Monday, August 20, 2012

Character Assassination Carousel: Bunnies Must Die

Today, I have the honor of riding on Ninja Mom's Character Assassination Carousel. This is a much-needed outlet for those of us who have grown to despise some of the stories our beloved offspring have compelled us to read to them over and over and freaking OVER. Thankfully, Tweak and Tink can now read to themselves, so I can avoid reading anything truly annoying (I'm looking at you, Captain Underpants). They like for me to read to them in the evenings before bed, but I have veto power over the book, so we've done Mary Poppins, Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, Narnia, and other things that are awesome. However, when they were little, they latched onto books that made me want to poke out my own eyes with a ballpoint pen so that I wouldn't have to read them anymore.

Go make yourself one of these. You're gonna need it.
That brings us to tonight's cocktail: a vodka martini, extra dirty, with blue cheese-stuffed olives. Don't buy pre-stuffed jarred blue cheese olives with chalky, gross cheese. I get martini olives at the chic olive bar and stuff them myself. It makes me feel fancy. I use premium vodka (I like Grey Goose; McDreamy is more of a Ketel One guy), 6:1 with vermouth. You might like them drier, perhaps choosing to look at the vermouth bottle across the room rather than actually using any. Whatever works for you. Also, add a splash of olive juice from the jar to make it "dirty". Shake well, serve in a chilled glass. Now you're ready, because tonight's character assassination targets are enough to drive anyone to drink a glassful of straight alcohol.



For the uninitiated, the Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells feature a 7 year-old big sister (Ruby) who takes care of her 3 year-old brother, Max. Nick Jr. airs a TV show based on these books. Mommy Shorts recently included the show in her hilarious children's TV flowchart, and many of the comments on her post reserved an especially vitriolic hatred for bossy, controlling Ruby, who is constantly thwarting affable, long-suffering Max. The TV Ruby is an uptight bitch, no doubt about it. But the Max in the books is an annoying little shit, and poor, put-upon Ruby is a much more tragic character in print.

This is an affiliate link, in case you're a glutton for punishment.
Take my initiation into this series, Bunny Money. The book begins with Ruby saving a walletful of money to buy a birthday present for Grandma. How did she earn this money, one wonders? Max and Ruby appear to live alone - we never see or hear about their parents. With nobody to give her an allowance for all of the domestic work and childcare she performs, I can only conclude that Ruby has been turning tricks on the corner. I hope Grandma is appropriately grateful.

I hope my pimp doesn't cut me for spending his money on Grandma's present, Max!
Then, the kids take the bus - because who hasn't let their 7- and 3 year-olds take the bus into town alone? They arrive at Rosalinda's Gift Shop and see a music box in the window. Max chooses this moment to announce he's thirsty. Ruby gives him some of her bunny-prostitute money to buy a lemonade, but he decides Grandma wants a pair of vampire teeth with oozing cherry syrup. He puts them in his own mouth instead (what Grandma doesn't like sloppy seconds?) and promptly gets the syrup all over his clothes.

Ruby takes him to the laundromat (I'd have made him wear stained clothes) and spends an entire night's earnings on washer, soap, and dryer. Then Max says he's hungry, because apparently ruining things really works up his appetite. Ruby buys him lunch but eats nothing herself, presumably because she's nauseous after recalling the humiliations she suffered to earn the money Max is happily scarfing away.

Down to their last $5, they finally make it back to the gift shop, where they learn that the music box they'd been eyeing is $100. Ruby despairs, because she would have to open a meth lab on the side to earn that much green in time for Grandma's birthday. Rosalinda the shop owner helpfully suggests a pair of singing bluebird earrings instead for $4. For some reason, Rosalinda gives the change to Max, who promptly runs back to the candy store and buys ANOTHER set of vampire teeth, this time glow-in-the-dark. He has now spent all Ruby's hard-earned money on crap. Great.

Way to go, dude.
Thankfully, Max does have a lucky quarter in his pocket, and there are still payphones in this town for some reason, so they're able to call Grandma to come pick them up. Instead of calling child protective services on Max's and Ruby's deadbeat parents, Grandma wears the earrings and vampire teeth while she drives them home. Presumably this is because she is high off her bunny-tail on a homemade combination of Everclear, Benadryl, and some sort of fish paralyzer.

The only high point of the book is that it ends with a suggestion for Ruby to move away from earning her money on all fours (what? she's a bunny). What is it? Counterfeiting!

The end papers of the book have "bunny money" printed on them, with instructions for photocopying and cutting out the bills. I do like the people chosen to be printed on the money (e.g., Mahatma Gandhi, Julia Child, Marie Curie, Jessye Norman). Other than that, though, it's Baby's First Counterfeiting Lesson. Let's hope the Bunny Secret Service doesn't catch wind of this. On the other hand, perhaps it would serve as a much-needed wake-up call for the self-absorbed adults in Max's and Ruby's life.

This was the only page of the book I didn't hate.
After much deliberation, I've decided that my assassination target is neither Max nor Ruby, but rather their absentee parents and the other adults who appear regularly in the books (Grandma and her friends, Ruby's friends' parents, assorted shopkeepers, the Bunny Scout Leader) and don't seem to have a problem with the blatant child neglect going on right in front of them. No 7 year-old needs the pressure of making sure a younger sibling is routinely fed, bathed, clothed, and put to bed. Also, let's note that Max only utters 1-2 words per book and clearly suffers from some kind of speech delay, but Ruby is obviously too overwhelmed to seek appropriate services for him. Is it any wonder that she's a bit tightly wound?

In my opinion, it's high time someone hunted some rabbits in this town. Won't someone please think of the children?

I hope you've enjoyed the carousel ride. Please take a moment to check out last week's rider, Jennifer at I'm the Boss of Me, who gave a lovely sendup of Mercer Mayer's closetful of crazy, There's a Nightmare in my Closet. The next rider will be the hilarious Bethany at Bad Parenting Moments.


14 comments:

  1. Right before I read your roast, I was thinking, "I remember a time when Ruby wasn't such a bitch. I remember when I used to want to spank Max. Am I the only one? Did I dream that?"

    Thank you for validating my memory. I might skip the fish oil today; my brain is in working order, after all.

    I, too, sympathize with this incarnation of Ruby! Here's to hoping someone adopts those two before they start a crime cartel.

    Thanks so much for playing along.

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    1. Thanks for the ticket to ride! Eventually, you know Ruby's going to snap and rip Max a new one. It's just a matter of time.

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  2. I've never seen the show, but I've always been uncomfortable with Max and Ruby because as you say, she is a kid forced to shoulder a lot of parental responsibilities, either because she is older or because she is a girl (or both). She is constantly making sacrifices and thinking of others, and Max acts like a brat who only ever thinks of himself, and somehow he's supposed to be cute and funny and always get his way. Like in your story, where Ruby uses her own money to take care of Max and gets nothing for herself. Or in "Bunny Party" when Ruby tries to have a nice birthday party for Grandma and Max disassembles a bunch of her stuffed guests and substitutes his own. Then Grandma shows up and basically sides with Max. Or in "Dragon Shirt" when Ruby is supposed to take Max shopping for new pants (in a department store, by herself, with limited money), and while she (God forbid!) takes some time for herself to try on a new dress, he runs away, puts on a shirt that he wants, and then spills ice cream all over it so that he ends up getting it because she has to pay for it. It's as lopsided and retrograde as the Giving Tree except that unlike the Giving Tree it doesn't ever seem to recognize its own incredible pathos.

    -Chad

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    1. The show always bothered me because it makes Ruby out to be a castrating bitch in situations that would frustrate the daylights out of anyone. There's definitely a thick layer of sexism - Ruby is the "mother" in the relationship, and it's a very martyrish conception of motherhood. Max never has to take responsibility for himself, and Grandma always makes excuses for him, which makes one wonder what kind of grown man he would eventually be. I was really glad when these books fell by the wayside.

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    2. It's unfortunate, because before I ever heard of Max or Ruby, one of my favorite stories in a big children's story anthology that my oldest son had when he was a tiny guy was "First Tomato Soup" by Rosemary Wells, that featured a bunny (a proto-Ruby, I see now) having a bad day and escaping with a daydream about going into the garden in early summer to pick a tomato for soup. It was a sweet little story. Sure, it conflated love with food, but at least there were fresh vegetables instead of fried butter or something, and at least the mom in the story had the decency to make an appearance. Also, no spoiled bunny princeling who deserved severe discipline but was instead rewarded with top billing.

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  3. This is priceless -- thanks for the memories! When my son was little he loved these books. I created a back story in which the mother was the prostitute and the grandmother her pimp. The two children obviously had different fathers.... And the game goes on.

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  4. Your roast is right on target! Hate the underlying messages of these books. Oy. Ellen

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    1. Thanks! It was really cathartic to write.

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  5. Hysterical! I've always hate both of those bunnies and seeing Ruby as a crack-ho makes me smile.

    Teri
    Snarkfest

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    1. Thanks! I'm now following your blog (snarkfestblog.blogspot.com). You had me at pictures of pets in clothes. So happy to find someone who can preview the tween/teen years for me!

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  6. As someone who once lived with a bunny...this explains a lot.

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    1. One of Tink's friends had a boy bunny and was begging me to get her one ... as said bunny was energetically humping a balloon. I'm just not that into rodents.

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  7. I could have sworn I've seen a Max and Ruby cartoon that just had Max in grade school, and he talked a lot more (perhaps without the dominating influence of Ruby) but I'm not really sure where that fits in the mythos.

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  8. You people need to get off the booze and come back to reality!

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