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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Three Toddler TV Shows with Implied Horrific Backstories


Most toddler cartoons are wrapped in sugary goodness and some of the most obvious morality lessons outside of Garrison Keiler. They feature happy characters whose toughest personal obstacle is determining if it's still okay to hug Elmo or not.

It's not. I'm not sure it ever was.

When personal adversity does occur, it's solved within five minutes and everything returns to normal because that's exactly how real life works and what better lesson to teach children. Even for these characters who've endured the kind of personal tragedies usually reserved for residents of Florida trailer parks.

3. Caillou



That bald-headed atrocity you're looking at is a winsome four-year old named Caillou who is completely over-indulged by his parents even as he gets into constant trouble. In fact, no matter how much Calliou disobeys his folks or whines, he's never punished. The show ends, Caillou learns a valuable lesson, and we search high and low for how to block a TV show on our DVR. Which, of course, is perfectly normal parental behavior when your child is dying of cancer.

Just think about it...this kid is four years old. Unless your name is Vin Diesel, baldness is not a fashion statement. It's either hereditary curse passed down to you from your Uncle Louie or the result of chemotherapy. And the way his parents treat Caillou, with no consequences or anger, is either because he's really Paris Hilton without her wig or because there's simply no point in imparting life lessons on someone who won't live long enough to put them into play.

2. Max and Ruby


Not pictured: Parents and crime-scene tape

A precocious bunny rabbit named Max lives with his big sister Ruby. Max is constantly getting into trouble, but Max's hijinx always work out in the end. Occasionally, Max and Ruby's grandmother shows up to take them out for ice cream. The parents never appear and are never mentioned because they're dead. 

This show raises a lot of questions. This isn't an adult-less world like in Peanuts. Max and Ruby are surrounded by teachers, police officers, scout leaders and their freaking grandmother. But it's Ruby who helps Max get dressed, who takes him shopping for clothes, and makes his meals. Apparently, whatever happened to their folks must have been severe enough that no one mentions it. In fact the whole fucking town must be in denial otherwise these kids would be in the rabbit-equivalent of a foster home.  Which is still better than the next cartoon.

1. Dora the Explorer
What could possibly go wrong in here?

Dora is surrounded by parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins (like any Mexican family. Yeah, I went there) as well as an assortment of talking animals, maps, and nylon backpacks. There's no lack of authority figures here. Only a total lack of caring that almost borders on malice. In fact, it's apparent that everyone in this cartoon wants Dora dead.

Just dig a list of places Dora has traipsed off to without so much as a parental nod: the spooky forest, raging rapids, and frozen mountaintops. I don't even let my kids cross the street by themselves. Where are they going to send her next? The pedophiles house? The haunted mansion? How about the indian burial ground? Is there a future episode where the map and backpack conspire where to bury her once and for all?


Or maybe I've just spent way too much timing watching these shows.