IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 3
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"From encouraging terror to wasting pages"

Reading too much into a puppet
The December/02 historical-review article of “The Real Life Adventures of Pinocchio” and his several permutations was well done, and author Rebecca West is to be commended. However, I find several points with which I am in distinct disagreement.

At about age ten I first encountered Pinocchio in the school library. The illustrations depicted him as a simple billet of wood, with a sharp nose, beady eyes, and skinny limbs. He was thoroughly unpleasant, and the story was confusing and oppressive.

I was 15 when he was next met, cute and lovable, in the Disney version. Recently I rented the tape and watched it again. It is noteworthy that delinquency sufficient to turn a boy into a donkey in 1940 was smoking cigars, drinking beer, and shooting pool. After 63 years of cultural progress the corresponding misconduct of current youths seems to have advanced to crack cocaine, rape, robbery, and murder.

The evil puppet master, Stromboli, was probably named for the intermittently erupting volcanic island off the coast of Italy. It is an appellation used elsewhere in literature for a character of fulminating temper. West asserts that despite his Italian name and accent, his gross facial features and long dark beard clearly reveal that he was Jewish, and she declares that it is impossible to ignore the anti-Semitic implications. She should have seen my grandfathers and great-grandfathers. All had long beards and strong features but none were Jewish. That does more to reveal her own stereotyped thinking than to manifest genuine critical analysis.

Further, West’s tendentious feminist theory of the “male creators” appropriating the maternal procreative role, as they singlehandedly “give birth” to their sons, thereby excluding women, to eventuate ultimately in the “worst-nightmare” father figures avid for total control, is unwarranted and silly.

I have viewed some of the dogma emerging from various ethnic- and gender-studies departments with mingled amusement and irritation. Many seem to be ideology-driven agencies, concerned with grievance-mongering, rather than serious, scholarly academic disciplines.

A great university needs a women’s studies department like a fish needs a bicycle.

F. M. Brunemeier, MD’55
Redding, California

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