[DWJ] Mermaids^Wmer-people (was HP)

Mark Allums mark at allums.com
Tue May 15 19:33:39 EDT 2007

Farah Mendlesohn wrote:
>> >Good save!  Thanks!  Not really want I was saying, but I did think of
>> >that while I was reading other posts.  Children, as you say, must learn
>> >their stereotypes at some point.  :)
> You know, apart from the fun to be had subverting them, I cannot for the
> life of me  think why children need to learn stereotypes. They are after 
> all
> not innate to children, they are something adults impose.
> Precisely what useful function do stereotypes possess?
> [And I do understand the cognitive process of classification that allows
> children to build up categories and sub catgories of objects].
> Farah

Think of it in logic, or mathematical terms.  If stereotypes are going 
to be learned, they must be learned at some point, either early or late. 
  My premise is that everyone learns stereotypes, voluntarily or 
involuntarily.  We simply cannot avoid it.  The question is, should they 
be taught, or allowed to form independently?  I leave the answer up to you.

(To answer your question, stereotype exist for a reason.  There is 
always a truth behind them.  Not all alcoholics are abusive, but many 
are.  Not all stepmothers are Evil, but many are.  Not all hookers have 
a heart of gold, but a few do.  Etc.  Stereotypes are a shortcut.  They 
save time.  In a story, they can serve that purpose, saving thousands of 
words of exposition.  If you don't like that type of story, avoid it, if 
you can.  It's very difficult to avoid stereotypes completely.  Some 
authors do it automatically, and their writing, in my opinion, suffers 
for it quite as much as one whose write suffers from the overuse of 
them.  I'm quite tired of The Ugly Duckling, even DWJ uses it.  It's 
become a cliche in children's lit.)

--Mark A.

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