Caillou is the bane of my existence. The animated adventures of a four-year-old Canadian boy probably seem like an odd nemesis for a 32-year-old in Meatworld to have, but that's just the way it is. He exists in my home as an ever-present phantom, mocking the concept of learning and adventure on a level that Hobbits in the Shire might find close-minded.
Don't get me wrong; it's better developmentally than the cartoons I grew up with. My daughter is way smarter than I was at her age thanks to educational TV. No matter how cool the Sword of Omens is, you learn far better real-world conflict-resolution skills from Ni-Hao Kai-Lan than you do from Thundercats. The soundtrack was better. That's about all I can say for Lion-O and his pussy posse.
Still, I hate Caillou.
Recently, I read a pretty fantastic rant on the Renegade Mothering blog that finally brought the reason crystal clear. You should read the words of the Renegade Mama, but the gist of it is that Caillou serves as a kind of avatar for the worst of young child selfishness and whining. Children are psychopathic and self-centered by nature, of course, but once you give them a colorful hero to feed their innate desire to get their way through asserting that they should louder and louder, you're really turning it up.
A child sees Caillou whine and cry and rage against the primary-colored plastic machine the very second anything goes slightly against his plan, the moment any task isn't instantly and effortlessly accomplished, and that child thinks. "TV loves me, and TV says it's okay." And that, friends and neighbors, is what gets Daddy slapped in the face by a young girl who finds daddy's assertion that he does not need to go back into the house and get the Spider-Man costume she wants to take to school she will not be allowed to wear anyway to be insufficient evidence.
Do I blame my daughter's desire to bend me to her will on a TV show? No, but I do blame Caillou for turning it up to 11. What does this all have to do with why Caillou is bald? Surprisingly, a lot, actually.
The debate on why a four-year-old child has no hair is actually not so much a real debate in parenting circles as a pointless expression of rage. It's an insignificant factoid that we blurt out because it's never a good idea to tell your kid, "I hate this stupid show you watch and it makes me want to sew my sensory organs shut." Most parents I know theorize it's because Caillou has cancer, which gives you an idea of the level of pent-up malice being inspired by his cries of "moooOOOMMMYYY."
There are actually two reasons Caillou is bald. The first is pretty simple. When the show initially ran in Canada, it was preceded by a segment where a grandmother would sit down her two grandchildren and tell them the stories we see as Caillou episodes. The grandchildren were always holding a small, Cabbage Patch Kid-like doll that exactly resembled Caillou. Later episodes did away with the front story and just kept the narration, but doll Caillou is still there...unseen...waiting to return to our world.
Of course, Caillou was also bald in the original French Canadian children's books by Christine L'Heureux and illustrator Hélène Desputeaux. In those books, Caillou is a much younger child, which explains his more babyish appearance. L'Heureux is a child psychologist interested in promoting the idea of using human figures in children's entertainment more than animal figures in order to encourage children to see such stories in more concrete forms and to identify more with the characters.
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The modern Caillou looks (and acts) like a giant bald baby because that is exactly what he is. He is meant to be a blank spot for very young children to project easily onto. The problem is having now bonded with the animated Dark Lord, they also mimic his whiny, self-centered behavior all the more militantly. Don't tell me about the lessons he learns. Those make up a completely minuscule amount of the end game of each episode. Most of Caillou's observed existence is a constant demand on someone else's time and resources in an impolite and imperial tone.
When PBS did focus groups with preschoolers and asked about Caillou's baldness, the children laughed and replied, "He just doesn't have any hair!" They'd never considered the idea that there needed to be a reason for it. But there is, and it's to dominate the minds of toddlers.
And that is a frightening thought.