Here’s the song reference.
I live in a house full of Avengers fanatics. This works out well, since my husband and I are both big, big fans of the Marvel Universe. Through the miracle of DVDs and Netflix, we have introduced the tribe to the animated Avengers and X-Men series. It’s good to be geeky parents with appreciative children. One adorable side effect of this is Baby Guy’s recently-developed habit of, when he wishes to call his siblings to him, pointing his wee index finger in the air and loudly proclaiming, “Avengews! Assemboo!”
Since the first part of our day had been a scene from Chaos, and none of the tiny people believed in the restorative power of naps yesterday, I was charitably inclined towards Baby Guy when he pointed to the remote control and used his new catchphrase in the interrogative sense. His cause was quickly adopted by Mr. Man and Bugaboo, so, with a laugh, I turned on Netflix and the television, started an episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and joined the tumble of bodies squirming for a spot on the couch.
Before the opening song had finished, Bugaboo had decided that all the Avengers action figures needed to emerge from their hiding places, partly that they might be used to act out what was happening in the episode, partly that the toys might “watch” their onscreen counterparts. Her idea was likely inspired by Baby Guy tromping around the living room, waving his little arms and growling, “HUWK SMASH!” One major upside to our kids’ superhero obsession is that I get to point out – regularly – that the Avengers are make-believe, and we do not go around smashing things in real life. Children scattered to every corner of the house to retrieve their superhero dolls, and we quickly had quite the impressive assemblage in the middle of the rug.
I had my usual fun playing dumb with the tribe, asking silly questions like, “Why is he dressed in red, white, and blue?” It’s a habit I picked up from playing the videos in the van where, of course, I can’t see what’s happening on the screen, because I’m driving. Bugaboo, Beanie, and now Mr. Man have developed the skill of attending to detail from this little game, since I’m likely to ask a question about something that supports the plot of the episode, but isn’t an integral part of the story (for instance, “What was the building Hulk just smashed?”). We’ll use anything as a teaching tool around here.
Every episode of every good superhero show or movie has its villains, and the Avengers shows usually have a team of them. As the first episode wound to a close, Bugaboo and Beanie were singing the praises of Captain America (the first Avenger, don’t you know), who had vanquished the evildoers with the help of the Avengers and was contemplating joining their team, and Iron Man, who is just freakin’ COOL. As they excitedly discussed the virtues of the first Avenger and the wealthiest one, their conversation took a vicious turn towards the villains, particularly Modoc.
You might need to watch an episode or two to follow this, if you’re unfamiliar with the dramatis personae of the Avengers universe.
At any rate, Beanie began to refer to Modoc as “stupid,” and Bugaboo proclaimed that she would like to kick Modoc in the face.
As previously noted, we’ll use anything as a teaching tool around here.
Since the credits were starting to roll, I called the girls over to where I was relaxing on the couch, and snuggled one of them in under each of my arms. “Hey, ladies, I take it you don’t like Modoc.”
Beanie brightly replied, “Nope! He’s stupid!”
“Hm. I see. Doesn’t someone in the show call him that?”
Bugaboo helpfully advised, “Uh-huh. Zemo calls him that.”
“I see. Is that something good to say about someone else?”
“And what about kicking someone in the face?”
Bugaboo hotly fired back, “Hey, Captain America kicked Modoc in the face!”
“I see. Was he doing it because he liked Modoc, or was he doing it to protect himself?”
Beanie clarified, “He was doing it because Modoc is a bad guy, and he was trying to destroy the planet. Captain America was trying to protect the planet and the other Avengers.”
“That sounds about right. Did he call Modoc names while he was fighting him?”
Beanie uttered a multisyllabic, “No-o-o-o-o-o. Captain America doesn’t call people names.”
“Right. Why do you think that is?”
A pause before Bugaboo hesitantly offered, “Because that would be a mean thing to do. Captain America isn’t mean, he just wants to help people and protect them.”
“Right. Does he just go around kicking people in the face because he doesn’t like them?”
Beanie looked horrified, and gasped out, “NO! Captain America would never do that! He’s a hero!”
“Right. So do you think it’s a good thing to go around calling people, even people who do bad things, mean words, or wanting to kick them in the face?”
Two very, very quiet, answers, delivered in unison, “No.”
“But is it okay to cheer for the good guys when they’re taking down the bad guys?” I grinned as I looked down into two troubled pairs of eyes. “Ladies, it’s always okay to cheer for the good guys when they’re taking down the bad guys. We want the good guys to win.”
Bugaboo flashed me her best smile and said, “Since it’s okay to cheer for the good guys, can we have another episode of Avengers so we can practice?”
“You bet. Who do you think will be in this one?”
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the writers and artists who created superheroes, those larger-than life fictional characters who remind children and adults alike of Your promise that Your side wins in the end. Thank you for the many marvelous tools You have provided to help us lead Your blessings closer to You. Thank You for little blessings whose heroes are the good guys in the Avengers and in Your book of love letters to us, who love truth and justice even though their understanding of both is that of children. Please help us cultivate their desire to protect the weak, to live lives of heroic virtue, to sacrifice their time, talent, and treasure for the good of their neighbors, and kindle in our hearts a desire to set an example of that life that would rival the cartoons they enjoy. Help us teach them that even when we must counter those with bad intentions, we do so with loving hearts that desire to protect, to preserve, and to instruct, forsaking malice, wrath, and hatred. Let us always remember and teach that Paul, Zacchaeus, and the Incredible Hulk were all bad guys once.