discipline.”

    JB,

    Have all of your books made you happy?

    I thought not.

    “Do you remember what fucking dreck they churned out as kids’ movies back in the day? The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again? Herbie the Love Bug Rides Again?”

    And now all the non-kid movies suck. Maybe Star Wars breaking when it did used up all of our cinematic karma. Of course, given the new Star Wars movies, the movies for 30 year olds when we’re 60 are going to comprise a new golden age of Hollywood.

  29. First of all, the gist of it is not what they are wearing but the behavior that the costumes supposedly caused.

    Pay attention; they are blaming typical male behavior on an outside influence, the costume. As if you could take away the costume and their behavior would return to a nice, ?normal? Ritalin addled level.

    The birkenstockers as I?ve dubbed them (JB, Mark A. et al) makes the case that little boys and little girls are essentially the same and the little boys are only more aggressive because we do things like put superhero costumes on them.

    The reason this is ironic is that these are the people that are more likely to be the Luddites in the crowd, no SUVs, no genetically enhanced crops, organic food; but we can completely change the behavioral instincts of our children contrary to their human nature.

    And when I speak of raising your children; ?flow with it? ? nature that is, I mean to raise your little girls as girls and your boys as boys. No where in there did I say anything against discipline. The entirety of this thread and especially my posts has not been about discipline but about the modern tendency to raise our children by the egregiously mistaken notion that boys and girls are behaviorally the same.

  30. Yeah, kids have better stuff today. But I don’t know if anything they have could beat this big blue plastic rifle I had that shot ping pong balls. Nowadays someone would probably call the cops on a kid wandering around the neighborhood with something like that.

    And there was some classic entertainment back then – the Super Harlem Globetrotters? The Bionic Man? Wonder Woman? Come on, that stuff was Solid Gold. Anyway, I can watch Spongebob now and probably dig it more than I would have back then.

    The thing is, when I was a kid we wandered around completely unsupervized for pretty much the entire day; fought over who got to ride in the front seat of my dad’s camero – which didn’t even have seatbelts, if I recall; rode bikes *without helmets* – etc. Just seems more free. Now I sound like a hippy.

    I don’t doubt the lives kids live nowadays doesn’t better prepare them to be a drone in corporate cube somewhere.

  31. joe,

    the posts here started out in a light hearted nature and, getting back to the main point, I wouldn’t allow my kid to take a superhero costume to his daycare for the very reason that it would encourage his naturally rowdy behavior.

    The tide turned when JB arrived and threw in his antagonistic post and here we are.

    I agree, there is a problem in raising our children according to whatever is on the TV screen and letting them emulate WWF or whatever. My take on it was, from the standpoint of Dobson’s book, is that there has been an attack in the last 30 years on the very idea of being a boy.

    Was JB asserting that there hasn’t been an assualt on being a boy? Even those launching the assualt don’t refute that.

  32. God, I’m starting to picture row upon row of little Alex clones, eyes firmly secured open listening to Beethoven while being force fed their education by video-link. Make it stop!

  33. *Sigh* It is always a vast left-wing conspiracy with some people, apparently. And anything that doesn’t let boys do whatever they want must be anti-male.

    Hey, how about this: people who have the completely insane job of being surrounded by kids every day just want something, anything, that will make the freaking brats shuddup already. Humm? How about it? But, of course, it doesn’t fit into the vast left-wing anti-male conspiracy dogma, so we can forget it.

    Mind you, as far as I’m concerned, let the kids don the costumes and if they misbehave use some good old fashioned discipline. Or is discipline anti-male, too?

    Oh, and if they were private schools? You know, private schools with a dress code. Which one would win? The sane libertarian position or the “it’s all a vast left-wing anti-male conspiracy” dogma? Or what if some girls (perish the thought!) decided to dress like the Sailor Senshi (cowboys and Indians, like we did in my halcyon days, being too last century for today’s kids) or whatever?

    It’s attitudes like “girls and boys are either completely indistinguishable or completely separate species” that sometimes make me wonder, when perusing the Hit & Run comments boards, whether I’m reading the same magazine as the other posters. And, of course, they make me very relieved that I’m not the daughter of some of the posters – I’d rather not have spent my childhood having the idea that I should play with dolls and toy tea-sets whether I wanted or not rammed down my throat, thanks. We don’t all fit in the dogma, you know.

    Christ on a bike, even the nuns in the Catholic private school I attended from kindergarten until I was 10 had a more freedom-loving stance than that. They let us kids play like we wanted as long as no one lost an eye. If someone went over the top or confused play time with study time, they had some righteous discipline unleashed upon their sorry arses. So the freaking nuns realised that people won’t all fit someone’s pet theory and believed in freedom with responsibilty but people who post at Reason can’t fathom this profound wisdom.

    Members of the Catholic church being more libertarian than Reason readers. It may be a sign of the Apocalypse.

  34. Ray,

    You wouldn’t know what “nature” was unless it was shoved up your ass. BTW, conservatives fight nature as much as anyone does; hell, the entire Western paradigm is based on “fighting nature,” as in controlling and otherwise mastering it. This Rousseauian back to nature argument is absolute hogwash.

  35. tim,

    When the hell did I say anything about “materialism?”

    JDM,

    I don’t know who are attributing that qoute to me, but it better not be me. As to the issue of “books,” where hell did that come from?

    Ray,

    Whether there has been an assault on being a boy or not (and remember this is Australia, which, gosh, might not have the same practices or issues as the USA), arguing that boys or girls should be allowed to be “natural” is hogwash. Partly because I seriously doubt that you could define what “natural” is. I doubt this because boys act quite differently culture to culture, and what is natural is seemingly unnatural other places. Second of all, you are simply asking for heaps of undisciplined trouble.

  36. Ray,

    BTW, regarding the issue of antagonism, I don’t suffer fools. If that makes you uncomfortable, then stop being foolish.

  37. Mark A.,

    Thanks for the support. ๐Ÿ™‚ You folks won’t have me to kick around over the weekend though; as I’ll be eating lobsters in Rhode Island. Can’t say whether they will be genetically modified or “natural” lobsters though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. JB,

    Note I said ‘most of the time’. I never support ad hominem BS. I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Ray either, but he is alright. Also, I don’t believe in the whole man/ nature dichotomy…..an issue for another time, perhaps.

    And most importantly, it’s pronounced “lahb – stah” in those parts. Enjoy

  39. JB,

    Have a stuffed quahog. That’s “co-hog.”

  40. SHHHHHHHHHADDAP!

    Parents criticize school’s quiet lunch plan

    Lunch period at Willowbrook Elementary School in Altoona was so quiet Wednesday, you could hear the crunching of little potato chips and the meek slurping of juice through tiny straws, while classical music played in the background.

    The Southeast Polk school district is trying something new this year: gag-ordered lunches.

    Principal Robin Norris said she decided they needed to do something to curb the noise level and to get children to eat their lunch quietly.

    But parents and at least one education expert said such a solution to lunch hour is extreme.

    “We’re not in military school here. This is public elementary school,” said Michele Mohler, whose son Zachary is a first-grader at Willowbrook this year.

    “It doesn’t matter what age they are, it’s not fair to expect them not to talk or socialize during lunch.”

    DETAILS: http://www.dmregister.com/news/stories/c4780927/22051897.html

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