Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November's books

#24, THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein

This is a children's book, and I hate to ruin anyone's happy childhood memories so SPOILER: don't read this is you love this book.

I hate it.

Why? Get a clue, readers! The tree is female, the child male. She "gives" him everything until she is just a stump, and finally, old and worn out, he comes back and sits on her for comfort. Perhaps Silverstein didn't realize the political implications of his abusive message, but I do: enable your man, Tammy!


If Silverstein had written the book so the child was female and the tree male, the moral would not be "be selfless" but, "stop being selfish, bossy!" "You should be nicer!" "Share!" "Stop defacing that defenseless tree!" All good lessons for children (male and female) to learn, granted, but certainly in our culture gendered. How do you get a boy to like you? Be like the tree! Do everything for him, make him feel good, overlook your needs for his, and rely on the fact that, deep down, he loves you... no matter if he takes your apples, cuts off your branches, and turns your trunk into a boat so he can SAIL AWAY FROM YOU!!!!!! and all his other responsibilities.

You should certainly help him all you can with that. And be glad he comes back. Later. Old and useless. Without gratitude or a gift. Or an apology. Oh, yeah: let's model THAT behavior. Gak: the message for girls is dangerous and stupid.

The message for boys, equally so. It's all "take, take, take," use the people who love you without respect or apology, avoid unhappiness by running away, but there will always be someone waiting for you--without you earning that right. This is not only destructive (talk about entitlement!) but suggests men remain children who need to be handled. That they are incapable of deeper emotions, commitment, and generosity. That there is no price to pay for unremitting selfishness.

Too much?

Okay, it is also an anti-green message. Take, take, take from the environment because it is all here to support man (in this case, Human-Man) and will always be there... no matter what...

Uh, not so, sport. Start paying back, stop abusing, and water that tree. And you will have shade, food, and a companion for life, you lazy mook. Or just keep cutting everything away until there isn't anything but a stump. Your choice.

For me, this book was a lesson in looking at the bigger picture, the message behind the pretty shiny love duet being sung in front of the curtain. What, exactly are the political implications of this book as a gender message, or an evironmental message, or even a social message? Who do you want to be, the child or the tree? Why?

And every Tree needs a Sassy Gay Friend (and this one leads to a reference to one of my favorite books!)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! Come back and visit often.