Are kids’ stories suffering from Hermione syndrome?
Something got my back up this week, but it’s made me even more determined to fulfil my latest goal.
I want to write a children’s television show.
I think my books would make a perfect kids’ series, but if that doesn’t come off, I’d like to write something new.
When I think back to my favourite childhood programs, I gravitate towards live action series for older kids and teens – think Saved by the Bell, Heartbreak High and Degrassi. If I was a kid now, you can bet I’d be a massive fan of Dance Academy.
But I don’t have too many memories of standout programs from my early childhood and middle grade years. I certainly didn’t obsess over anything the way my daughter did with Dora the Explorer.
One program I loved for a while was Punky Brewster, and I think that’s because it was one of (if not the only) series that featured someone I could properly identify with.
I’ve always favoured realism over fantasy (give me Judy Blume over C.S Lewis).
And I’ve always favoured strong girl characters as leads – maybe it is a touch of gender bias, but I’ve always longed to feel like I have something in common with who I’m watching.
Which brings me to what ‘got my back up.’
I’ve been doing a course in writing for children’s TV and, so far, it’s been quite inspiring. Except for one bit.
There were some comments made during class about what somebody called ‘Hermione syndrome’ – a trend towards featuring ‘strong girl characters’ in stories.
This person argued that a character has no depth without flaws. That part, I completely agree with.
But girl characters can have flaws and still be strong.
And I don’t think we should be sticking to the status quo of keeping the ratio of on- screen females to males at 1:3 (stat from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media), or continuing to perpetuate stereotypes of prissy, weak and inferior princess-like characters.
I don’t for a second think that morals and political correctness should stand in the way of a good story.
Kids can sniff out preachiness from a mile away.
But the best stories for kids, and the best writers, can weave in positive messages without compromising on a mesmerising narrative.
I’d even go so far as to say it’s our responsibility.