Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hello Babar

Sigh. Racial discussions get so sticky. From the heated invective over at Feministing about that silly Afrika line (which I breezed right through just cause I thought it was blatantly offensive and did not deserve much discussion - I was so wrong!) to the other issues that I have been considering more seriously, it seems that our perceptions are oh so different and frequently in direct conflict with each other.

So you can only imagine my trepidation at seeing the New Yorker of all places taking on the issue of the famously controversial Babar cartoons. Quite honestly, I had been suffering from a slight case of overload in this department so I only skimmed through the article and my anxiety was only worsened when I caught some suspicious passages like [my comments in brackets]:

1. "By now, of course, a controversial literature is possible about anything, and yet to discover that there is a controversial literature about Babar is a little shocking - faut-il bruler Babar? ("Must we burn Babar?"), as one inquisitor puts it, in a famous French locution." [I can just see the writer's smug face when he stresses that "anything." Followed by a sigh. Oh poor Babar!]

2. " ...it's easy to see that, say, "Little Black Sambo," for all his pancake-eating charms, needs to be thought through before being introduced to young readers," [Really, for me this one seemed pretty straight forward, I didn't think it needed much thinking through. What part of the pancake-eating was I supposed to find charming?]

3. "Yet those who would burn "Babar" miss the true subject of the books. The de Brunhoffs' saga is not an unconscious expression of the French colonial imagination; it is a self-conscious comedy about the French colonial imagination and its close relation to the French domestic imagination." [Oh well, now that you put it that way... how silly of me to not get it. You know my mom always said that a joke isn't funny if you have to explain it.]

But these, as I said, are the few things that stood out to me at first glance, and it turns out that Gopnik gives a fairly even handed evaluation. And I am happy about that cause I like the NYer, I even revere it (who hasn't dreamed of being published in it?) and enjoy its humor even after the fiasco with that Obama cover. Still, there are a few moments when I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the tone Gopnik takes. 

Seriously though, George Sanders made my day in that piece.

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