I enjoy the work of Art Spiegelman. Spiegelman uses the playful medium of comic books in order to communicate his thoughts and feeling on more serious topics. He is the only person to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for a comic book.
In Nature vs. Nurture Spiegelman explores the issue of gender and how much influence a parent has, (nurture), over what is innate with a child. In this entry I will describe this comic strip and give my opinion of what Spiegelman’s thoughts are on the subject of nature vs. nurture.
The comic strip features an academic looking father and his three or four-year-old daughter. The strip begins with the father watching his daughter play with her doll. The girl’s speech bubble says, “Poor baby sleepy? OkayÐ’…mama gonna sing you a lullabye!” The father responds with, “C,mon, Nadja. You don’t just want to play with toys that reinforce preconceived gender roles, do you, sweetie?” After his little speech he brings his daughter a toy fire engine to play with.
In order to get little Nadja fired up about the new toy the father gets down on the floor and shows her how everything works. He clangs the bell and orders passersby out of the way. The father is having a very good time playing with the toy but finally turns it over to his daughter. After looking at the fire truck for just a moment Nadja’s speech bubble says, “Poor little truckie!…Mama’s gonna wrap you inna blankee and give you a little bottle.” The poor father heaves a sigh and looks thoroughly beaten.
In this comic strip, I think Spiegelman is pointing out that we are who we are. I believe Spiegelman is arguing nature over nurture. In this particular strip he has an educated father trying to get his daughter to play with a truck. I find this interesting for two reasons. First, he is showing that the father has an active interest in not wanting his daughter to be limited to “girl things.” This is interesting because generally speaking, I believe most men would like to keep gender roles cemented in place. The second interesting thing I found, is that Spiegelman chooses to use a young girl instead of a boy.
Typically when I think of people trying to equalize gender roles in children, I think of young boys. We are always trying to soften up our boys by taking away their guns and making sure they have dolls to play with, and for girls we generally offer gender neutral things, like, doctor sets and drums. Very rarely do I see people giving their girls toys designed for boys. You can see in this comic strip that the father really likes playing with the truck, maybe he is lost in his own childhood memories and wants to be able to share the excitement he felt as a boy with his daughter. I believe Spiegelman does a nice job of showing how we as parents need to accept our children for who they are. That each child is born with a personality and identity unique to them and even though as parents we might like our children to be something else, we must accept them the way they are.
Even though Spiegelman’s “Nature vs. Nurture” is short, I believe it is a powerful statement of how we perceive not only our children but other people in general. We must be willing to accept another person’s individuality despite our own disappointment when our expectations are not met. As I’m sure our professorial father did in this comic strip.