I bought my nephew a John Stewart (Green Lantern) toy as my first experiment with this whole #BlackToysMatter idea. After learning what I could about Green Lantern on Wikipedia, I decided that he could work well to teach my nephew about mental health and depression. I wanted to make sure that he know that heroes can suffer depression and that there are healthy ways to deal with being sad.
When he got the toy, he and his cousin were playing together at his house. I started by telling them some of the basic stuff about Green Lantern–his real name and his powers. Of course, they realized that Green Lantern’s powers make him one of the most powerful superheroes because he can basically create anything that he can imagine. Then I switched things up and told them about what makes Green Lantern sad: thinking about the death of his sister. Of course, my nephew made the connection with my brother being dead, and I imagine that he and his cousin can make the connection with other family members that they know who have lost a sibling in the past few years. For Green Lantern, I told them that the sadness he feels when he thinks about his sister can sometimes be so strong that Green Lantern can’t use his imagination. So, then I asked,
what might Green Lantern do to help when he gets really sad?
Of course, he and his cousin said, “use his Green Lantern ring to re-create his sister!” Those clever kids almost foiled my whole operation.
I told hem that it doesn’t work like that. I quickly explained that his ring can’t make people come to life, it just creates a big green version of whatever he can think up with his mind, as if he were drawing a picture of it… I think that’s how it works. Anyway, I got them to think some more and their next answer really threw me for a loop. They said, “throw him up in the air!”
At this point, I was ready to quit the whole #BlackToysMatter idea. I was thinking, “what on earth is wrong with these children?” But instead of giving up, I asked what they meant. They explained that sometimes friends will celebrate a person by lifting them up on their shoulders and throwing them up in the air then catching them. I gave a big sigh of relief, affirmed the validity of their answer, and elaborated on the value of friendship as something that can be very helpful when you’re feeling depressed by doing things like “throwing you up in the air”… and listening and just being there. Then I brought it back to their toys by urging them to find some good friends for Green Lantern so that they can help him whenever he is going through that really big sadness from thinking about his sister.
So, I think this first experiment worked out in the end.
If you are interested in getting a Black toy of Green Lantern, I suggest you look up “John Stewart Green Lantern” on eBay. DC Comics is always making another Green Lantern toy, so there are a hundred different ones you could buy and used ones can be cheap. If you don’t like used ones, there will almost certainly be a new one coming out every year or so that you could get at a store or online.
Got questions or comments? Please hit me up on Instagram @BlackToysMatterBlog.