23 October 2007

Grow Up! The Children’s Closet of Classic Books

Ready to whip out his wand: Dumbledore

It is high time that young readers awoke to the aberrant sexuality of many of the best-loved characters in children’s literature: not merely Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books, but dozens of favorites are doing all sorts of naughty things. What’s striking is that J.K. Rowling admitted her character’s sexual deviancy openly (and after the fact), rather than letting readers figure it out for themselves. Now that everybody knows that Harriet the Spy is a lesbian, and that Alice in Wonderland is a nymphomaniac, we can move on to more challenging characterizations in children’s literature.

Sapphic Sorceress: Glinda “recruits” young Ozma and Dorothy

Glinda the Good, the Oz books: But start with an easy one. Glinda lives in a palace with 100 beautiful maidens, defended by an all-girl army. There’s not a man in sight. L. Frank Baum doesn’t even try to conceal his character’s sexual orientation. If you didn’t pick up on this as a child, you were not paying attention.

And I needn’t remind you, need I, that any character who practices magic — whether Glinda, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, or Tinkerbell — is a de facto Satanist. We’re here to talk about sex, not religion, but I wanted to clear that up at the outset. Now we can move on.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Author A.A. Milne makes clear that Pooh is a “bear” — that is, a hirsute older man, typically with a big belly and a taste for hardcore, often fetishistic gay sex. Outcast by society, Pooh is obliged to live under an assumed name (“Mr. Saunders”). Several of Pooh’s practices are implied in his unconventional “friendship” with Piglet (a term commonly associated with younger men who like uninhibited or “piggy” sex) and his obsessive interest in “honey pots.”

Kanga, the Pooh books: Although it’s clear that Kanga is an unwed mother, no mention is ever made of her husband or indeed of any romantic or sexual attachments she might have. This is because there are no other females in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Back into the closet: Pooh indulges his illicit appetites

Mary Poppins: With her extreme taste for discipline, Mary is a dominant, rather butch figure who might at first blush be construed as a dominatrix or a lesbian, or both. More interesting, perhaps, is her taste for rough trade, as seen in her relationship with Bert, a sometime chimneysweep who demonstrates, in his “jack-of-all-trades” career, that he’ll do anything for a pound.

Willie Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: His name is, obviously, a reference to masturbation (“willie wanker” = one who “wanks,” or manipulates his penis, or “willie”). Unmarried, Wonka lures unsuspecting children into his lair with promises of chocolate. When they do not submit to his desires, he punishes them with devious, cruel tortures. This behavior is typical of child molesters. At the end of the novel, Wonka traps the boy Charlie in an elevator, then crashes it through the ceiling and explodes high into the sky, in a symbolic depiction of male orgasm.

Prancing Wonka: And frankly, that purple tailcoat is suspect, too

Mr. Tumnus, The Chronicles of Narnia: Somewhat similarly, the faun Tumnus delights in exposing himself to small children. He wears nothing but a knitted scarf (around his neck, not his nether regions) even in the dead of winter, and his unusually hairy legs arouse considerable excitement among the Pevenseys, particularly young Lucy, who avows she’s never seen anything like them, in a standard evocation of the sexual awakening of a small girl in the presence of a mature male. Tumnus may possibly suffer from satyriasis, as well, and readers should not overlook the horns that sprout, perpetually hardened and erect, from Tumnus’ head of thick, curly hair.

Another character who “flashes” children is, of course, Captain Underpants, a prime exemplar of infantilized sexuality in the adult male.

Wee Willy Winky: The nursery rhyme describes the male child’s anxiety upon glimpsing his father’s penis. The realization that his own, immature penis is much smaller (“wee”) than the adult’s causes the child to run “in[to] my lady’s chamber,” that is, returning to the womb or seeking sexual congress with the mother.

“Fantasy” Lovers: One ring to bind them

Everybody in The Lord of the Rings: When Peter Jackson’s films were released, a number of moviegoers were startled by the tender, Brokeback devotion between Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer, and his “servant,” Sam Gamgee. Fellowship? Get over it! All these guys are gay, gay, gay, and the only woman who interests them is the cross-dressing Princess Eowyn.

Mary Lennox, The Secret Garden: In a tale worthy of D.H. Lawrence, author Frances Hodgson Burnett graphically depicts a girl’s sexual awakening in an early-adolescent ménage à trois. Mary eludes her twisted, impotent uncle and his hysterical, bedridden son, Colin; she prefers to trim her neglected shrubbery with the virile, working-class garden-boy, Dickon (a diminutive form of “dick,” or penis), who shows her how to plant seeds. Under Dickon’s tutelage, Mary becomes more physically adept and attractive, and when the couple introduce Colin to their garden, the invalid is able to stand erect, in the novel’s climax.

Dr. Dolittle: A confirmed bachelor who spends all his time with animals, the beloved veterinarian of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh is a coded bestialist. The Pushmi-Pullyu symbolizes Dolittle’s menopausal impotence and ensuing frustrations: because the creature has two heads (and, in the books, two sets of horns — i.e., he is extra “horny”) but no behinds (and thus no sex organs), the doctor can “do little.”

Oedipal victim: Peter pantsless

Peter Rabbit:
Emasculated by his oppressive relationship with his widowed mother, “Peter” (another slang term for “penis”) refuses to wear trousers and fixates on phallic substitutes (witness his oral consumption of carrots), while engaging in a warped sexual drama with the farmer, Mr. McGregor, and his “hoe.”

Peter Pan: Another “peter,” this one hangs out with “lost boys” and fairies. Note also the “dagger” and “sword” with which he repeatedly confronts the castrated father-figure, Captain Hook.

Pat the Bunny: Although rabbits are traditional symbols of fertility and rampant sexual activity, “Pat” is not gender-identified. Child readers of both sexes are encouraged to stimulate themselves by stroking the creature’s luxurious fur.

Beezus Quimby, the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary: Sweet Mother of Beezus, her very name is a blasphemy coupled with an obscenity! How can we permit libraries to keep such books on the shelves where children can get at them?