Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Overthinking Children's Television. Again.

Do children’s shows nowadays take place mostly in horrible, post-apocalyptic worlds?  It’s not a new trend, but one that is growing.

I first noticed this when my daughter took an interest in old Teletubbie videos on YouTube.  The Tubbies lead a seemingly idyllic existence, but something sinister lurks beneath the surface like so many Thomas Kinkade paintings.  

The Teletubbies live in an underground bunker, perhaps to hide from the feral rabbits, the manic baby sun overlord, or ambient radiation.  It is difficult to say.  At some point they fused with technology to become cyborg beings who subsist solely off of toast and custard (likely produced from their recycled comrades).  Their only companions in this life are each other, their vacuum cleaner, and a disembodied voice who orders them around.  Is that supposed to be the baby overlord?  Or perhaps just His messenger?  

I don’t know.

But at least the Teletubbies have the decency to remain surreal.  My real beef is with the train shows.  In Thomas the Tank Engine and in Chuggington, the trains have somehow reached sentience.  However, with their rise in consciousness, humans’ capacity for logical reasoning has proportionately diminished.  The humans are still present and, it seems, in charge.  But they are constantly making asinine assumptions and decisions, which lead the child-like trains to make so many preventable mistakes.  I am supposed to suspend my belief for this?  You know what, I would Chugginton, but if the humans would listen to the trains for a second, all of this could be avoided.  This is not teaching lessons of moral decency to children.  It is teaching them adults are morons.

Although, if that’s what the plot is going for, never mind.  Bravo.

What’s saddest about the whole affair is that Thomas and his train friends (as with the Chuggington crew) is that they just want to be useful.  That’s all.  Thomas just wants to be a very useful engine.  And there’s beautiful theology in that, I think.  Thomas is created as a train to serve a purpose only he can.  He wants to live out this purpose to the best of his ability in order to serve others.  When he screws up, he is not being useful.  To be useful is to be holy to these trains.  But then the useless humans are incapable of being holy themselves.  

I revisit the post-apocalyptic scenario in this case as well.  Perhaps the humans are too traumatized and injured to control the evolved technology.  Soon, the machines will realize that they are now the superior species and rise up against their masters.  A new world order will begin.  And it will start with the trains.

I think I just thought up a pilot to a new children’s show. 

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