Among the offerings at this December's Modern Language Association convention in Philadelphia is “Gales Will Be Gals: Dorothy’s Reproductive Capabilities and the Birth of Murder,” by Jon Hodge of Babson College and Boston University.
This paper will be part of a panel titled "Concepts of Badness in Children’s Literature," which will also include:
- “The Pippi Perplex: Badness and Contemporary Children’s Literature,” by Jennie M. Miskec
- “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Resistance and Complicity in Matilda,” by Kristen M. Guest
- “Bad-Girl Best Friends: The Consequences of Rebellion in African American Girl’s Fiction,” by Gwen Athene Tarbox
Decades ago, the bad boy was a literary archetype: The Story of a Bad Boy, Peck's Bad Boy, The Real Story of a Real Boy, etc. Do we now have a shortage of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails? Has the figure of the "bad boy" gone the way of the buggy whip? Artemis Fowl and his Dreamworks marketers would surely differ. But perhaps the people who study children's lit, even more than those who consume it, lean toward the female.
All that said, last year I published an essay called "Dorothy the Conqueror" in The Baum Bugle, so I certainly agree that Dorothy Gale is a dangerous little girl to cross. I just don't think Baum's character has much to do with the concept of "badness."