Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Buck Rogers- edit edit edit
Left with some free time and being pretty burned out on building train tracks I thought it was about time to introduce my son to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I have a compilation of much of the early strip and thought that this would be a good place to start. Ten minutes in I found I was editing the material furiously and in some cases just skipping panels entirely. What a disappointment!
I have nothing but respect for the authors of Buck Rogers but there's no escaping the fact that this is one racist and violent comic strip! Asians are big targets in the early material and once the Second World War starts things take a turn for the worse, if that could be believed. There's also rather a lot of shooting as well as some stabbing, torturing, and pushing into pools of acid. Edit, edit, edit... I left that little experiment with a few lessons learned.
One is that kids love adventure stories. The highly abridged adventures of Buddy Deering and Alura prompted hours of dressing up and imaginative play as the kids dodged patrols of Tiger Men and sword-fought across the mysterious jungles of Venus (and yes, nerds know the Tiger Men are on Mars but I was mixing it up.) So that was fun.
Secondly, the material reminds us that life in the old days was probably pretty nice as long as you were a member of a specific racial group. That group might vary depending on what country you were in but being in the "out" gang was going to be rough. Our country has problems to be sure but at least we are about a million times less racist than we were.
Finally, I left my experience wondering about how much this material affects us as children. I loved Buck Rogers as a child but I didn't develop horrifying racial stereotypes. As a pediatrician I believe more and more that consistent family values are the most powerful formative forces in a child's life. My parents were not racist and eighteen years of exposure to that handily swamped the unseemly bits from Buck Rogers, John Carter, and other terrific but dated material. It's a relief for me to know that as long as my family follows a certain pattern of behaviour our kids are likely to enjoy older films, comics, and books without picking up the worst habits of our ancestors.