Letters to Holly

Tuesday, February 20

Charlotte's Web of Needless Drama

I read Charlotte's Web for the first time at the request for Your Sis. She bought the book at Best Buy the weekend before Valentine's Day. She loves it and apparently has since she was young. I was always told it was a girls' book, and our purchase experience cemented that. As Your Sis read the first chapter to me in line, the lady in front of us turned and said she had memorized that chapter as a girl. And then the cashier told us how she worshiped the book as a girl. So, yeah, it's not a boys' book. I was reading Encyclopedia Brown and Judy Blume. OK, and as many comics as my tiny hands could carry. Point being, this was always in the library stack of Books Girls Should Read, and I was not to touch those lest I got the cooties.

But I did read it starting this weekend. As a kids' book, it stays within its own universe very well except for the part where Charlotte, after securing Wilbur the Pig's new destiny and laying her eggs, dies and dies alone. The author makes sure we understand that this saintly spider is completely unnoticed, unattended, and unmourned as she dies at the abandoned fairgrounds. This is sure to crack the heart of a child, many of whom fear solitude. This smacks of cruelty. But at least it doesn't commit the cardinal sin of so many -- and I feel secure in saying "hundreds" -- of children's stories from the '80s where children watch a beloved thing die, weep for the loss, and discover the thing resurrected thanks to magic and love. That's cruelty as well. It sets them up for a crash of reality later on. We boys didn't have that. When Optimus Prime dies in the '80s Transformers movie, he didn't come back in that movie. When he was revived years later for the cartoon series, it felt cheap. Manipulative, even. And we youngsters booed en masse.

I believe such a reliance on death in these stories is a genesis of the goth lifestyle. I remember many adventures involving my toys that ended in death and a funeral. Minutes later, the toy would be unearthed and cleaned and put back with the rest of them. But there would be a good five-minute blanketing of sorrow I would relive week after week. I can't tell you why I did it. But it happened, and no one ever knew about it until you read this. This is what the book sparked in my memory. I liked feeling dark. It was a calming, temporary mindstate. And maybe many of us don't want to give that up as we mature. Maybe it's their one pure feeling that isn't diluted by incidents later in life. It's a comforting constant.

I did like the book, mainly because of the dialogue. My favorite quote is from the rat: "Is your appetizing yarn true? I like living high, and what you say tempts me." I think I'll spring this on telemarketers.

We watched a re-jiggered original "Star Trek" episode last night. Paramount has replaced the original special effects with new CGI material. The old, blueish white Enterprise is now a sterling gray ship and the space shots allow richer planet images. It doesn't at all affect the charm of the original series, and we caught a great installment: Spock goes into heat. This is classic geek stuff, as we see the planet Vulcan for the first time and witness a campy fight to the death between Kirk and Spock. The fight music is legend in nerd circles. Hum it at a convention and a chorus will break out. I TiFauxed it when it ran Sunday to watch next week when Your Sis is out of town. To my surprise, when we were couched in front of the TV last night, she said she wanted to watch it. So we did.

Speaking of geeks, you might want to know about this. I posted on a message board about how Your Sis likes Frank Miller comics. You know, Sin City, 300, etc. The message thread was about comic readers who had introduced their girls to comics. This lit a fire under some folks online who think we're trying to "trick" our women into -- here, you can read the start of something needless right here. Amid the protests about us sad geeks trying to foist comics onto our women, my example of Miller material is considered inappropriate for women because he's not a "perfect female-friendly cartoonist." Keep in mind, this is a woman writing this. She's saying Your Sis and you should be offended because the comic includes violence, bad language, and various nipples.

Seriously, you -- YOU, the Peace Corps grad student -- need to be protected from this because you're a girl. You can't enjoy it because you're a girl. And this is a woman saying this. I responded that Your Sis could choose and read what she liked. It's a backward-ass feminism that limits what a woman can choose to like and a rank paranoia that says geek boys will bury their defenseless, mindless gals in things the latter won't like. Jesus, of all wives, Your Sis is hardly a welcome mat. People we don't know are saying she should stick to Charlotte's Web and can't possibly choose to watch "Star Trek." We get enough shit from people who think all pop culture is worthless and juvenile. We don't need this shit from our fellow connoisseurs.

Picture of the Day
It's enough to make the Butter Jesus cry.

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