Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Pippi Longface

On Saturday markgritter and I took our goddaughter Lillian to the Children's Theater performance of Pippi Longstocking. Lil announced that she was taking her Bear*, decked out in Bear's theater-going dress, in case things got scary. I told her that things were unlikely to get scary, but there was no harm to bringing Bear.

I was wrong.

They had added Obligatory Orphan Angst and Nightmares to Pippi Longstocking. The end of the first act was Pippi having a nightmare about being small with her parents and then being separated from her (now-dead) Mama and waking up screaming for her Mama. Then the curtain went down and the house lights came up; intermission!

There were a lot of unsettled little faces in that theater.

Look, I get that the theater is not always about sweetness and light. But Pippi Longstocking. It is not about woe. It is not about psychological realism. And I find it pretty sketchy that their mode of introducing the woe and the psychological realism just happened to be removing a lot of the anti-authoritarian content of the work along the way. Pippi is a strong, funny, independent kids' fantasy** who carries her horse around on her shoulders and thumbs her nose at stuffy grown-ups? We can't have that without injecting lots of stuff about how kids need to learn manners and go to school and have adults looking after them!

Look. Pippi is 9. NINE. It's okay for nine-year-olds to have fantasy characters who turn school upside down and never apologize. It's okay for nine-year-olds--hell, six-year-olds, twelve-year-olds, forty-year-olds, eighty-year-olds whoever--to have trickster characters who make bureaucrats look foolish and trip them with their own words. Not every play--book, movie, whatever--is about Teaching A Great Moral Lesson. Not every character is a role model. That is not the only thing we do. But also, not every role model is or should be modeling dependence. Kids know they need their parents. We don't have to tell them this at every single turn. "Don't even think about having fun with a horse and a monkey and your best friends, because your real focus should be the horrible impermanence of life! And also fitting standard adult modes!"

There are good plays for kids that do the psychological realism things and the role model things. Good books, movies, stories, whatever. Pippi was not written to be one of them, and I don't really like that it was rewritten to be one of them. I accept that children's classics sometimes need to be adapted to work better on the stage. Adapted to have more pro-authority message, less joy, and more nightmares...for the single-digit set? No. No, no thank you, no. Not a win for my goddaughter, not a win for her attendant godparents. Not even a win for Bear in her theater-going dress. I try to set aside my instinct that things have to adhere to the details of the book to be good when I go to something like this. But this version went very much counter to the spirit of the book--the meaning of it at all. And that made me frustrated and angry as well as leaving Lillian wanting to go home at intermission. (We decided to stay for the second act, in which Pippi's pirate father turned up. So at least there was that. The ending was incoherent but considerably more colorful.)

*Not to be confused with matociquala.
**I mean this not in terms of genre fantasy but in terms of daydream non-realism.
Tags: kids these days, social fail
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