As a kid I knew one thing: girls don't get to do anything cool. The girliest girls in books, cartoons, and movies didn't do much of anything except maybe whine. They taught me that girls only get to be stupid and boring. The one exception in my life at the time came from a taped recording of NBC's 1960 live production of Peter Pan, featuring Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Sandra Lee as the lily white Tiger Lily.

Princess Peach was a dope back then. Image taken from Wikia.

Peter Pan, a girl playing a boy, was cool, but Tiger Lily was absolutely amazing. I adored her. I'd run around the TV chanting "Ogga wogga wig wam!", pretending to be part of Tiger Lily's band of Indians. The whole thing was atrociously racist, but I didn't know that. All I knew was that here was a woman I could be, living in nature, independent, a leader, and making political alignments with the boy-girl, Peter Pan. There were two other girls in the show, Wendy (who was boring) and Tinkerbell (who was bitchy). There was no way I would ever be them.

Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Sandra Lee as Tiger Lily.

In real life, I didn't connect with many girls. The white girls in my school had families with money to spend, so I knew I'd never be as cool as them, but also, they weren't fun. On the playground they just stood around talking or playing house. The black girls, though, they definitely knew how to have fun on a playground. I'd never be as cool as them with their amazing jump rope skills, hand clap games, and the songs and rhymes that went with both, but I loved to watch, sitting alone under the parallel bars eating dirt out of a pudding cup.

The girls at my school could pretty much jump rope like this.
Video taken from David Hoffman.

Lord knows I saw more of myself represented in the media than any of my black or latinex schoolmates. I mean, my Native American idol was a racist white, blonde, blue-eyed caricature. What I knew at that time was that cool girls equal 1) Girls who decide they're boys (like Peter Pan or Joan of Arc), 2) Black girls who jump rope, hand clap, and sing, and 3) Tiger Lily; cool boys, on the other hand, travel through time (Marty McFly) while their dopey girlfriend sleeps through the whole thing, are independent, learn cool skills, triumph over the bad stuff, fight, and are vehicles for justice.

Uh-Huh. Watercolor and Ink on paper, 6" x 6". 2016
Buy your copy here!

I cried when I saw Rogue One, and I absolutely couldn't believe Mad Max: Fury Road. They had done it. They both broke through the barriers that surrounded me as a child. My nieces might one day see those movies and think, "No big deal." Maybe by the time they're grown, the standards set by Rogue One might even seem limited and old-fashioned. Representation is important, which is why it's important for more of us to make our art, tell our stories, and for us to depict all types of women being the bad mama jamas that we are.

Bad Mama Jama, Natural 'Do.
Illustrated postcards will be available soon!


Popular Posts