4 Terrible Lessons Children's TV Is Teaching Our Kids
We've mentioned many times in the past that we are the proud father of an inexplicable little daughter who owns our TV and occasionally deigns to allow us to watch it. She's two now, and that means that Nick Jr. and Sprout logos have burned themselves permanently into the screen.
Not that we haven't found a few ways to enjoy it, mind you. We tend to spend our time in Dora's Re-Education Camp either spinning wild theories about the real meanings behind the programs or fantasizing about some of the stone foxes they have on the shows. Lately, though, we realized that these shows are teaching some incredibly wrong lessons, and being the concerned fearmonger we are, we thought we'd pass them along to you.
If you've been forced to watch Go, Diego, Go!, then you know two things about it: that the show's theme song is indescribably catchy and that being an animal rescuer is a pretty cool job. Diego spends all of his curiously unsupervised time gallivanting around the globe attempting to help out animals in trouble.
Take for instance the plight of a starving puffin. Puffins eat fish, so Diego gets him something to eat. That's the circle of life, nature red in tooth and claw and all that jazz.
There's nothing wrong with that lesson, but Diego turns it into something horrifying because every other animal he runs across is bright-eyed, friendly and most of all adorably vocal. Even though they don't show it, we can only assume that when Diego came across the fish to feed the baby puffin, they greeted him warmly and he opened their skulls with a rock when their backs were turned.
You see this one a lot in Ni-Hao Kai-Lan and Bubble Guppies. In Kai-Lan's case we're usually dealing with one of Kai-Lan's friends being kind of a jerk and making one of the others sad or angry. At this point, Kai-Lan will explain to whoever is being a douchebag what they are doing that is douchebaggish and hopefully the scene will then become douchebagless.
That's fine for Kai-Lan. In general she's dealing with people she knows and loves during lapses in their behavior. When the Bubble Guppies do it, it usually involves a stranger. Case in point, you get two of them playing ball when suddenly their ball is stolen by the Ball Hog. They decide that they need to teach the Ball Hog how to share, and of course that works out fine.
In real life, though...if someone you don't know comes out of the bushes, steals your stuff and walks off, you need to call the cops or tell your parents or something. Pursuing a thief and trying to hug it out sounds like a good way to make a situation go from bad to worse.
We're back over to Bubble Guppies and Ni-Hao Kai-Lan for this one. Games are a big part of everyone's childhood. Whether you're talking about something focused and rigidly organized like football or something more chaotic like Calvinball, we all like to pit our prepubescent skills against our fellows.
However, when the gang plays a game in Kai-Lan, they go out of their way to find a way to make sure nobody has to lose, such as ceasing a round of musical chairs in order to simply dance together. It's better than Bubble Guppies, where they have invented versions of NASCAR and basketball in which losing is actually impossible.
Look, we're not one of those people who believe that losing builds character or that it is some kind of rite of passage. Mainly because, and this lesson never seems to get mentioned, it doesn't really matter who wins a childhood game. It really doesn't. You're just killing time and having fun. Sure, if you have a friend who only ever wants to play a game they're much better than you, it's annoying, but that's because they too have forgotten that it doesn't really matter.
Just once we'd like to see kid's show where a group of kids played a game, someone won, someone lost and they just say, "Okay, next round?"
Between Kai-Lan and the interludes starring Moose and Zee on Nick Jr., they go out of their way to interact in a friendly way with fire ants. And they go out of their way to specifically mention fire ants rather than the less demonic species. Willy nilly, characters from multiple shows help them build carnivals or attend their birthday parties.
Seriously? Fire ants. Let's look at the statistics. Fire ants in Texas do roughly $1.2 billion in damage every year. They are incredibly aggressive, attacking anything they perceive as a threat with suicidal rage. They are a menace to ranchers because a swarm is perfectly capable of killing a newborn calf, though they aren't generally fatal to humans unless you happen to be allergic to their venom.
Nonetheless, their sting is incredibly painful, and we don't really appreciate a children's program giving these denizens of hell some kind of sweet, helpful makeover. Thanks to Nick Jr., we caught our daughter cheerfully introducing herself to an ant bed.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events