This season of make-believe and dressing up is a good time to think about pretending—one of the cornerstones of play. For kids, make-believe is partly aspirational. If you’re little and you dress as a crime fighter or superhero you take in the fantasy, feeling power surge in your imagination. You have nothing to fear, even fear itself. Bad guys beware. And so too the ghostly hosts that will roam our neighborhoods this Halloween, scary in themselves, scaring off fear.
Parody, a calculated form of play, has been around for a long time. Follow the word to its Greek roots and you dig up the meaning “against song.”
Sometimes parodists really do have something against the song itself—think of Weird Al Yankovic’s send up of Cindy Lauper’s tuneful, but trivializing, anthem “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Weird Al called his spoof “Girls Just Want to Have Lunch.”
On April 12, 2013, in a game against the rival Golden State Warriors, the L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant scored 47 points. Two nights later, trainers abruptly bundled him off to the ER with a snapped Achilles tendon, an injury that had ended many a career. Professional athletes who play dangerous games depend in part on a personal fable, the sense of a measure of invincibility. Recovering from surgery, Bryant confessed to anger and some bewilderment. “How the hell can this happen?” he tweeted.
In his recent interview in the American Journal of Play—“The Why, How, and What of a Museum of Play”—George Rollie Adams, President and CEO, describes the evolution of The Strong as the first collections based institution devoted to the study of play.