We hardly watched TV with him his first year, but the last year and a half have been a revelation. I’ve gotten to know everyone from Barney and Dora to Thomas and Caillou, though unlike Ryan, I don’t think the sun will rise based on what Diego has in his rescue pack. I have little doubt that there are PhD candidates out there, parsing the happy-smile shows of today vs. the perfidious violence of Tom & Jerry (which I can’t wait to introduce him to). They’ll probably come to the same conclusion as someone without a doctorate (me): under all the sugar-sweet smiles and kumbaya-we-love-the-world songs, some of today’s kid-show characters are out to wussify our children. That includes the Korean show Ryan has been watching lately, whose hosts are so saccharine sweet they make me wish I’d never sold my guns.
I think it all started with Barney, when my generation started spawning and unleashing Gen X sensibilities into children’s programming. Even if some of the latchkey-kid generation might need bucking up, we all knew at an early age that everything was not perfectly okay, so why pretend otherwise? I’d rather have Ryan watch TV and learn that yes, my son, there are limits in life, but it’s up to us to overcome them. Not, let’s just sing and play, and pretend that we’re one big I-love-you-you-love-me. Besides, no dinosaur’s teeth could be that straight or that white. No well meaning dinosaur would have so many young sidekicks who look like they’ll be doing hard time in Rahway or San Quentin later on in life.
Just before Christmas years back, one of my soldiers had spent most of his $1,300 monthly base pay (before taxes) on Barney presents and his mother in-law’s plane ticket. He came in for duty looking like he hadn’t slept. I asked him what was wrong and he said, without the remotest trace of irony, “Sar’nt K, let me tell you, I hate that big purple MF.” I now know what he meant, and couldn’t agree more, but that didn’t stop us from playing with his son and his new Barney bounty.
My son loves the Backyardigans to no end, but Tasha seriously needs to get voted off the island. Why is she always the queen/princess/captain? Uniqua and Tyrone are just waiting for the right moment to unleash all their pent-up passive aggressiveness, while meek Pablo and Austin gleefully watch the beatdown. Wouldn’t that be more educational for its realism?
The Little Einsteins probably all got together because none of them could stand stultifying silver-spoon lives that included $20k a year private schools, nannies, and helicopter parents. Can we get an episode that tackles anger management, so that kids learn how to control their outbursts? Or how to confront bullies? Or how to share when someone in class or day care doesn’t want to? Or anything that doesn’t force-feed him sugar and pretends it’s nutrition? Sesame Street can – witness Grover being able to accomplish anything despite countless setbacks – why can’t anyone else?
What do I know? We were watching Ice Age 3, and when Sid almost gets swallowed by the lava, Ryan was rooted in place looking like he was going to cry or scream or both. We changed the channel to Nick Jr. so that Kai Lan can blur the nascent distinctions in his mind between English, Korean, and Mandarin. He didn’t care, it was Kai Lan.
Appa needs a whiskey and someone to explain why no one shows Woody Woodpecker cartoons on TV anymore.