Barbapapa – Annette Tison & Talus Taylor

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

This is a strange book. I am quite undecided about it.

I kind of love Barbapapa (and so did C who went around for about an hour afterwards singing “Baaarbapapa” to himself while he played), but there’s a lot about the underlying ideology at which I find myself looking askance.

Okay, so let’s do the easy stuff. No female characters apart from Francois’ mother, who has no name or dialogue. no diversity – according to this book, everyone in Paris is white.

On the one hand, the story can be read as someone who is “different” but shows everyone how valuable his “differentness” is to their society (by rescuing people from fires and capturing leopards, which of course is an option for every “different” person) and is then accepted. But honestly, I am a bit sceptical of the mechanisms of that. Barbapapa is allowed to live with Francois not because his parents have seen his value, really, but because he is now famous. It is only after he achieves this fame that the parents become “delighted” by the idea.

And there is this implication that he only has value because his differentness “serves” the pre-existing society – his pliable body can be made into stairs to rescue people from burning buildings or cages to catch run away leopards. It’s not intrinsic. And that’s a concept I am a bit uncomfortable with. I mean, it’s a start I suppose, but you don’t gain value because your “differentness” can be useful or fit into the status quo. Sometimes the status quo is just fucked! You know?

And yeah, I’m overthinking it, but that’s my job. 🙂 We did have a brief convo about how the parents were a bit shallow cos they only liked him for his fame. 😉

The book is cute, but problematic, in my opinion.

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