Recently an ornery and overly judgmental finger puppet joined us for dinner. He looks like a wizard dog (or a dog wizard?) but apparently he thinks he’s human. And he’s mean. Despite this, he has a girlfriend. His name is Zachary.

Zoe developed Zachary’s character. He is annoying and irascible. On purpose. Zoe just calls him mean. Zachary says things like “I hate your dress! It’s too pink!” or “I don’t like your purse because it has flowers on it!” He insults all that is pretty and girly and kind, or that which Zoe generally embraces. Zoe scolds him and corrects him, or asks us to do so.

The other night Zoe made up a story in which aliens come and kidnap a baby and kill it and bury its heart. Randy asked her if she knew what that was or why they were doing that. She said they were mean. I would venture to say evil or demonic. But for sure they’re mean.

When I picked Zoe up from my parents’ house today she reported that she and my dad were playing mean little brother, in which my dad–directed entirely by her–was the mean little brother and she was the sister. She was protecting her baby (daughter or sister? not clear) from the mean brother, who said things like “I’m going to eat all your food and take all your toys.” She would stroke the baby’s cheek and reassure her that she would be ok and the brother wouldn’t hurt her.

Randy and I were slightly amused by Zachary, and somewhat disturbed and perplexed by the infanticide. Zoe loves babies more than anything else in the world, why would she want to pretend someone was killing or hurting one? Where did she even get the idea? My mom suggested that in Snow White, the Queen asks the huntsman for Snow White’s heart to prove that she’s dead. I guess I forgot that part. When Zoe asks me to tell the stories, they are somewhat smoothed over. My parents have the actual book.

I finally got up the nerve to ask Zoe why she liked pretending that someone was mean. She is never the mean one. It’s always someone else. My mom says she is usually cast in a variety of evil queen roles. Zoe said “I like to fight people.” But not fight as in fisticuffs. “I like to protect people from the mean people. It makes me feel special.”

So she has created bad guys so she can more easily be the heroine and rescuer. I guess this makes sense. I admire the fact that she wants to protect others. I don’t even understand where she has gotten these ideas of meanness, since she has been exposed to very little meanness in her life as far as I know. Maybe that’s why she has to fabricate it, and perhaps that’s a good thing. If Zachary’s meanness emphasizes insulting fashion choices and femininity and as long as the threats to babies are aliens, maybe that indicates there are few actual threats, so she has to invent them. And if she’s doing it to practice saving the day, I’m down with that.