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Social Studies

Children's Programming

Emily Flake

By Vincent Williams | Posted 9/10/2008

I think something pretty significant has happened over the past few days in terms of my journey through parenthood. I'm pretty sure that my daughter has turned into a Pixar kid. She's not 4 yet, and we thought she might be a little young for the films, but, a couple of months ago, one of my best friends told me that his son, who's six months younger than my daughter, loved Finding Nemo. I found Nemo a little intense as an adult, but, lo and behold, we showed it to her and she loved it. And we're presently going through the "Can we watch it again?" multiple-viewings thing that kids do, so I'm ready to call it: I got a Pixar kid. For those of you without kids, lemme tell you, this is a pretty big deal, because the whole children's programming thing is a monster to deal with.

I mean, first of all, there's the whole question of how much TV do you let them watch. I think we all do our best. As parents, we make all of these hifalutin claims about what we're going to do with our kids when they're born. "Oh, I'm not going to let them watch TV!" "Only educational television for my child!" "Less than three hours a day for little Susie!" If you ask any parent of young children, all of them have some convoluted formula they've come up with about how they address the issue of their kids and television. And, almost to a person, we're all lying. It's funny because, in many ways, Disney, Nickelodeon, and children's television in general is like pornography; it's a billion-dollar industry, but no one admits that they participate in its use. Somebody's buying all that Jonas Brothers shit . . . just not my kids.

And, y'know, having said that, almost four years into the game, my wife and I do alright. Obviously, there's lots and lots of reading time, and for the most part, we do the educational stuff like Word World and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Sesame Street. Then, there are the shows that aren't educational, per se, but they're so damn cool we can justify them to ourselves by thinking that they're part of her, uh, "cultural" education, like Backyardigans and Yo Gabba Gabba! That's not to say that there aren't times when we're working--or on deadline--and we just keep the TV on after those go off, or play two episodes in a row of Sesame Street just to keep Her Highness occupied, but having the TV baby-sit isn't where the real issue comes in.

To be brutally honest, it's my fault. The problem is I like cartoons. A lot. Unlike my wife, who can just ignore cartoons in the background because she never watched them (because she was born full grown in some type of pod and was never actually a child), I end up watching my kid's stuff with her, just because I'm hard-wired to be attracted to the images on the screen. Lemme tell ya, as positive and heartwarming as Little Bill is, boy, does it get boring after a while. It's not like I can just put on some, I don't know, Venture Bros. or something, because, y'know, she's a kid.

This is such a modern parent problem, isn't it? God, I swear, when I was a kid, they just put any ol' kind of thing in the TV programming, and the chips just fell where they did. Dudes got killed on Jonny Quest all the time. Speed Racer kills like six guys during his show's theme song. Hell, in Thundarr the Barbarian, the entire world gets destroyed in the opening credits! You want to hear something hilarious? We got that old-school Sesame Street DVD set, and there's a warning before the shows start that tells kids not to do what the '70s kids do. In 1971, you could have an educational children's program that depicted toddlers running and frolicking in a junkyard filled with scrap metal and abandoned refrigerators. Ah, the '70s.

Anyway, as father and child, we've gotten to the point where we can watch some stuff together. After the Finding Nemo experiment, we moved on to Toy Story, and while we were on vacation the two of us saw WALL-E, but besides the really crazy scene with the sharks in Finding Nemo, nothing in any of the films I've tested out on her is as intense as The Incredibles. And I'm proud to say, she passed with flying colors, and now I have an official partner to take with me to the movies. And soon, I'll be cracking open those The Wire DVD sets with her and we can argue about which is the best season! Well, y'know, eventually.

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