Unpacking Youth Saviorism: Discussion Questions
As we go through this next series of books where older adults are depicted as incompetent buffoons, discuss with your kids:
- Who is centered? Who has agency and control?
- Who has problems? Who solves the problems?
- Who is depicted as stubborn and cranky?
- Who is depicted as smart and vibrant?
- Does the story give external reasons for these dispositions, or are we to assume this is the character’s natural state?
- Why does the older person need a young person to help them? Why couldn’t they have solved the problem on their own?
- What does it teach us about older people that they couldn’t come up with this basic solution on their own?
- Who is a burden, and who is a hero?
- Why did the author make this book? Who did they make it for?
- Who is hurt by this book?
- Does this book make you look forward to getting older, or does it make getting older seem scary and sad?
There are books out there that celebrate interage relationships and interdependence with respect and mutual support – which we can talk about in a future article. The books below are not those.
Tilly is completely incompetent.
The maker chose to depict her as a mole with huge glasses and a puffy white hat. Both of my kids confirmed – she codes as old and blind. Bigots like to use animal coding as a way to benefit from stereotypes because it’s not about an older disabled person. But it is. These stereotypes hurts older people and people with disabilities. You know it, I know it. The kids know it.
Tilly can’t hold a thoguht long enough to do any small task. Instead of accomodating her disabilities and offering support, everyone goes along with it, and things happen to work out serendipitously. I’m sure there’s a shortcut word for this trope already, but I don’t know it. So let’s just call it the Mr. Magoo trope.
This trope shows us that people with disabilities & older people are too stubborn and ignorant to seek help or work around their disabilities, and this makes them a liability for the rest of us. While things work out in the end – because this is kidlit and comedy – it’s just pure luck, but stresses the heck out of all the ‘regular’ people around them.
Story: Old and disabled people are a burden. At best, they can get lucky, and we can have a few laughs watching them bumble. But really, we should be managing them because they can’t manage themselves.
Oh right. Since this is a Thanksgiving book, there’s also the whitewashing.