I saw some notes today where, in the course of describing a group of kids playing make-believe amongst themselves, an adult described a child as assigning himself a “leadership role” of “Kingpin”.
I mean, it’s not INaccurate. It’s… well… sure he’s a successful leader of an organisation that just happens to be a massive crime syndicate. But his skillset isn’t quite identical to that of, say, the Tim Cooks and Bill Gates of this world. For example, I’m sure there are plenty of CEOs out there who boast about their “body counts” in their industries when their personal or professional competitors come up in conversation, but I suspect most of them mean it figuratively.
In any event, the particular appropriateness (or otherwise) of Kinpin as a suitable role model for leadership in educational settings was not relevant to the purpose of the document, but it got me thinking: what is it about bad guys that’s so appealing to children?
Hawkeye is, quite simply, obsessed with ” baddies”. Don’t get me wrong, he has plenty of “goodies” that he also likes, such as Batman, Hulk, and the spinning ninjas on Ninjago, but nothing gets him quite as excited as a good villain. He loves Cat Boy, but Romeo’s evil laugh is much, much better. (Romeo must have studied at the Dr. Horrible School of Bad Guys because even The Mister is impressed with his evil laugh.) Mr. Freeze is cool because… well… who doesn’t like a guy who can freeze people? And of course his favourite baddie is none other than Hulk’s nemesis: “Abodimation!” (We do keep saying it correctly, but honestly I’m not in a hurry for him to grow out of this particularly endearing pronunciation.) Even dinosaurs have a pecking order of villainy. No amount of persuasion, for example, can apparently reduce the appeal of the blood thirsty T-Rex.
Bad Guys just get to have more fun and are often more interesting and three dimensional because they don’t have to follow the same sets of rules as Good Guys. It’s not terribly surprising I guess that they can appeal so strongly to kids. And I’m about 90% certain that this is a pretty normal phase for small boys and that there’s no reason for me to stay awake at night fretting over whether I need to be making contingency plans for when he tries to take over the world as its evil overlord. However, watching him pretend every single item in his hand is a “shooter” is still frustrating when you’d rather have him take away other impressions from television that aren’t related to projectile weapons. It is devilishly difficult, however, to find child friendly programming that is both entertaining and doesn’t involve bad guys fighting good guys. I mean, there’s only so many times you can watch two seasons of Paw Patrol on repeat before losing the will to live.
However, despite the incessant use of fighting as the storytelling medium, shows like Ninjago do have a fairly strong repetition of the usual morals – perseverance, doing what’s right, working as a team, etc. Ultimately, I know that no matter what dressing those lessons have, as long as they are positively reinforced, he’ll turn out ok. Most likely. Probably. At the very least, I don’t think he’s going to be the next Kingpin, ok?
Yes, my Bad Guy photo shoot got photo-bombed by the cat.