30.4.11

Why in the Name of Entertainment

If your child was in pre-school and her care provider invited someone to come in and talk about dieting and watching your weight with the three-to-four year old girls, would that be acceptable? Or how about if your son’s Kindergarten teacher wore a revealing tank top and regularly kissed the male principal in order to get special treatment for her class? Would you find that an agreeable environment for your child? Perhaps it would be okay with you if the Grade 1 classroom teacher told your children to sign up for Facebook in order to find out more information about a topic they were studying, knowing full well that there are minimum age requirements to use Facebook.


As a parent, would you sit back and allow these things to happen without a murmur of dissent? Or would you protest, pull your child from the system, go to the media and make your voice heard?

If you’d sit back and let this happen, don’t bother reading the rest of this; it doesn’t apply to you.

To the rest of you: do you let your child watch TV? Do they regularly watch DVDs? Do you intently watch everything with them? If not, you may be surprised at what your child has already been exposed to.

I know I got quite a shock when watching Barbie and the Diamond Castle with my daughter one day. They had been showing it at our son’s school so I assumed it was okay. I even went to Common-Sense Media to check the ratings and special information provided by experts and other parents. I had watched most of it with her before, but had been sidetracked occasionally by the needs of another child, or the call of the laundry machine.

I had talked with my daughter about the commercialization in the movie and alerted her to the fact that the movies are in part made to sell the toys. She was aware that watching the movie did not mean she would get the toys. I had even taken extra-special attention to balance her viewing of the “quest for a prince and a palace” style of movie with extra readings of The Tough Princess and Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots.

I felt I was an in-tune and savvy mom, allowing her exposure but tempering it with extra information and discussion. But strangely enough I didn’t think I had to discuss the topic of casual sex with my daughter to prepare her for watching a Barbie movie aimed at three-to-seven-year-old children. And yet, imagine my shock when I saw a buxomly waitress dump a pitcher of water (?) over a cad/minstrels head and declare “that’s for leaving without a goodbye.”

Click here to see the whole scene on Youtube.
Oh sure, my four-year-old didn’t understand what it meant, but I sure did. And my daughter asked why the waitress had done it.

They see more than we know, as Angela, a savvy mom of two, discovered when watching My Little Pony: Twinklewish Adventure with her daughter. The super-slimmed down and sexed up ponies are not happy enough to be sparkly pink and slender, some are still watching their weight. In the movie, an adult pony is offered a cookie which she declines by saying “I’m watching my figure.”

Check out time-mark 7:23 in this Youtube vid.

Angela’s five-year-old daughter, who had viewed that scene a few times already, turned to her mother and said “Mommy, what’s a figure?” Nothing escapes her attention. She’s a brilliant, beautiful girl suddenly exposed to the idea that some people are not happy with their bodies.

And for what? What purpose did either of those scenes serve in the movies they were in? Why does the Lego Clutch Power movie feature only one female lego character and why did they need to paint on cleavage and have her use sexpot charms to get her way with the rest of the team? Is that the lesson we want our sons and daughters seeing?

If these things happened in our schools or daycares we wouldn’t sit idly by. But because they are considered “entertainment” and not “education,” TV shows, movies, websites and toys get away with more than we can imagine in terms of questionable content. And because they are entertainment, we parents have the tendancy to view them as “harmless” fun.

By the time a girl reaches her teens she will have been exposed to hours of images and talk that show her that her body is not her temple but her torment. By the time a young man starts dating he will have been exposed to a multitude of images of young girls as sex figures and men as powerful. He will already have been introduced to the concept of female manipulation and passive-aggressive behavior.He will have started distrusting girls already.

Companies like Zoobles create special interactive websites for children featuring a prominent link to their Facebook page. Sure if a child clicks on the link they show a warning saying that you’re about to leave the page and to “please make sure you have a parent’s permission.” In my mind, if they have to post a warning, they know it’s wrong.

And that’s the thing. Didn’t the script-writers or producers of the My Little Pony video know it was wrong to encourage young girls to “watch” their figures. Didn’t the Lego team realize that having one female character – and I neglected to mention the black skeleton dude who supplied comedy – and making that character out to be a sexy, manipulative and insecure team member would teach young boys something ?

Or have we slipped so far that these things are considered appropriate and I’m a lone voice yelling into the wind?

1.4.11

Vamanos Destroy the World

Dora.
The name that makes every parent's heart collapse in the certain knowledge of an hour or more of shouty Spanglish and faked enthusiasm.
Despite all you wish for, no evil twin pops up and says "No, I'M the map," nothing incriminating ever pops out of backpack, and Swiper never rehabilitates himself. Formulaic, inane, and kids love it.
And I'm okay with that.
I put up with two years of Dora when my daughter thought that Dora really was her best friend.
And now my son is asking for "Doha Boots, pay Doha Boots!" when I say he can watch TV.
My husband can't stand the big-headed little Spanglish girl and is really upset at the fact that her parents seem to let her wander all over the world without any supervision - except that of a helpless, boot-wearing monkey.
But I'm okay with it.
Until my son found THE BOOK
Due to my daughter's obsession, we had plenty of Dora books. Only one I actually bought myself, but when a kid has an obsession that makes it super-easy for relatives at gift-giving time.
I can totally handle the insipid story-lines of the Dora phonics reader. And the buttons on the interactive books have to be pressed at least ten times before I lose my mind.
But then there's "Dora and the Mermaid Kingdom"
That book irritates me.
No, actually it makes me irate, angry and prone to ranting.
Dora's cleaning up the beach. We get to help her find garbage. Then a clam opens up and shills a story about the mean octopus. He's dumping garbage all over Mermaid Kingdom and nobody knows what to do. Until Mariana finds the magic crown so she can wish the garbage away. But the crown gets lost, Dora finds it, and saves the day. Lovely story, what?
Except there's this

Even my two-year-old knows that a juice box is not garbage, it's recycling! And then there are the two cans - which look suspiciously like beer cans and with their sharp bits are not something I would want my unsupervised four-year-old (how old is Dora anyway?) handling. They too are not Basura, but recycling.

Fine, whatever, a little eensy mistake. Except throughout the book the "garbage" is represented with pictures of plenty of recycling in it.

And then there's the last page

Do you see the "garbage" the mermaids are picking up? Does any of it look like it belongs in the trash?

The first time I read it I held out hope. At the end, Dora would teach the mean octopus that he didn't need to dump all his "garbage" in the ocean because most of it could be diverted into recycling streams.

Silly me. At the end, simplistic, big-headed little Dora makes the octopus promise to put all the garbage in the dump from now on.

Lo Hicimos indeed.

We just taught children that:
1.The only way to save the mermaid kingdom (read: the environment) is with magic
2. Anything we need to dispose of, whether dust, food wrapper or juice box, is "garbage."
3. The way to get rid of items we no longer need is to take it to the dump.

Brasura!

I'll sacrifice a bit more Spanglish lessons in exchange for some real learning, please?