There is a tendency, in our house, to say things like “Of course, that’s scientifically impossible”, whenever there’s some crass science fiction B-movie on the telly. It’s not the suspension of disbelief that irks so; it’s rather when the film director is trying to show-off by presenting some ‘science’ amongst the fiction, but misses the basic fundamentals.
How come the large, blue-skinned, cat-eyed genetically-engineered body inhabited by the consciousness of Jake Sully in Avatar, is never bitten by giant mosquitoes? Why is that Superman doesn’t smash Louis Lane into a bloody pulp when he catches her in a high-speed snatch as she free-falls through the air at terminal velocity? Where does Wolverine keep his retractable metal claws, and do they interfere with his tennis back-hand?
But these are nowhere near as irritating as the faux natural history notions presented in children’s books. It’s not the fact that animals can’t really speak, I’m as happy as the next kid to accept this. And it’s nothing to do with cats wearing hats, or a pig making pancakes, or a professional bird-chasing dog. I can appreciate anthropomorphism, I love it. But the authors must get the basics right first.
Now, I am not the Grinch, but I could make it my life’s work stealing these frustrating ill-informed volumes from bookshelves and stuffing them, very nimbly up the chimbly. All those nonsense furry black and yellow bumblebees making honey in the hive would be the first to go.
A few days ago I was reading a cute tale of small fluffy animals, separation, loss, friendship, and family reunion, to the 6-year-old. “Lots of ecological detail accompanies the story”, said the quote from the Times Educational Supplement, printed on the back cover. What? Like the hatchling bird being an exact but miniature version of its parent moments after breaking out from the egg? Like the snake giving it slithering lessons rather than just gobbling it up? Like the baby bird flying off through the sunshine at less than 24 hours old? Ooh I could get in a right stew over this one.
So when I see him watching a Blue Peter special about the making of a new film, The Itch of the Golden Nit, my skin creeps. Watch this space for more rants.