Once upon a time, the Daughter With One F was a firm devotee of Yo Gabba Gabba and the kind, pure lessons taught by DJ Lance Rock. We never minded when her trusting hand would seek ours and insist that we cuddle her as together we watched the gang's hijinks while Daddy got to enjoy cameos by our favorite actors and some of the best musicians around. Now, all that has changed. Now, we watch Dora the Explorer.
It's the first thing we hear when we lift her from her crib in the morning. It's the final argument before we place her back into the crib at night. The show itself is fine, we guess, though we do feel like we're being ordered around by some kind of bilingual assistant manager with a slight case of autism and a penchant for singing. Still, we can deal with that. What we can't deal with is the show's antagonist, Swiper the Fox, who we are coming to see in our deepest nightmares.
In case you don't watch the show, Swiper's primary role is to ambush Dora and Boots as they make their way through whatever adventure they may be adventuring through and attempt to steal their stuff. Now that seems straightforward, but in execution it comes across as seriously disturbed. Here's why.
Swiper seems to be the only villain on any show on Nick Jr. Most of the rest of the shows prefer to have their principals play shape games or teach kids how to handle social situations. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does tend to leave some of the plots of the shows a little light on gripping drama. Not that the kids care, but for the adults being forced to watch alongside it can get monotonous.
However, Swiper is not a typical cartoon villain at all. He's some kind of hybrid between the "no bad guys" approach that other shows take and the more traditional Cobra Commander mold that you usually see in cartoons. Even though he is a constant nuisance that dogs the paths of our heroes, they continuously feel the need to invite him to every wedding, concert or ceremony that occurs. Even when he is caught red-handed trying to sabotage the situation, Dora and Boots will cheerfully encourage him to come to a party later in the episode. The same party he just tried to ruin.
Remember the last person that exact same situation happened all the time to? Odin via Loki. No matter how many times the trickster god Loki thoroughly ruins the Norse pantheon's day, even going so far as killing Odin's son for literally no reason other than it seemed like it would be funny, the Asgardian gods still invite him to every important event.
All this occurs in the name of the sworn blood-brotherhood between Odin and Loki, a bond we have never been given any reason for existing and that seems to be mirrored perfectly in Dora's inexplicable willingness to have someone who is a known criminal constantly around.
That may be because Swiper is portrayed as harmless most of the time. There is never any lasting harm done by his actions. Hell, even his petty theft can be averted simply by shouting, "Swiper! No swiping!" before he gets his paws on the loot. If Dora says that phrase, Swiper will snap his fingers, say, "Oh, man," and leave.
The thing about that, though, is... this is a children's show. It's supposed to be imparting some kind of message at some point. Yes, the Spanish lessons are helpful, but there's much more to dealing with human beings besides just learning their language. One of those things you might want to learn is how to avoid danger.
I think the whole thing is a psychotic plan on behalf of Swiper to lower Dora's and by proxy our daughter's defenses to the real dangers out there in later life. What's going to happen to them if they see a demented hulk barreling down at them in a dark alley with their pants down and intentions erect and throbbing? You can't get out of that by yelling, "Raper! No raping! Stabber! No stabbing!"
It's all part of a twisted game by Swiper, and he enjoys that game because he is a psychopath devoid of the most basic of emotions. Which brings us to the most chilling aspect of the fox.
Swiper steals things. It's right there in his name. Quick, if you've ever stolen something, why did you do it? Was it because you wanted that thing but didn't want to pay for it? Congratulations, you are less insane than Swiper the Fox.
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Swiper rarely, if ever, keeps what he steals. In fact, his most common action is to immediately throw the stolen object into some kind of hazardous area in order to ensure that Dora will never, ever find it. He's done this with everything from wedding clothes to family heirlooms.
That reminds us of a very specific and very famous bad guy. Maybe you remember this quote from a very popular film featuring that bad guy:
A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
He thought it was good sport. Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
That's right, Swiper's actions more or less exactly mimic the behavior of the sadistic thief Alfred compared the Joker to in the Dark Knight. Do you see now why we really wish our daughter would watch Yo Gabba Gabba instead?