Things and Thoughts: Dean Browell

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Meeting heroes. A 4-year-old's tale. (w/ new pics)
Addy Pirate
So today was a great day at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Lots of good reasons for my enjoyment, but one situation deserves retelling in particular: This morning, we had breakfast with Spider-Man. And during our visit with him, I got a pretty deep glimpse into my daughter Addy's psychology.

We weren't planning on doing any kind of character meals this trip, but this one was available and we wanted to kick off the trip. Spider-Man, Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 all ran about as we ate a decent hot breakfast.

When we entered the restaurant, the group took the opportunity to use the restroom before eating. In the women's bathroom Addy started to get a little nervous about meeting Spider-Man. She began to fret over details such as: "What if Spider-Man's web things go off and shoot everywhere?" (Incidentally this line was repeated to the group in such a way as to suggest Addy was inquiring about boys and the male anatomy in general- to much blushing.)

She exited the bathroom and returned to the table to find her grandfather and I already chatting up Spider-Man.

"Look who it is Addy," we exclaimed.

And immediately her reaction froze in terror. She ran to my arms and buried her face in my neck. This lasted quite awhile.

Shortly, we were joined by Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Addy was much livelier with them, but their mischievous personalities translated well even through the foam and cloth, so they were easier to see as a cartoon.

Eventually, Addy spotted Spider-Man chatting up Thing 2 in the corner. We tried again, this time taking her over to ask if Spider-Man would sign her journal. (She and I are keeping a journal of her trip complete with stickers and spaces for autographs.) Spider-Man of course signed it, but Addy again froze and wouldn't look at him. At all. Even through two awkward photos.

During the meal we watched as the three galavanted around with other kids. Spider-Man, obviously trying to be nice, stopped by our table two more times to try and break Addy's seemingly icy reception of him (oddly reminiscent of a boy who can't take a hint). On both occasions Addy still wouldn't look at him. Her eyes stared fixated on any one thing nearby. However, she answered any question she asked. She was transfixed on a spot with her eyes, but her head was in the game. Spider-Man suggested that Addy could help him fight crime, that she was obviously strong. She wants to help people, right? "Right," she'd offer with a nod, as she intensely burned laser-vision hole into her cup of orange juice.

His last visit to the table was after we all watched Thing 1 and Thing 2 play with a girl's hair at a nearby table. Spider-Man surprised Addy with a visit and suggested that Things 1&2 were silly and wild. It sounded derogatory. He switched the subject to suggest Addy was Spider-Girl and that they were on the same team, fighting crime. A few more weird inferences and a nice good-bye to us all and he was off.

It would be easy to mistake Addy's attitude toward Spider-Man as just rudeness or actual dislike of the situation. But that would be ignoring the greater motivation and reaction here. Later, she would validate that there was more to it...

Throughout the day she referenced Spider-Man very positively. Enough to suggest it was one of the highlights of her day. Sure she'd also meet other characters from comics (Storm, Captain America) and her books (Grinch, Sam I Am) and take in lots of rides and activities, but it was clear meeting Spider-Man was important to her.

On the walk back to the car after an exhausting day she and I chatted. Again we reviewed her favorite parts of the day. But she offered her least favorite parts as well:

"Thing 1 & Thing 2. Spider-Man doesn't like them and he said I'm on his team so I don't like them either." Incidentally the Things made her favorite list as well.

Sure there's all sorts of disturbing material to work with there in a herd mentality and easily-influenced sense, but it was the confirmation that her seemingly bonkers and useless meeting at breakfast wasn't some weak excuse for just not liking him. In fact, her reaction (it turns out) was borne of real admiration. She was intimidated by meeting one of her heroes. Someone who wasn't supposed to be real. The fact that he was male is a part of it, but not as large a part as you might think- she did this in a way with the princesses at Disney before.

It was so very human of her to be uncomfortable and yet engaged. She wouldn't look at him and yet she hung on his every word (and changed her behavior). It reminded me of how mush-mouthed I've been in meeting playwright Edward Albee, a member of NIN and a few of my favorite artists and writers. Hell, half the time I can barely work up enough courage to get an autograph.

But there my daughter was... being awed. The unflappable love of life tripping a fuse in her emotional circuit board. It was a telling moment for me as a dad to see how she can be influenced and how she is, even now, picking who she wishes to be influenced by. It made me reconsider how she truly does pay attention to all I do.

There are no disposable moments anymore, if there ever were.

My daughter is growing up.

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Okay, that is just too cool.

Very cool. :)

I am pretty unflappable, but I remember entering a contest as a kid (~10) from some cereal box thing, where you had to create a supervillain and send it in. The winner would get to have breakfast with the superhero(s) of their choice.

Spiderman was my first choice.

I know I spent many hours trying to think up questions to ask the heroes and all sorts of other fanboy stuff. Perhaps thankfully, I didn't win (though the villain I created ended up looking a lot like the mindflayer in a certain game I learned about a year later).

I've met famous people, and it really didn't faze me. The closest I came was meeting Hank Reinhart, who was the founder of Museum Replicas, an amazing historian and one of the main people who helped revive interest in western martial arts and what real weapons looked and felt like.

Perhaps sensing my enthusiasm, he used me as a test for his demos, and Jenny says I was blushing and acting all fanboy; a first for me.

It is so cool to see Addy liking superheros, and not falling for the cliche ones because she is a girl. Okay, sure I was all gaga for Wonder Woman, but then, I like girls in uniform. :)

So, are you going to encourage her with other heroes? I can just see a little tomboy Addy with a Wolverine hat on.

Re: Okay, that is just too cool.

She's pretty into certain heroes already, so we'll see where those paths lead. That said, every copy of Wizard or every t-shirt we saw she asks who every single hero/villain pictured is, so her interest level is high.

Her absolute favorites alongside Spider-Man are: Storm, Spider-Girl, Batgirl, Batman and probably Rogue and Captain America after yesterday. Storm is probably tops right now with Spidey.

It's funny, we caught her in an amusing logic yesterday when on TV she saw Obama. "The next Obama will be a girl," she declared. We explained that "president" was the position, that Obama was his name. She quickly shot back that she knew that, but that she meant "Obama" as in, someone as cool as him. I thought that was priceless.

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