G.I. No – Ending Gender Division in Children’s Books

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“The Hunger Games… isn’t that a girls’ book?” – this was the lukewarm reception I received from my sister when I told her that I’d finally started reading ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy in anticipation of the new film. Understandably, the same sort of statement would have been said by me if I caught her reading Captain Underpants. Was it just one of those “sibling comments”, or has society not progressed when it comes to gender perceptions in literature?

These problems have been prevalent in kids’ products for generations, specifically in fashion, television and food. ‘Friends’ taught us that it isn’t cool for boys to be playing with a Barbie, but instead they should be pretending to shoot their dad with a ‘G.I. Joe’ doll; yet the recent ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ movement is already putting sitcom scenarios like that to bed. ‘Let Books Be Books’ is next in line and it seems to have arrived at the perfect time if views on the entire market are to change.

This recent push by parents to break down ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ categories in books has been met with a positive response from numerous retailers and book publishers. From Toys R Us to Usborne, the publisher behind the likes of ‘Girl’s Activity Book’ and ‘Boys Activity Book’, it seems that there are plenty of companies willing to put an ender to gender-stereotype reinforcements and move forward with the rest of society.

Funnily enough, when I was back at sixth form, we hosted a ‘Pirates and Princesses’ day to raise money for local charities. Of course, I could probably guess who was going to dress as whom – oh boy was I wrong. Some of my male friends came gallivanting through the main doors in their sparkly dresses, when two minutes later they would be kidnapped by a gang of Somali pirates, both male and female!

Now, I don’t mean to be encouraging cross-dressing, piracy or kidnapping in that example, but it just shows that gender doesn’t define what views we impose on each other, particularly in children’s books. There is a vast amount of literature out there that can appeal to a vast range of interests and beliefs, without catering to a certain gender, race etc.

I may be too young to want kids myself, but it gives me a wave of relief to know that in ten years’ time, my child may not have to make the choice between pink and blue, ‘G.I. Joe’ and ‘Barbie’ or Jacqueline Wilson and Chris Ryan. Imposing gender views on children before they’re old enough to establish their own shouldn’t be encouraged, especially in books, which take such a vital role in a child’s cognitive development.

If movements such as ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ and ‘Let Books Be Books’ can work to reinvent the children’s market, then that can only mean good news for the future. Ross, pivot your views elsewhere – ‘Let Books Be Books’ gets a great big thumbs up from me!

I Need a Hero: Justice League Nominations

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At some point in time, we’ve all pictured ourselves to be the perfect choice for one superhero or another. Whether it be part of ‘The Superhero Conversation’ with your mate, or simply because you have a beard like Chris Hemsworth, the superhero ego has caught up with us occasionally. Yet with Marvel assembling a wave of superheroes in an onslaught of movies and TV series (most notably through ‘Avengers Assemble’), DC have responded like a bat-signal in the sky to form their own Justice League through Warner Bros., regardless of our egos. Already, we have our Batman, Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman – but what about the rest? Ladies and gentleman, here are my suggestions for some of the members of Super Spandex Clan (I still think that’s a better name than ‘Justice League’):

1.  Aquaman – Ryan Gosling

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What Marvel have established from ‘Avengers Assemble’ is that you can have a variety of incredible leading actors that still cooperate together on screen as a team, each with equal screen time (sorry Jeremy Renner). Justice League can adopt the same ethos, instead of having a ‘Batman, Superman and The Rest’ movie. Of course, Aquaman has an infamous reputation for being one of the worst superheroes, with his main superpower being the ability to communicate with the marine life at Seaworld. What good is that? The Justice League movie has a tough job of restoring his reputation, just as ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ did. Gosling would be the perfect choice, as he has proved over the years that he can take to the fray as the leading man, whilst not getting too cocky. Admittedly, yes, my main basis is on the similarity of their hair!

2. Chris Pine – Green Lantern

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With the, erm… ‘underwhelming success’ of the recent rendition of Green Lantern, fans are left stunted as to whether Warner Bros. will work on the failures of the first film and keep Ryan Reynolds, reboot Hal Jordan’s story or just scrap it altogether. If they decide to keep Hal Jordan but move forward, Chris Pine would make a great choice. Hair may be a common denominator across my choice of actors, but Pine’s efforts in the recent ‘Star Trek’ franchise as Captain Kirk shows that he has a firm grasp on the sci-fi scene – he already has the Enterprise, why not give him a alien ring to add to his collection?

3. Martian Manhunter – Dwayne Johnson Martian_Manhunter_cosplay

Dwayne_Johnson_at_the_2009_Tribeca_Film_Festival “David Michael “Dave” Bautista, Jr. is a Filipino American actor, mixed martial artist, bodybuilder, and professional wrestler who is currently signed to WWE” – this is the description for the big-built Drax the Destroyer as part of Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ squad. If it’s a man-machine that DC is looking to cast, then they should look no further than The Rock himself. Whether it be the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies or ‘The Scorpion King’, Johnson has shown that he can be a lean, mean fighting machine like Manhunter. If they’re looking to cast Manhunter as the jester of the squad, then Johnson’s role in ‘The Tooth Fairy’ should, for once, come in handy. Manhunter has been described as ‘surprisingly funny and whimsical, according to Martian standards, anyway’ – perfect.

Comic fans, I understand that there are more members of Justice League than just eight, but I’m choosing to stop there as I doubt there may be more than that in the film! Also, I have an allegiance to Marvel as a fan boy, which of course I cannot break.

P.s. on a superhero note, keep an eye out for Infamous: Second Son and Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the next two weeks *snorts, pushes up spectacles*

‘NekNomination’ – Gizmo or Gremlin?

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We Britons have many reasons to be thankful for Australia. If it weren’t for Australia, we wouldn’t have Dame Edna, koala bears or even Foster’s (okay, so two out of three). Stereotypically, they’re a bit mad. Admittedly, we wouldn’t change a thing, like the idea of deep-fried Mars bars or Russell Brand. Yet they now have another staple to add to their agenda – ‘NekNomination’, a new social drinking game that has made its way overseas to the majority of the student population.

Innocently, I spent my weekend scrolling down my Facebook news feed for ‘bantz’ and growling at anyone who was brave enough to beat my Flappy Bird score of 9, only to come across an intriguing video that one of my friends posted. 34 likes, a filthy pint as the display picture for the video and comments that ranged from ‘Proud and slightly disgusted’ to ‘What have you become?’. This couldn’t be good.

After four minutes of watching lager getting mixed with a raw egg, SPAM and a variety of other foul foods, only to have it chugged to a backing track of ‘I Need a Hero’, I struggled to process what I had just witnessed. A video of my childhood friend quickly degrading himself in the name of a 24 hour nomination was both nauseating and thrilling. Ending the video with ‘I nominate…’, I prepared myself for what was coming: The Student Apocalypse.

Being a first year, I’ve steadily opened myself up to a whole range of dysfunctional drinking games. ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Canoe Race’, ‘Beer Pong’ – but never anything like ‘NekNomation’. Never before have I seen my brother mix ‘Frosty Jacks’ with gravy granules and mouthwash together; nor have I seen a woman ride on horseback into Tesco to then down a pint with pride. The rules about social media have gone straight down the loo, come back out of the loo, mixed with Budweiser and paprika and drunk through a Chemistry department funnel. Is it the best thing to happen since Flappy Bird, or is it just blatantly moronic?

I could sit here banging on about ‘down with lad culture!’ and be a sensible student. In all honesty, students love this sort of thing and it’s a celebrated part of student culture. Primarily, we’re here for a higher education degree and an expansion in our life skills; but we’re also here to nick traffic cones and have a ruddy good time. ‘NekNomation’ is just another way of being a bit of an idiot, each to their own.

Understandably, with any form of drinking game or student bedlam, it has its consequences. The ‘NekNomination’ page from Northern Ireland was taken down as the result of two people having died from playing the game and attempting to better their peers. Also, universities and employers can view your Facebook profile and see the video, which could potentially be damaging to future employment prospects.

My intention isn’t to sound like a parent with ‘finger-wagging syndrome’. Of course it’s an individual lifestyle choice, and that should be respected. Personally, it could be seen as the start of a phenomenon that does some good in the world besides getting you a boost in likes and pride. One of my friends in Education posted on Twitter: ‘Quite liking the idea of #RespektNominate screw downing a drink, instead do something nice for somebody or yourself instead’, whilst Ireland’s Radio Nova are attempting to get #NekDonation trending to other radio stations in an effort to raise money for charity.

From events like ‘Dryathlon’ and ‘Movember’, there are examples everywhere that people are willing to make the most out of something potentially dangerous than get rid of it before it escalates. Think cuddly Gizmo from Gremlins – sure, he can turn into a destructive, ferocious monster if you encourage it, but look how darn cute he is when you give him love and a Barbie car! As long as we ensure that people are aware of the impacts of this nutty craze, be relatively sensible and help to promote its possible benefits in helping charities and organizations, this student gremlin need not be put into a microwave and blown to smithereens.

Also, for those concerned, yes, I have been nominated myself. My brother nominated me about a week ago and I’ve still yet to figure out how to do a healthy ‘NekNomation’. So far, the main ingredient is a Nourishment drink… procrastination is certainly getting the better of me.