Friday, June 20, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Children's Media Edition

Now that I work at home--and part-time at that--I've been exposed to a great deal more children's television and movies and books than previously. And when one is not all that interested in the story or the moving pictures, one will start to look at patterns and subtle details and subtext and other such things. I have therefore compiled a list of "Things That Make You Go 'Hmmm'" from my many many viewings and readings of children's media. I'll start with the merely interesting/surprising and finish with the mind-numbing, what-were-they-thinking.

1. Joss Whedon had a hand in writing Toy Story. I did a double-take when his name caught my eye in the intro credits (scroll down to #11).

2. Joseph Mallozzi of Stargate fame wrote an episode of Little Bear, but I can't find it in his IMDB page. Another moment of catching the name in the opening credits.

3. I was reading in a recent issue of Parents magazine that TV-watching has been "linked to" a host of Bad Things, including eating disorders, drug use, smoking, and "sexual risks." My first thought after reading that was, "So has high school."

4. There's an episode of The Backyardigans--a show I usually love because it brings singing and dancing into great stroy-spinning in imaginative play--that triggers my subtext alarms. It features the two female members of the backyard group as mermaids, singing about how they are protecting their garden from intruders. Maybe it's just that Springsteen song that makes my mind wander in directions likely not intended, but still.

5. For the crowning WTF moment, though, I must make mention of a book. I will not name the book nor the author. We got this book as a present back before Drew was even born, I think, and I'm pretty sure that whoever gave us the book didn't read beyond the first page or two. Because it starts out very sweet and quickly descends into very scary. The story is about a mother with her newborn baby boy, cataloging his traits before she recites a sweet poem while he's fast asleep. Next the boy has grown into a toddler, and the mother catalogs his Terrible Twos but still steals into his room when he's asleep, holds him and recites her poem. Then the boy turns six. At this point, when Mark and I were reading this to a very young Drew for the first time, we exchanged worried glances. Sure enough, the mother sneaks into her older kid's room to scoop him up into a hug while he sleeps and recite this poem. This continues until the kid is grown up and moved out of the house and the mother--I wish I were kidding--straps a ladder to the top of her car, drives across town, sneaks into that boy's room (on the second floor, hence the ladder), snuggles him into her arms and recites the poem.

Mark and I were horrified at this point, but that deer-in-headlights thing forced us to keep going. Could it get worse?

Well, the next page shows how the mother is too old, near death, so the son picks her up and either recites the poem or just tells her he loves her or something. It would've been sweet were it not for the dreadful episode of stalking her grown son. But, Mark and I think we may have hit the worst and the book will finish well. Then the last page is the son, after his mother's death (obliquely referenced), going to his newborn daughter's room, taking her into his arms and repeating the poem.

Mark and I, round-eyed, slack-jawed, stared at each other over Drew's head. "The cycle repeats!" one of us whispered. We don't have the heart to "lose" this book as it was a gift from a relative, and I feel the need to keep it as evidence that, no shit, a whole list of people didn't find anything in the least bit chilling or creepy or stalker-ific about this book.

This list does not include the standard fare of icky themes I'm finding in a lot of movies and books, but that's another post all together and might be reliant on oversensitivity on my part--I'm still sorting it out. Anyway, I hope this brief look at some of the fascinating things I see on a regular basis has been entertaining.

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