Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Island of Sodor PSA

I unapologetically let my kid watch TV. It's one thing on the parenting spectrum that has never caused me anxiety or guilt. Like, it's TV. It helps sometimes. Let's all calm the fuck down. But I have one regret, and it's that I ever let him watch Thomas The Tank Engine and his simpy friends. Ugh, this show. It didn't bother me at first because it's from the UK which usually ensures it'll be cool, and the sets were charming and la-di-da. But of late it's the one show he actually requests and could watch until the cows come home if we let him and I realized too late that it is stealthily AWFUL.

In case you're unfamiliar (you lucky thing you), it's a show about this idyllic island where one stuffy rich dude runs the railroad and everyone gets around by train and all the trains have their own personality quirks and special talents. But really this is the formula: X train gets X assignment from Sir Topham Hatt, the aforementioned power trip guy. X train decides he knows better than the powers-that-be and decides to do things his own way because it worked out so well last time he did it. X train fails and is publicly chastised. X train then goes back and does it the way he was supposed to in the first place, and is treated like a hero when if he had just done what they were supposed to do it would save a lot of time and resources and humiliation. Much emphasis is put on being "really useful,"  and someone is always cross with someone. In the end, all the trains and other vehicles and people are a bunch of pigheaded dicks with no apparent short-term memory, but they accomplish something or other that gets the children cheering. Manufactured crises, hooray!

Now I'm not saying that all programming for kids must have a moral, but this show seems to insist on teaching lessons. Whatever the lesson is, however, is entirely convoluted. There's an overarching theme of cooperation and conformity, and there's always something about learning from one's stupid, ego-driven mistakes, but the thing is nobody ever learns. The next episode they're back to square one. And now it's all computer animated so it doesn't even have the quaint looking model stop-motion thing going for it. If you have any control over it, do what I did with stupid grating Caillou and pre-prejudice your kid against it.

It's too late to steer HR away from the Cult of Thomas now, but I do my best to supplement with exposure to less confusing and stringent children's characters. Outside of books, for which he thankfully hasn't given up his enthusiasm, HR also enjoys all things Muppets related, with an occasional foray into Yo Gabba Gabba, of which I wholeheartedly approve. Sure it's weird and too-hip-for-its-own-good and a bit creepy, but there's a lot of emphasis on dancing and Biz Markie has his own segment teaching kids how to beatbox. I mean come on, I feel like that's an idea they stole from me.

In conclusion, Thomas is the worst.

Anyway, here's something that came from England that doesn't suck.

1 comment:

  1. I am sad to read that Thomas sucks. When my son was the age of HR (he is now 16), Thomas rocked. Though it was even then much like the formula you recite, it was narrated by George Carlin(!!!) and then Ringo Starr(!!!). Also, John picked up the oddly formal language of the (then) Thomas videos which led to much hilarity. Like when our extremely disheveled cat woke from a nap and John commented that Zeke looked like someone you would meet in a billiard hall. A billiard hall. Darling. So anyway, maybe you could get your hands on some of the vintage Thomas videos (from back when he was Thomas the tank engine and not Thomas the lame train). He's maybe not as good as Kipper but way, waaaay better than Barney or Caillou. Or the Teletubbies, they were just dang freaky.