As much as I’ve come to abhor the entertainment industry, I still have to participate in a large, lucrative segment of it, which is the part that caters to young children and their parents, supposedly.
As anyone with a three-year-old mind, my daughter is no different in being drawn to the marketers’ hooks and shiny, loud, flashing offerings put forth by Hollywood and skillful, data-rich marketers. As someone living in America, I have no way of possibly hiding her from the commercialism and larger than life promises made by the cabal of Hollywood elites that regrettably shape our culture, mesmerize young minds, lock catch words into place, and direct fashion, and incredibly, set which way the winds blow for much, if not most, of middle America. Those winds smell more and more like a train of greasy street food trucks rather than a field of lavender, unfortunately.
Rather than give in and relinquish my child’s mind to their ever-growing tentacles, I watch alongside and vet everything my kid absorbs and we talk about what we’re watching while watching it. That’s not to say I prevent her from seeing and hearing things I’d rather she didn’t. It’s simply impossible with the internet, even when many measures are taken to shield her from the mental dangers it presents. Even the most innocuous offerings would (or should) astound diligent parents. Hollywood is a deep cesspool rich with self-important people that seem to be set in arrested development from their prepubescent years, pedophiliacs, and mostly a bunch of older liberals that only strive to entertain each other, and think the rest of the world should follow in their short-sighted, culturally harmful, dysfunctional and fringe beliefs.
I have a Netflix subscription, had a Hulu subscription which was more for my own late-night entertainment for watching mindless 90’s shows I’ve seen a hundred times each whenever I can’t sleep, which is often. Amazon Prime gives me access to a lot of movies and shows for “free” and YouTube, of course, is an infinite trough of “entertainment” which I can cast to my televisions if needed. I have a giant Roku television for my daughter’s wants with a subscription which is affordable and convenient, especially with the app. I find that’s plenty. There’s also PlutoTV which offers free television shows, but the only thing I tend to watch if my daughter isn’t here is Mystery Science Theater, Key and Peele, and Flight of the Conchords. And that’s usually on my laptop while I’m doing work or writing or doing something else.
I watch a lot of home videos of girls playing with Barbie dolls, LOL dolls, and Anna and Elsa dolls from the Frozen movie. What it is about these homemade videos that absorb my daughter’s mind is beyond me. I suspect it’s more fun to watch other girls play with toys than always play with me, which we do, a lot. I’ve become better than I ever imagined at putting clothes on dolls and playing out an impromptu show with our array of dollhouses for hours with a cast of usually 4 or 5 dolls at a time all with backstories, names, and personalities I have to create at a moment’s notice. Sometimes it’s fun, being creative like that and playing with a 3-year-old on her level, through her eyes. Sometimes it’s rough though, being called upon to put on a Les Miserables scale production on a moment’s notice day in and day out with an ongoing plotline. Last week I found ourselves tricycling down the street chasing after an elf who ran down to the creek with a bottle of googly eyes that we had in our crafting closet that somehow disappeared. We were going to alert the police of the googly-eye larceny if we couldn’t catch the elf. All true, except the elf. I don’t know what happened to that giant jar of googly eyes, but I took video of the event and had to laugh imagining the officer’s response when we showed up at the police station on a tricycle, with my daughter dressed in her formal gown (Which she insisted on wearing. How many more times will she be able to wear it anyway?) and me trying to file a report to be on the lookout for an elf that stole our googly-eyes which had become a serious caper.
“YouTube for Kids” is an app that my daughter often fiddles around with, but most of the videos are nothing more than infomercials for toys. It’s criminal that they say they vet the shows but promote videos that are nothing more than long commercials for endless piles of toys that companies send to popular kids in the medium to unbox, unwrap and talk about how they’re all “SO CUTE and SO COOL.” Even though most of them are immediately tossed in a heap off the screen. I watch and worry about how the effect impacts my daughter, since the most expected response should be that she wants each and everything that’s presented with wild screams and overhyped kids (and often parents filming them that are obviously doing their part to keep the thrill level as high as possible. And they are VERY weak actors.) It’s a phenomenon that’s going to start causing problems, I assure you. It’s become too popular, and too much money is involved for it not to.
I try to keep my daughter interested in videos that at least have a storyline, like Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, both of which are some of my personal favorites. And I try to steer her clear of the interminable number of cartoons and puppetry shows that are nothing more than psychological trickery to teach kids what is right in life and what is wrong, in a Clockwork Orange fashion. Endless chants about brushing teeth, sharing, not fussing, not bullying, and concepts that should be parent’s duties, and not the television’s. I can’t imagine how watching show after show telling you how great vegetables are and taking turns could be remotely entertaining. Storybots comes close, but even then, enough is enough. And then there’s Calliou, who does nothing but whine about everything, Daniel Tiger and a plethora of other PBS-esque shows that are so overly PC, so unrealistic with their overwrought diversity, and so liberal that it seems Soviet Russia has taken over Sesame Street with attempts at controlling culture, shaping society and mind-control.
I receive warnings from other parents that state there are foul people that have the time and will to edit Peppa Pig videos on YouTube to contain bad words, or satanic characters, or something unpleasant and inappropriate which I’ve never actually seen, despite watching hours and hours of the show online, and would still be benign compared to the subliminal PC trickery most shows are inseminating into their children’s entertainment. Since I watch the shows with my daughter, instead of using them as an electronic babysitter, I’m not worried about them anyway.
Something that I have noticed as well over the years is that fathers have disappeared from the families portrayed in children’s media. Totally gone. No father at all. Or if there is one, he’s portrayed as a bumbling idiot who would forget to breathe if not for the overworked and frazzled wife. That scenario is old hat on television, however, and dates back to the dawn of the medium, a la The Honeymooners, Flintstones, and every commercial ever made. The idea: women smart and unappreciated; men bad and dumb. Lord only knows how that came to be and has been perpetuated for so long.
One of the most interesting evolutions of children’s media to me has been The Grinch. Since the original book by Dr. Seuss, to the cartoon made famous by the same animators, we can thank for Bugs Bunny et al., to the grotesque human-motion picture made by Jim Carrey, Ron Howard and of course Clint Howard, to the most recent Grinch cartoon, which was mostly made by black entertainers, and to me is the most successful and best version, and should be how it was made in the first place.
Dr. Seuss’ book looks like a primitive cave drawing in comparison to the modern version. The cartoon which I grew up on with Boris Karloff and a Chuck Jones, Bugs Bunny flair which all kids recognized of the era has been documented well. Then in 2000 Hollywood decided it would have its try at it and made exactly what you’d expect: a terrible, dark, un-funny, creepy boring, ham-fisted, super-expensive, overwrought film that Hollywood slapped itself on the back endlessly with accolades, and the rest of the world shuddered and rightfully forgot about. I remember watching an interview with Seuss’s widow, who has a lot of say-so over his trademarks and estate, of course, when the Jim Carrey nightmare was in the works. She said she wanted it to be true to the original and be something like Theodore Geisel might have made. I think she failed and was strongarmed by executives, lawyers and gigantic piles of money, which resulted in the feature-length disaster.
I watched the Jim Carrey version with my daughter, and she was less interested in it than I was. The whole thing is set at night, contains prosthetics that are more creepy than whimsical, and the whole movie’s humor revolves around passing gas, which is among one of the first scenes and is a theme that lasts throughout. Har-har. The guys that put that atrocity together all walked away with 20+ million dollars for their work. There’s no mention that Christmas is anything more than getting presents, and if you don’t get presents, your life should be considered ruined. Jeffery Tambor’s casting was probably suitable, as we should remember how his career came to an ugly but predictable end. It seems to be written for other people living in Los Angeles, in that culture and mindset. That represents about .000001% of all humans, but much of the worst of the species.
The newest Grinch, however, does it right. It’s fun, bright, and believe it or not, even manages to (quickly) mention (via background song) that Christmas is about the Christian concept of Christ’s birth, and not solely giving and getting presents. Weak, but at least it’s in there somewhere, after 53+ years. I personally could do without the hip-hop soundtrack, but what should I expect? It is catchy. And it’s funny and entertaining with an optimistic message. The design is great as well.
But it’s hard for me to notice, as a single father, that there’s no father present in the main family in the movie. No mention of one whatsoever, ever even existing. Just an overworked mother which Cindy-Lou Who’s only Christmas wish is for Santa to help her, doing noticeably less than I happen to actually do in real life. I’m not saying that for sympathy which is the movie’s writers’ motive. I mention that because it’s an observable and odd truth. And it goes along with a lot of what’s coming out of Hollywood and other “cultural” outlets — no father in the household. Netflix originals especially write out fathers. Llama Llama: Only mama Llama. Daniel Tiger, who seems to be the replacement for Mr. Rogers: Fatherless. Where have all the fathers gone?
Apparently, I’m not the only one who desired to compare the Grinch over the years.