Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bionicle Books, Polynesian Culture, and Gender Division in Chapter Books

So, recently I started reading the Bionicle books as put out by Lego. And yes, my friend did make fun of me, and no, I don’t care. I do have a strong suspicion that I am one of a few twenty-three-year-olds who gets Bionicle chapter books from the library, but, they are highly enjoyable so I don’t worry too much about what society has to say on the matter.

Anyway. That’s beside the point.

Wombly is Suspicious.
I came home from the library and started reading with Wombly. I do admit, he was hesitant at first, and highly suspicious of this Bionicle book thing. However, being an open-minded friendly sort of Wombat, he decided to read along with me, due to my enthusiasm. And huzzah! He did, indeed, enjoy himself.

One of the things I really enjoy about the Bionicle world is the mythology. I was curious and tried looking up where the ideas behind the Bionicle world came from. Oh. My. Goodness. It was rather difficult to find. FINALLY, I found out that there was this whole big uproar because Lego had used Polynesian culture and names, and the Maori people found it offensive to their culture. When I found this out I had two responses:

1) That is so cool. I want to learn more about Polynesian life and culture.

2) Oh, peoples of the Lego industry, you missed out on a wonderful opportunity.

Wombly Giving the Toa Chronicles a Chance
I think that Lego had a chance to expose Down Unders to another peoples’ culture and social identity and mythological stories. Lego could have worked with Polynesian people, or something, and had some sort of info in the back of the books to let Down Unders know about Polynesians. I have read quite a few books where at the end of the book there’s more information about the historical background.

Now, I would guess that there were two thoughts going on:

1) Explaining the historical background will take away from the MAGIC of the world, and Down Unders will be sad that this world is not real, but only made up and based on real life information.

2) It will bore Down Unders and will stop them from buying a magical fantasy book.

In response to that I say:

1) Understanding the historical background always enhances my enjoyment of a book, never detracts from it.

2) What a sad outlook on Down Unders. And yes, I understand you’re trying to sell books to a specific demographic according to a specific genre, but really? I think there was definitely room somewhere to allow for the exploration of other cultures outside of our American norm.

BUT, regardless of all of that: I have enjoyed these books so far. They’re easy to read, they’re complex in story and character, and there’s a lot of action going on which is really good for those who may be slightly ADD. I think that the characters are well-thought out and distinct as individuals. It’s a thick kind of world a person can really sink into. And I love Kopaka. He is probably my favorite.

I did have one tiny complaint, and this probably comes from going to an All Woman’s College and having feminist friends: but, I think it would have been nice if two of the Toa had been female, instead of just Gali. Like, Onewa, or Lewa, or even Tahu. I think they chose to only have one girl so that girls could be interested, but boys would still read them. I noticed also that the author of the books, CA Hapka, usually goes by Catherine Hapka. (Although, on Amazon the author name is listed as Cathy Hapka, which is interesting.) I don’t know why there’s this idea out there that boys won’t read books about girls, with girls, or by girl authors. I think that because we as a society are catering to that idea even in our chapter books, this contributes to the unbalanced outlook that can occur between genders. Maybe if boys read more chapter books with girls, by girls (as well as books about boys by boys) there would be no need for this silly division between genders. We’re all people. And I think Down Unders are smart enough to understand that.

Wombly Pretending to Be Lewa
SO. Give the Bionicle books a try, and feel free to let Wombly and me know what you think.

No comments: