Really, It’s All About the Boys

The interminable Simpsons repeats on some of my local channels recently worked their way round to the one where Bart gets a vision of the future where he’s a dropout with a pretend band, and Lisa is President. Anyway, the US is in deep financial trouble and Lisa is having trouble placating the other countries it owes money to. Until Bart swoops in and saves the day with his mad putting-off-creditor skillz.

The daughter of my recently acquired housemate is an avid fan of Hannah Montana, and I can’t help but notice that half the episodes are about how – despite her superstar status – she should remember that her brother is as super special as she is.

And then I recall Aerin’s letter to the mailbag about Horton Hears a Who. Now, sure, “Your siblings are as special as you, and you should appreciate them” isn’t a bad moral in general terms – but why does it always seem to be sisters who must learn it about brothers?


  1. sbg says

    Nick, I didn’t know what you’d like to title this little article.

    Now, about the article – it seems clear to me that if a girl has success, it must follow that the poor boy in the family feels neglect because he’s not speshul or appreciated. It’s an age-old, tired formula that I’m not sure happens much in reverse. If the boy’s a superstar, the sister is just fine forgotten in the shadows.

  2. MJ says

    but why does it always seem to be sisters who must learn it about brothers?

    Because if we don’t hear it over and over again, we’re likely to start thinking about those cute barrettes we saw at the mall (or SHOES!! SQUEEE!) and totally forget everything we’ve learned previously.

  3. SunlessNick says

    Nick, I didn’t know what you’d like to title this little article.

    It’s a better title than I’d have come up with. :)

  4. says

    but why does it always seem to be sisters who must learn it about brothers?

    Because it’s against the natural order when a girl outshines a boy. She must be trained to placate men’s egos early on, or she’ll get into serious trouble when she starts outshining men who aren’t under the command of her parents. When my mother did not train me to make boys feel smarter than me even as I sailed past them in school, one of my teachers took it upon herself to, in her own words, “take [me] down a peg or two.” By simply failing to placate the male ego, I was thinking too much of myself, you see.

    For a man to be arrogant, he has to think himself superior and say so. For a woman to be arrogant, she need only be superior without apology.

  5. says

    And if the woman is, the man is supposed to talk out of his ass so he looks better.

    Both my sister and I are smart. I got identified gifted and special programing. She got pushed out of school as a problem child.

    Fume, fume.

    I once BURNED a copy of Black Panther, a marvel comic, for having Storm, the title characters wife, a woman who used to LEAD THE GOD DAMN X-MEN, do this. I was thinking, “You married a woman who was once LITERALLY HAILED AS A GODDESS, T’Challa. You’re getting mad at her for being as COMPETENT AS YOU in battle. Because you’re worried she’ll make you look bad?”

    Then I realized Reginald Hudlin was writing it. Gad.

  6. Patrick says

    Following up on the tangent:

    Someone needs to remind Hudlin that not only did Storm lead the X-Men, she regularly beats other leaders in leadership challenges (Cyclops, Callisto, Marrow, Khan…).

    Perhaps T’Challa was concerned because Storm’s competence highlighted that she earned her positions, rather than being born to them.

    But that’s just one aspect of the mess that the Storm/Black Panther marriage has been. Overall it’s another perfect example of things being all about the boys, as Storm has been moved from one of the leads in a team comic to a supporting character in a man’s title.

  7. megs says

    I get the feeling that often the girls in these sort of things are made to be super and then need episodes like this to show their weaknesses. Lisa isn’t perfect, but that’s not obvious the way it is for Bart. So she gets comeuppance episodes much more frequently than Bart does (though he does get them – and at least one is a girl beating/overdoing him at his own lifestyle). But since nearly every episode has a moment of Bart doing badly while Lisa does just fine/great, this is the sibling balancing act.

    I don’t know how much I’d fault the Simpsons writers for keeping Lisa from being perfect, but I don’t like the trend of every girl needing to be written as stupendously overacheiving, only later to be given flaws, because only boys get to be misfits who only later have hidden good qualities that the overachievers recognize. The only examples I can think of are when a brainy boy gets help from a sister he thinks is shallow and only concerned with boys and makeup and social things and he, the genius, ends up stooping to request her help.

    But that IS the same thing. It’s easy, sitcom writing and doesn’t do anything to erase gender stereotypes while demonstrating the good message that it takes all types.

    Granted, one thing about the Simpsons I do like is that over their hundreds of episodes they have reversed the initial impression that Lisa, and definitely Marge, are the constant, dependable ones who put up with Bart and Homer. They get wacky adventurers and make really bad decisions and cause the family grief. They get made fun of and not taken seriously. I don’t know if stuff like that has “ruined” the show and made it less funny, but I still like to see it.

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