World’s Very Best Book Club

books-1283866_1280Colin and I like to share books, or rather, he reads a ton, then foists stuff on me and demands I read it right away so we can talk about it.

He’s kind of a book bully.

Our book discussions go something like this:

“Did you read it?”

“Yeah, it was good.”

“You liked it?”

“Yes, you?”

“Um, hmm. Cool, huh?”

At which point he either is dying for me to read the next book in whatever series it is, and biting his tongue over some major plot point he doesn’t want to ruin, or on to some other author he’s then pushing on me to finish so we can have another provocative discussion.

It’s about a scintillating as my adult book group discussions. Significantly less wine. Better material.

On a long plane ride recently, I flipped to a movie I’d seen before. I almost never re-watch anything, even given my crappy memory and the probability I fell asleep halfway in and missed a good chunk of it the first time.

But this was a favorite: Mad Max: Fury Road. We took the kids and my mom to see it last year for Jack’s birthday and I most assuredly did not fall asleep.

Yes, you read that right. We took our kids and their grandmother to an R-rated movie. Judge if you will, but that’s not what this post is about so get it over with because we’re moving on …

I’ve loved the series since before I was my kids’ age. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was released more than 30 years ago and was one of the last movies I willingly sat through more than once (to be honest, probably more than ten times – thanks to cable TV and a long, jobless summer).

auntieBack then I was in awe of Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity, with her chain mail and hoop earrings so heavy they probably required a back brace. She was ruthless and smart, and still ranks as one of my favorite movie characters of all time.

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure film, “Mad Max: Fury Road," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

Tina was 46, which makes me love that character even more today. Fury Road gives us 40 year-old Charlize Theron, playing Furiosa, with a shaved head, prosthetic arm, and Spartan fashion sense. She’s not in need of rescuing, thank you very much, nor is she anybody’s sidekick. She’s too busy mowing down the goons chasing her to make your damn sandwich, and she has successfully outranked Tina (by just a smidge) as my new all-time favorite movie character.

Any sci-fi fan knows a strong female lead is a rare thing in the genre, or really in any film that doesn’t involve unrequited love or empire waist dresses.

Go ahead and point to the Ripleys and the Sarah Connors of decades past, or the more recent Hunger Games series to prove me wrong. You won’t use up the fingers on both hands, and for every one of these movies there are a distressing number of men upset about the distinct lack of sandwich-making going on by their protagonists.

I came across a post, recently, highlighting objections to the apparent abundance of Star Wars movies with female leads, with guys openly wondering whether all this estrogen outside of the actual kitchen is intended as a slap in the face of all men. Out of a total of seven Star Wars, and one on the way, there are two with female leads; doubtlessly part of a feminist agenda which can only escalate something like this:

  1. Defeat the Empire.
  2. Get paid as much as a dude doing it.
  3. Ban male rebel pilots, they make all the sandwiches from now on.

Jeez, who raised these people? Did someone along the way encourage this behavior? How does a person get to a point where they are incensed about women playing anything other than support roles in popular movies?

We happen to be raising boys, and I rather hope we’re doing so in a way that distances them as far away from this boorish behavior as possible, encouraging appreciation for people of strength, character and integrity, regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.

But I don’t always know if we’re doing it right. No one gave us a checklist of “things to do to keep your kid from growing up to be a misogynist jerkwad.” They’re teenagers, prone to a great deal of jerkwad-ish behavior anyway. Our influence as parents is becoming more diffused by the day. Pretty much any topic has the potential to touch off episodes of eye rolling at best, or at worst, someone bolts from the room.

But, sometimes an opportunity for a little survey presents itself without time for me to even work up a good rant.

The last book I finished per Colin’s request was Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, in which the young survivor of an epidemic finds herself disabled and imbued with certain powers that make her a target of the bad guys. It’s a dystopian* young adult fantasy, much like a half dozen other novels my kid has passed my way lately.

It was a light read, and fun at a time when I wasn’t interested in being challenged. And that Marie Lu cranks out the books like a rabbit pops out babies, which I do appreciate, since it keeps Colin stocked up on material.

Oh, and guess what? A fairly large percentage of Lu’s protagonists are women. Okay, girls. And they’re kicking butt and probably wearing chain mail once in a while, too.

So the last time Colin asked me about the book I just read I asked him about the Star Wars thing. Was it a problem for him that there’s yet another woman in a lead role in the upcoming movie? Did he know there are those for whom that is a problem? Could he even imagine why it might be a problem?

“I don’t know mom,” he said. “maybe those guys just need to grow up.”

Indeed they do, kid. Carry on.

* A literary agent once told me never to use the word dystopian, it’s apparently cliché, but the only alternative my unimaginative online thesaurus can give me here is antiutopian, which doesn’t quite trip off the tongue, so dystopian it is. Deal with it, Susan.

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