04 May 2011

The Slap

Sometimes I really don’t get the way Enid’s mind worked. After reading this story, I have to conclude that she had some very odd notions of discipline (I already knew that, but Enid is the one person whose odd notions never fail to exasperate me – it’s like trying to teach my grandmother how to use a mobile phone: surely she’ll get it one day …). Her un-ironic grasp of the Orwellian concept of "Might is Right" seems to completely miss the point he was trying to make.

In this second story, we get an idea of how discipline works in the nursery. Amelia is playing pranks on everyone. She throws water at the other toys, then chases them around a bit, threatening to poke them with a pin. The toys decide to punish her by waxing her shoes so that she slips and falls while wearing them. This "harsh but fair" treatment apparently does the trick: Amelia suddenly realises the error of her ways after the toys effectively dance around her yelling "nyer nyer, we got you!" and promises to be good.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Let me repeat: Amelia pulls a prank, the toys pull a prank back, Amelia realises the error of her ways. Huh.

I know we’re not meant to have any sympathy for old AJ, but this stretches the credulity just a little. I fail to see the difference in behaviour of the two sides. Pulling a prank to punish a prank just isn’t really all that smart. If you think about it, someone pulling a prank on you is more likely to cause you to pull a prank on them, which in turn will make them pull a prank … you get it.

Maybe I’m a little slow, but I fail to see the moral in this story. It sounds like it’s meant to be "be nice to others or they’ll be mean to you" or something along those lines, but I’m just not feeling it. What this story is really about is peer pressure. This is not a story about the evils of prank pulling. No. In Enid’s world, pranks are the measure of a person’s intelligence (unless of course, Enid doesn’t like the person, then it’s just a matter of them being wicked). This is a cautionary tale about upsetting the moral majority.

Let’s look at the two sides:

Amelia Jane:

Amelia Jane is doing what she always does – she plays. It might be not to everyone’s taste, but nonetheless it is what she was made to do. She’s pretty open about it; it’s not her fault that the other toys aren’t fast enough to dodge the flying water or avoid the big toy with the pin. AJ just doesn’t really know her own strength – that comes with having no physical brain …

The Toys:

The toys, on the other hand, connive, sneak into a dark cupboard to carry out their dastardly deed, and then congratulate themselves on their cleverness. It annoys me because it is so smug and self righteous and I just can’t stand the smug way in which the toys carry out their social cleansing. They give no justification for their actions other than the fact that they don’t like AJ – but is that a good reason?

You know what it’s like? It’s like killing Osama bin Laden (look at me, bringing current events into Enid!). Organising a hit on a wanted criminal is not "bringing someone to justice", no matter how many times the President says so. No matter how much he might deserve to be brought to justice, execution in that manner is an abuse of the Rule of Law. I did not hear a word that indicated that the US was trying to apprehend him and he died in the fire fight – this was a hit. Even Nazi leaders got a fair trial and due process. (Sorry – but this is something irks me – how can you fight for a system of governance by breaking one of its fundamental rules?)

Similarly, playing a prank to "teach someone a lesson" does not allow for due process for the accused. It was simply the self-righteous and extra-judicial actions of the Teddy Bear and his cronies. I don’t trust that Teddy Bear: he seems to me like a sinister sort of figure. He’d push you off the toy shelf to get the prime spot, I just know it.

There is no point where they say "See AJ – this is what it feels like to have a prank played on you". I’m fine with the idea of an object lesson if it is explained – you know, you hurt our feelings when you throw water on us kind of shtick. Cloying, but instructive. Humiliating for humiliation’s sake? That’s just bullying.

So I don’t really like this story very much.

By they way, one small point: the toys are afraid of being pricked with a pin? They’re TOYS. They don’t have nerves, they can’t feel anything. Amelia Jane is a hand-sewn toy herself – so presumably needles went into her construction. Was there a point in time when needles went from being part of her creation to an anathema to her? It doesn’t add up. I'd go into it more, but I have a whole post saved up just on how toys are not really people ...


  1. It's a bit of an apt parallel, really. Just as you say: playing a prank on someoen as revenge for the prank they played on you is never going to end anything.

    The whole story feels like a wasted opportunity to introduce the concept of empathy or understanding how your actions affect others. Instead, we get VENGEANCE and how it is swift and good, especially when plotted in dark cupboards.

  2. I don't like that this is a story aimed at really young children. They grow up thinking that this is how you run the world - it's frightening ...

    Justice is not revenge. I think a lot of people forget that - politicians do it when revenge gets them more votes, people forget it when they feel wronged, toys forget it when AJ pulls out the water balloons ...