y daughter is a girl growing up in a boy’s world. I try not to eclipse my wife’s influence with the kids, but let’s be honest – the beacon of my nerdiness shines a little (a lot) brighter than hers. What are the top-tier nerdisms that my family is bathed in? Comic books. Superheroes. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. Star Wars. Transformers, power tools, Legos, bike riding…
While raising my children I’ve made a point of teaching them that power tools are also for girls, and the kitchen is a great place to be a boy (although my own cooking skills are pathetic… definitely not leading by example here). But my daughter is still a girl, and as she navigates the world she has to find her own role-models, her own superheroes that she can relate to.
In the world of popular culture there are woefully few top-tier female superheroes out there for a girl to latch on to. Think about it. What options are there? Wonder Woman? They haven’t been able to manage a feature film, or even a television series since the Linda Carter days. Princess Leia? The princess herself is cool, but any true fandom leads to an investigation of the actor who plays the character. Have you seen Carrie Fisher lately? She’s a brilliant writer and public speaker… if she can stay sober long enough to string a sentence together.
For a girl looking for a hero to identify with the options are pretty slim. <<editor’s note: I should emphasize FANTASY hero, because Episode IV’s mommy is a pretty super-human role-model for any young lady to live up to>> But it seems that our little girl has finally settled on a candidate: Hermione Grainger (from the Harry Potter stories, for the unDorks out there).
Besides a passing physical resemblance, one of Hermione’s characteristics that Episode IV identifies with most is her academic success. We’re four books into the Harry Potter series and in every one Hermione is showered with praise as “the most gifted witch in her class” and she gets special favors from her professors because of it. My daughter also thrives in school, and lives off of the accolades that she gets there. Hermione excels at school where others struggle, and she’s always the voice of mature reason when Harry and Ron are about to do something stupid. Episode IV has two dopey younger brothers for whom she, like Hermione, often takes on the “responsible adult” role. Hermione avoids mischief when she can, but she also knows that once in a while a little mischief is necessary – and when she does it, she excels at it. If anything Episode IV is a little less averse to mischief than Hermione might be. In short, when my daughter sees Hermione, she sees herself.
Episode IV is also the sort of person who is constantly peaking behind the curtain. She loves the fantasy, but she never forgets that it’s actually fantasy. She always wants to know “how do they do that” when we’re watching movies. This line of thought naturally leads her to investigate the actor behind the character, and in this regard she relates even more. Emma Watson, at least publically, is a classy, well spoken, beautiful, educated young woman. She seems to have escaped the trappings of childhood fame. I’d much rather have my daughter cast her gaze in that direction, rather than… say… Kristen Stewart.
Friday afternoon Episode IV looked up at me and with frustration in her voice said “Daddy, I just… I wish…” She couldn’t find the words, but clearly there was something just below the surface she needed to get out. “Daddy… someday can I be in a Harry Potter movie?”
“Well, you never know, honey” I responded. “But I don’t think they’re going to be making any more Harry Potter movies for a very long time. They’ve already made all the books into movies.”
Her brow furrowed, stymied by the realities of the world that are beyond her control. But my daughter is nothing if not tenacious.
Saturday morning I woke up to find her hard at work at her art table, which in-and-of itself is nothing special. 1st graders have a lot of pent-up, creative energy they need to exercise. We’ve got stacks and stacks of her artwork we can’t bring ourselves to throw away. I stumbled through the morning, getting my coffee, getting the boys taken care of, figuring out the schedule for the day – the usual. Then from across the house at her art table I heard Episode IV say “There, Daddy. I’m done!”
What exactly had my academically precocious, Hermione-identifying 1st grade daughter done with her Saturday morning? It seems she had written a book, by which I mean a full-on book, complete with cover, title, illustrations, a table of contents, chapters and nuanced plot-points.
On her own, my daughter had written a Harry Potter book. She gleefully explained to me how Lucious Malfoy was the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, and how Hermione and Ron were keeping a secret from Harry that had something to do with his parents. She was all-in. She was invested. She poured everything she had into this brand new chapter in the Harry Potter saga…
…for the exclusive purpose of making another movie that she could star in as Hermione.
Take that, world where things are beyond her control. She wasn’t going to let a little thing like no-more-books get in her way. Bam! Now all we need is a director, studio-backing, and a sound stage.
I flipped through the book, amazed. This was incredible even for her sky-high standards. “That’s amazing, honey” I said. “I mean really. Wow.”
“Thanks, Daddy” she replied. “Can we make the movie now?”