Essay Prompt: “If you could be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick?”
This may come as a mild shock—because it’s something I’ve never discussed openly before—but I was raised by humans. (I know, right? Humans? Like, who does that anymore?) I can’t say that I had a particularly unique childhood; in fact, aside from a few aberrational occurrences, it was downright ordinary. I was your typical ‘90s kid in America: I grew up watching The Simpsons on T.V. and wishing I were a Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger (I had the lunchbox!) so I could communicate with a floating head and a perpetually high-strung robot by talking into my wrist. I wore troll doll barrettes in my hair and had a small collection of pogs, even though I had no idea what to do with them (they were just cardboard circles with pictures on them, right??). I thought Goosebumps and Animorphs were the “bomb diggity” as far as book series went, and yes, I even owned my share of toy dinosaurs. And yet, despite these shared experiences, I know a great number of other ‘90s children who were also raised by humans but had vastly different upbringings.
The problem with the essay prompt at hand is that it seems to assume all robots, dinosaurs, and aliens are created equal. This is simply not true. If pop culture has taught us anything, these three categorical groups of “species” really come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments—more so than even humans. Can we compare the irreverent and alcoholic Bender of New New York (Futurama) with the sleek, Peter Sarsgaard-voiced robot helper in the film Robot & Frank? How about the slimy aliens in the sci-fi comedy Men in Black with those angst-ridden heartthrobs that appeared on the WB/UPN teen soap Roswell? Not to mention the dinosaurs in a horror thriller like Jurassic Park versus the anthropomorphic ones in the children’s animated feature The Land Before Time? This is, of course, just my personal speculation, but I’m guessing their respective parenting techniques just might differ.
Robots. Dinosaurs. Aliens. Oh sure, we all have our preconceived notions about what these terms might mean—a free-association snapshot that immediately comes to mind despite any differences that might exist. A robot might be nice to have as a legal guardian, for example. They might be smarter than your average human counterpart, able to compute complex and difficult calculations in a fraction of a second. They could double as appliances or electronic devices. You might even be able to program it to do exactly what you want! However, there is also a good chance that the robot will be emotionally stunted and unable to think outside the ol’ circuit board. On the other hand, an alien might also be nice to have as a guardian. Think of the intergalactic travel and the ray guns and the alien powers! But an alien would likely have its own languages and cultural customs. It might be difficult to assimilate back on Earth someday. And I can’t honestly think of any pros when it comes to being raised by a dinosaur, but I can think of many cons: dark ages, cannibalism, sheer intimidation factor, not to mention the difficulties of communication. (Just how many things can “RAAWWWRRR” possibly mean, anyway?)
But at the end of the day, if I had to choose one, I would probably choose to be raised by aliens. I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to be abducted by a strange beam of light emanating from an unidentified aircraft. Preferably one that is commandeered by Kang and Kodos because them two aliens have got it going on. (I just hope they don’t decide to eat me.)
Note: This is the first essay in a 3-part blog challenge inspired by this NYT article about the new wave of creative college admissions essay prompts. Read more about the rules and logistics of the challenge and my reasons for taking it on in this previous post. There, you will also be able to find links to my other essays and those of my friends when they become available.