I am a recent graduate of the public history graduate program at Rutgers University. I currently serve as the digital media coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, where I wrangle bloggers and tackle our social media platforms.
In the last two years I've created an oral history database using StoriesMatter for the Salem County Historical Society, collected data on school group attendance for the education department at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I've digitized the Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I volunteer at the Alice Paul Institute in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey and the Digital Center at HSP.
In my spare time I am often silly and irreverent.
Never did I imagine I would be writing a research paper about depictions of masculinity in boys books. If I did, I certainly never considered using The Hardy Boys, a series of books that I stubbornly ignored in my youth. I landed firmly in the Three Investigators’ camp. Jupiter Jones? He was wicked smart and kinda chubby. Pete Crenshaw, the muscle of the group was always a little leery of danger, but was dependable in an emergency. Bookish Bob Andrews was an affable bridge between the two other boys. They all seemed like great guys, but I never chose a favorite. Instead, I remember just liking the adventures. They rode around in a gold trimmed Rolls-Royce. They had a secret headquarters under a mountain of junk. Parents were unobtrusive or, in poor orphaned Jupiter’s case, gone. In the Mystery of the Green Ghost, the boys went all the way to San Francisco! From the vantage point of our rural Minnesota home, San Francisco may as well have been Shangri-La.
Now I’m reading the action-packed tales of Frank and Joe Hardy. I’m glad I didn’t read them, I think I would have been disappointed. Sure, they ride motorcycles. The have friends with cars and speed boats. Mr. Hardy is a famous detective, Mrs. Hardy, a slightly vapid housewife. They have a cadre of friends: Chet Morton, Phil Cohen, Tony Prito and Biff Hooper.
They don’t DO anything. There is tons of action, or rather, Dixon (or McFarlane if you prefer) narrates the action, alludes to it, but the reader rarely “sees” the boys doing anything. Real action happens between men. Most of the real dialogue happens between men. Frank and Joe are (at least in the first few books) largely indistinguishable from one another. In fact, Dixon/McFarlane often failed to note who was speaking. When he did differentiate the boys, he usually used Frank as the doer or sayer. I’m starting to think Joe is his invisible friend.
When I originally pondered this project, I really wanted to discuss literature as a form of gender tourism. I used Three Investigator Books as a vehicle out of girlhood. I could be smart like Jupiter, brave like Pete, or thoughtful like Bob. I could plot a plan of action, trick adults, travel to distant places. I could dream big when I was a boy.
I alluded to vapid Mrs. Hardy, but the women in the Three Investigator books rarely fared better. Jupiter’s Aunt Mathilda had a good heart, but was loud and conscripted the lads into labor. Bob’s mom was absent-minded and easily confused by Jupiter’s vocabulary. I have no memories of Pete’s mom, but his dad was a Hollywood stuntman. Jupiter’s Uncle Titus was an eccentric junkman and Bob’s dad an investigative reporter. Awesome.
What is the point of this embarrassing admission of boyhood-envy? It might be two-fold. One, objectivity is coming hard in this project. Two, my life is awesome, and I didn’t have to be a boy to get it.