Basil of Baker Street and the Mid-80s Mouse

The May long weekend in Canada (the weekend just past) culminates in Victoria Day. Which when you have kids means it’s a four-day weekend that no one usually has much in the way of plans for. Yesterday morning, I watched The Great Mouse Detective with my daughter who will soon be seven.

I was roughly her age when this movie first came out, and it was my first introduction to the character who would be a hero of mine through most of my life. The mid 1980s was also roughly the time that I took up writing. My very first book, written and illustrated with my own two little hands, was about a mouse princess. It was very adorable (and may still be in the basement somewhere).

With my own daughter hitting the age of being able to write down her own ideas and thoughts and stories, it got me to thinking, ‘why mice?’ It wasn’t until watching TGMD again that it really hit me: anthropomorphized mice were all the rage when I was growing up. From The Rescuers, to the Secret of Nimh, to TGMD, to An American Tail and Tom and Jerry, my childhood was basically bursting at the seams with fuzzy little mice people.

And I kind of get it. When you’re a kid you’re small, you have basically zero power in the world, so you have to be resourceful, tenacious, and clever to get by. A lot seems to have changed since then. These days, kids shows are all about empathy, helping, finding a way to get along with people no matter the circumstances, and that jellybeans go great on pizza (my son loves Ninja Turtles, what can I say?). These are all admirable qualities in people, but I can’t help but wonder where the ‘thinking outside the box’ messages all went. Surely that’s still a life skill we need?

Maybe it’s still out there. I sure hope so. My daughter’s reaction to Basil was, “I think he’s maybe not really a good guy because he’s not very nice.” It’s not an easy thing to explain to a kid that the spoiled sulky genius can be a good guy too. I’m beginning to understand why my generation is so in love with our anti-heroes. If there is something we can offer the next generation, it’s way more complex and interesting villains than we had growing up (1980’s Lex Luther, anyone?).

Have a great week, folks. I hope life is good to you.

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