Beware the Shredderman
I like being a regular – I like walking into a bar, and the bartender immediately opening an Amstel Light. Before I worked at Rosie’s, I liked going into the store, and someone immediately pointing me in the direction of the new shipment of Koigu. And, when the coffee shop across the street opened about two years ago, I became a regular – Chris, the owner, would see me coming, and immediately have my large coffee and whole wheat bagel with cream cheese to go, on the counter. Somewhere along the way, though, this “regular” business at the coffee shop got a tad twisted up – for some reason, Chris thinks my name is Jen, and for some stranger reason, after two years (although, for the past year, I’m not so much a regular any more – Joe makes coffee for me every morning – big AWWW!!! He’s so sweet!), I have yet to correct him. It’s kind of like my secret identity, like a coffee super hero and I kind of like it.
Joe’s son, Joey, is doing the Reading Olympics, and after his disaster of a 5th grade science project, I decided that adult supervision was required for this project, and I have been reading the books along with him. The first book, Brendon Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It was excellent, the second book, Shredderman: Attack of the Tagger, eh, not so much. First of all, it’s pretty stupid to have the second book of a series as a requirement for something like the Reading Olympics, where you have to be responsible for six books and you just might not have time to read the first book in the series that’s not on the list. Second, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole premise of Shredderman, and his secret identity, and whether he really was a superhero. In the book, Nolan, the nerdy kid, has created a secret online identity, Shredderman, an online superhero who gets revenge against the school bully, Bubby Bixby, by putting a photo of Bubba’s Big Butt on his website (this happens in the first book of the series, probably why they chose the 2d book for a school reading event). The only person who knows Shredderman’s real identity is his teacher, who becomes his superhero sidekick. To me, there’s something wrong with this. Back in the old days, the nerd obtained revenge against the school bully through his wits, guile, better disposition, and all around good person-ness. And, he did it in a non-anonymous way, and all of the other nerdy kids were empowered by his triumph, too. Here, Shredderman pokes fun, and humiliates the bully online, hiding behind his dot.com. Is this really a hero? Or is this beginning of a snarker (see below)? Is this how we really want our children to confront bullies? I don’t think so. And, when Shredderman exposes another bad kid on his website as the Tagger, the graffiti artist “terrorizing” the town, he does so by spying on them in the bathroom, evesdropping, and a little detective work – and then he posts his evidence online, anonymously – this, to me, is a snitch, not a superhero (and I have very definite ideas about the differences between a “snitch” and a “witness” – a post for a different day). And, the fact that the teacher is in on it, I don’t know, this is not good teaching to me – and, the quality of Nolan’s school life really doesn’t change because of his anonymous behavior – Bubba still picks on him, and he’s not a hero in anyone’s eyes but his own.
So, why am I secretly pleased with my own secret coffee shop identity? “Jen” doesn’t wear a cape, fly around, and defend the rights of coffee owner’s everywhere. She doesn’t slay decaffeinated beans in a single bound. When we were teenagers, and my brother worked at Kmart, he didn’t want the K-“nuts” as he called them knowing his name – so my brother (Howard) wore a name take that read, “Jake.” But, what difference did it make if he still had to answer to it?
I guess it’s not the name, it’s the face. I am not anonymous in the coffee shop – I can be identified, just not by my name. If I left my purse on the counter, and a co-worker came in, and Chris said, “Jen left her purse” and the co-worker said, “which Jen?” and Chris described me – “The curly haired girl that looks like Barbra Streisand,” my co-worker would immediately say, “That’s not Jen, that’s Wendy.” And, I guess that’s why all of the caped crusaders work as “heroes” (as opposed to snitches) for me – they aren’t really anonymous, they’re just masked – they can be identified on the street, their deeds are visible, and their “secret identity” is really their boring alter-ego – it’s not even really a “secret identity” – it’s almost a separate identity. If Batman left his wallet on the counter – the guy would say, “You know, the bat in black with the mask,” and everyone would know Batman.
In Shedderman, there is no Shredderman. Shredderman is not a man of action, visibily righting wrong, fighting crime, exposing himself to harm – he’s not even an entity, it’s just the name of his website, and it’s disturbing to me that the Reading Olympics at Joey’s school is letting this book lead as an example.
And, well, for me, well, now that I’ve been exposed as not a coffee super hero, I guess I should share my real name – but what would I say at this point – I really didn’t care enough to correct you the first time? I really don’t care what you call me because you actually have nothing to do with my life? Oh, and I answered to it because it was easier than correcting you after all this time?
Hm, probably as lazy as Shredderman.