“Mean Daddy” Arrives

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Anybody remember the Full House episode where Jesse (the John Stamos character) has to discipline his kids? They retaliate by calling him “mean daddy,” causing Jesse gets all self conscious and introspective.

Naturally, I saw that episode as a kid. But the closer I got to adulthood, and the more I thought about becoming a father, the more that story resonated with me. Of course, now that I actually am a father, it’s more relevant than ever.

Nobody wants to be the mean daddy. Everyone, of course, wants to be the fun daddy. That’s how I always pictured myself. Or at least the daddy that didn’t yell a lot. The daddy that kept his calm and composure in the face of his kids being upset and/or defiant. I looked at it as the Fred Rogers approach. On television, Mister Rogers never lost his temper. He was always serene, calm, and collected. That’s what I wanted to be.

But the other day, “mean daddy” showed up. Lil’ Primary Ignition, who’s about one and a half, wasn’t cool with having her diaper changed. As she was on the changing table, she started wiggling, bucking, and generally fighting me. I was already having a pretty bad day, and I wasn’t cool with her not being cool with things. So I raised my voice. You might even say I yelled.

The operative word was “Stop!” I must have said/yelled it four or five times. She’d been crying when I set her on the changing table. Now she was crying even harder. Not a hallmark fatherhood moment for yours truly. Mister Rogers would not have approved…

Then again, maybe he would have…

“Everyone gets mad sometimes.” “Everybody makes mistakes sometimes.”

I suspect if I were to come to him with this story, Fred Rogers would say something to the effect of: “There’s no such thing as a parent who doesn’t get angry. Just like there’s no such thing as a child who doesn’t get upset sometimes. What’s important is what we do with the mad that we feel.”

I think I need to stop thinking in terms of “mean daddy.” In that moment, I wasn’t needlessly harsh or cruel toward my daughter. I was angry. I let her know it, and she responded in the only way she knows how: She got more upset. It was a lose-lose situation. Next time, I can come into the situation a little bit wiser.

A few years ago, a parent friend of mine posted a Facebook status talking about a meltdown her toddler had in public. I replied that I was sorry she had to go through that. In return, she said something along the lines of, “It’s okay. Kids have a lot of feelings.”

Evidently, they aren’t the only ones.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

An Androgynous Potato (Head)

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Somebody in my Facebook feed this morning referred to people getting freaked out over “an androgynous potato,” and I knew something was up.

Turns out Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are rebranding. Hasbro is going to less prominently display the gender labels for the toy line. The brand will now simply be “Potato Head.” (See packaging below.)

This triggered some folks online, because that’s what the internet is and has always been for: Triggering people. How dare we cut Mr. Potato Head’s imaginary balls off! (What would you call Mr. Potato Head’s balls anyway? Spuds? Spudlings?)

My initial inclination was to say this is one of those things that’s been given way too much thought. Just how much will the world be improved by de-emphasizing the gender roles of toy potatoes? Is Hasbro fixing something that isn’t broken?

Then I read the AP story, in which Ali Mierzejewski, editor-in-chief at The Toy Insider says…

“It’s a potato. But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.”

Okay. I’ll buy that. It makes sense.

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of representation in popular culture. It’s not just toys that kids project themselves on to. It’s all kinds of mass media and merchandise. Everyone deserves to feel seen, regardless of sexuality, race, or however you want to measure difference.

I find it usually helps to look at these things through the lens of fatherhood. Baby Primary Ignition has a pretty conventional family thus far. It’s mom/dad/baby. But I’d like to think that if it were mom/mom/baby, or dad/dad/baby, or if there were a gender-neutral “they” mixed in there somewhere, she’d still be able to look out into the world and not feel like she doesn’t belong. I’d want her to know her family is beautiful the way it is.

And if genderless plastic potatoes can move us further in that direction, I’m game.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

 

Blatant Insubordination: “What’s Star Wars About?”

Captain Kirk, You haven't seen Star Wars?By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“What’s Star Wars about?”

A young lady asked me this at work the other day without a hint of snark. She’s an outdoorsy girl without much use for movies. But still, it’s easy to just assume everybody knows what Star Wars is. You’d think people would inevitably see the original simply by virtue of being alive.

But I think that’s a geek bias seeping through. After I got this question I put the above meme (Get it?) on my Facebook. One of the comments I got read: “I’ve never seen a Star Wars movie. Thought about getting the DVD and starting from the beginning, but I’m not sure where it starts.”

I don’t push Star Wars, or anything else I love, on other people. But if people are curious about this kind of thing, I’m happy to offer my opinions. And this idea of explaining what Star Wars is about intrigues me. How do you offer a simple explanation of something that’s come to encompass so much?

Star Wars, trioFor whatever reason, when I got this question I thought of Kyle Gnepper over at Unshaven Comics. I’ve seen Kyle and the Unshaven crew a bunch of times at Chicago area comic conventions over the years. When he’s hyping a new comic series, he’s always got a one-sentence pitch to hook you in. Something to catch your interest and intrigue you. I won’t try to directly quote him for fear of butchering his words. But for instance, he might hype Unshaven’s The Samurnauts by saying: “It’s about a group of samurai astronauts led by an immortal Kung Fu warrior monkey.”

At that point you’ve got to at least look, right?

So what would a similar pitch be for Star Wars? And by Star Wars, I mean the original 1977 film. The young lady I spoke to was shocked to hear there were seven movies in all, with more on the way. But Episode IV: A New Hope is how the world at large was introduced to this strange universe, and it obviously served as the basis for everything else. That’s where newbs should start.

Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Star Wars: A New HopeI figure simplicity and conciseness is important when you begin to explain something like this. Don’t start by trying to explain who Darth Vader is, or what a Jedi is, or how the Skywalkers are all related to each other. You’ll lose them if you try to explain all that stuff.

Here’s the “Gnepperfied” Star Wars synopsis that I came up with: “It’s about a galactic dictatorship with a weapon that can destroy a planet, and the rebel heroes fighting against them.”

Some might argue it’s too simple or generic. But that’s the point, isn’t it? You lure them in with the broad strokes, and then explore the intricacies as you get closer. Once you’re past the simple explanations, you can get into how the Empire works, who the iconic characters are, etc.

On the subject of those iconic characters, I’ve recently started wearing character socks to work. Star Wars, superheroes, etc. Because, you know, that’s what cool people do. One such pair features little images of C-3PO. This girl in question sees the socks, her eyes pop and she asks: “Are those Minions on your socks?”

We can only do so much.

Click here for more Blatant Insubordination.

Image 2 from usatoday.com. Image 3 from digitalspy.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

The Ghostbusters Trailer: Reinventing the Wheel

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been waiting for the right time to talk about this new Ghostbusters movie. I’m a life-long “Ghosthead,” and naturally I’ve got a lot of…feelings, about this reboot. A great many of us do. Ghostbusters, and the world that movie created, means a lot. It touched our culture, and those of us who grew up with it, in a very special way.

So it’s natural that opinions would be heated at times. But it’s gotten to the point where it was just absurd. Like a bunch of bratty fans flaming the Facebook page for Tufts Medical Center in Boston after the cast visited some sick kids. There was no way I wanted to lump myself in with that crowd.

And yes, there’s a sexist element to it. These Ghostbusters are women, and that rubs certain people the wrong way.

But now that the trailer is here, the time has come. Let’s talk some Ghostbusters. 

In the end, there’s a bunch of stuff here that I don’t mind, and one thing that I do.

For the record, here are three things I do not mind about this movie…

1. The Ghostbusters are women.
2. The costumes are different.
3. The equipment and the car are different.

Making the Ghostbusters women is a fine way to freshen up the franchise. There have been female team members in the cartoons and comics, and it’s never been a rule that girls can’t shoot lasers at ghosts. Male fans that gripe about this are the equivalent of the Little Rascals, i.e. a bunch of little boys trying to keep girls out of their club house. It’s 2016, guys. Get over it. And yes, the toys look different. Again, it’s 2016. Ghostbusters came out in 1984. Concepts evolve with time.

Ghostbusters 2016, the girls in grayWhile I can’t say it was hilarious, from a conceptual standpoint I’m fine with most of what I see here. I’m I’m not too familiar with Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon. But they look like they’ll be funny, as does Melissa McCarthy. I’m not a big Kristen Wiig fan, at least in terms of her comedy. I actually prefer her in more serious roles. And it looks like we’ll get some of that in this movie, with her being the “straight man,” if you will. As far as this trailer is concerned, the two big complaints I have are that the ghosts aren’t very convincing (which I suppose could change between now and July), and the bit with McCarthy’s head turning around Exorcist-style is pretty dumb.

In the end, most of the uproar about this movie has been overreaction. That being said, this is what bothers me as a life-long Ghostbusters geek…

They are remaking Ghostbusters.

It’s not like Rocky Balboa, or the litany of other sequels released decades later. Director Paul Feig and the gang are trying to reinvent the wheel here, when that’s not necessary.

Paul FeigIn terms of this point, I’ve always gone back to an interview Feig did with Entertainment Weekly shortly after he was announced as the film’s director. He talked about being intimidated by the prospect of taking on something so beloved, and what his thought process was. This is the passage that literally hurts me to read…

“And then I thought, well, what if we just make it new? It’s not coming into the world that existed before. It’s always hard if the world has gone through this big ghost attack, how do you do it again? I wanted to come into our world where there’s talk of ghosts but they’re not really credible, and so what would happen in our world if this happened today?”

Dude, no. You can’t make Ghostbusters new. You can add to it, but you can’t just start over. Why would you want to? Most people already know what a Ghostbuster is, anyway. Why fight that uphill battle? To an extent, it’s like what George Lucas did with the original versions of the Star Wars trilogy. If you take away or change something your audience has loved for so long, they turn on you. So you wind up facing backlash for trying to update something that didn’t need updating.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting a Ghostbusters movie can’t work in the modern era. But why disconnect it from so much of what people remember? Hell, they even try to make up for it in the trailer with that “30 years ago four scientists saved New York” stuff. (Incidentally, Winston wasn’t a scientist. Oops.) It’s like they realized their mistake after the fact and tried to make up for it with the marketing.

Ghostbusters, 1984, original castIn any event, there’s not much of a point to complaining about it now. The movie is made, and it’s coming out. Dan Aykroyd, who has been pushing for a new Ghostbusters movie for decades, apparently likes it. We can take some solace in that, I suppose.

We can also take solace in the fact that, whether this new movie is good or bad, the originals will always be there. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in that, I think. The movies we love never change (unless they’re made by George Lucas). A part of them is forever incorruptible.

Good luck, ladies.

Image 1 from decider.com. Image 2 from dailymail.co.uk. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.