When I heard that Jan Berenstain, the co-creator of the Berenstain Bears, had passed away, I thought I should abstain from comment. As some of you know I'm not a fan of the Berenstain Bears--I've accused them of encouraging false consciousness. But Hanna Rosin marked the occasion by offering an in-depth critique:

I have loved many a midcentury book starring the retrograde housewife. Most great Dr. Seuss books were written around the same time. The Frances books are some of my favorites, and Mother in that book never changes out of her apron. And I can read Richard Scarry all day. But usually you need humor to soften the blow. Stan and Jan, sadly, were allergic to humor. This is the only thing I hold against Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. He was the one who apparently approved the Berenstain Bears books and yet he never pushed them to write one funny line. Papa Bear for example, is a bumbling oaf. The usual plotline in the books involves Papa trying to fix some problem but screwing it up, so that Mama has to swoop in and save the day. In defter hands, Papa could have been a prototype Homer Simpson. But in these book he just bangs on the table and shouts things like “pinheaded fiddlebrain!”

She notes that Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post is also a Berenstain critic. "I hate the Berenstain Bears," he once wrote. Hate is too strong a word--the Berenstain Bears mean well--but critics don't need to give people a free pass just because they're writing for kids; chidren's art and literature can make an impact on people, as all of this cryptozoological literary analysis suggests. Rosin was pretty glib about Berenstain's death, but her critique of the books is oddly timed rather than vicious. As for Mrs Berenstain, she clearly helped create a world that a lot of people enjoyed, even if it frustrated others. There's room for all kinds.
 



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