Liberated childhood heroes

It has become more common to stretch adolescence the last couple of generations. It was perhaps a choice Generation X  made, while this choice contains a fair amount of necessity today. The trend isn’t as obvious in Norway as in some other countries, such as the USA and Britain, but there is a growing number of people here too that are not likely to reach the major milestones of adulthood (house/apartment, permanent full-time job and children).

I felt there was something missing when I was growing up. The subculture goth goes back to Victorian England, and was popular in the 1980’s. I was somewhat attracted to this, which I guess isn’t that surprising. I felt different after all, and this would have been a way to show it, and maybe get some support from other kids that felt the same way. It was impossible, though. I wasn’t the type that could make open rebellion, and in my hometown I would have been the only one, so I just listened to the Cure, Nick Cave and watched films like The Addams Family, Edward Scissorhands, different versions of Frankenstein and a lot of Dracula films. I was attracted to this style, had to to repress it, but was reminded of it again when the rock band Evanescence and the tattoo artist Kat von D rose to fame.

I also wanted to go to conventions, especially Star Trek-conventions in Nevada and New Mexico. In the 80’s that was something we knew kids in the USA did, and occassionally it appeared in a film or TV show, but there were no conventions I could go to. It looked like a lot of fun, though, especially as the stars from the old Star Trek shows would come to the convention, but even if I had gone, it would be something I had to give up eventually. So I understand young adults that want to do this as long as possible, but you reach a point when it’s no longer natural and maybe even creepy.

It was a childhood dream of mine to drive my own Mystery Machine. This one was displayed at LA Times Festival of Books 2012.
It was a childhood dream of mine to drive my own Mystery Machine. This one was displayed at LA Times Festival of Books 2012.
Photo: The Community-Pop Culture Geek via Wikimedia Commons

I mentioned this when I wrote about Bronies two years ago. These are teenage boys and grown men who dress up as characters from My Little Pony, and go to conventions. My Little Pony is an animated series for girls that most girls lose interest in by the time they are 11-12 years old. I have no idea why old teenage boys and even middle aged men find this so interesting. I haven’t thought much about this since I wrote about it in december 2013, but I recently discovered a similar version of the same phenomenon. This time it’s girls and women. It’s similar, but not the same, because it is after all natural that girls and women want to play their childhood hero in a roleplaying game.

Velma Dinkley was the smart one, the one the others could count on when they were in trouble.
Velma Dinkley was the smart one, the one the others could count on when they were in trouble.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Scooby Doo is a cartoon that aired in the US in 1969, and it’s popular enough that new episodes are still being produced for TV, as well as films for cinema and films that are released directly on DVD. Velma Dinkley is the intelligent one and not surprisngly she ended up working for NASA. Daphne Blake is thin, fashion conscious and is supposed to be the pretty one. The target audience has been around 8-12 years, which is why their clothes and behaviour might be seen as conservative today.

I’m not sure about Fred and Shaggy, but the two girls in Mystery Incorporated are good role models for young girls. I can understand the fascination with playing Velma, but I’m not sure about sexualising these characters that have been a part of many peoples’ childhood. I used to work as a teacher and know that children down to six years watched the show on Cartoon Network. My own daughter liked the series too, so it feels very wrong when I see some of the photos that young adults publish on the net.

You might argue that this is just fun, that these people aren’t doing anything I wouldn’t have done with my characters if I had dressed up as Spock or Lt. Data from Star Trek, or Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. I would still argue that some of these women have taken liberties.

These look like grownups thinking back on their childhood heroes. This is genuine cosplay and perfectly harmless.
These look like grownups thinking back on their childhood heroes. This is genuine cosplay and perfectly harmless.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I find some of this just as disturbing as middle aged men dressing up as their daughters favourite characters. It’s as if it’s not enough to be smart, brave, a good friend, but the chacarters have to be sexy too. Most social media sites have some terms that will keep the most objectionable stuff out. I don’t want to think about what kind of cosplay you can find on sites that don’t have these terms.

There seems to have been a development towards sexualising some of the characters from childhood. This London news site writes about parents complaining after a children’s party company had used an actress at The Frozen Ball that was dressed inapropriately. The Daily Mail reported on the naughty leopard halloween costume that Wall Mart decided to pull from the shelves after protests from parents. There’s been many of those headlines. The TV-channel ABC made a The Office version of The Muppet Show last year. I didn’t see it, and I very much doubt whether I would have liked seeing some of my childhood heroes turn into a sexy and cynical adult show. We have also seen singers and actors in recent years that have rebelled against the innocent image they had as child stars, but I wonder how liberated they really are.

What do you think? Isn’t it disturbing when people create adult, sexy versions of the characters we enjoyed in childhood? Isn’t it problematic when grown ups bring the children’s world, maybe their owns children’s world, into an adult role-playing game? At the same time I can see how this can be a lot of fun if done right. As a child and teenager I read comic books like X-Men, Batman, Tex Willer (western), a series called Silver Arrow (native American), The Fantastic Four, Phantom, Tarzan, Spiderman and a couple of series about British soldiers in World War II. I was too much of an introvert to do it, but apart from that I can see myself using some of these characters in a role-playing game as a young adult. I don’t think that would be objectionable, but I would argue that Bronies and even women adding a sexy image to the Scooby Doo gang is a bit weird.

I don’t want to show these photos here, but if you are curious I encourage you to write Velma cosplay in the search box at deviantart.com or tumblr.com. Some of the photos there are perfectly innocent, but there are also photos there you wouldn’t want your daughter to publish.

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