Monday, January 28, 2013

Babies Be Trippin

Once upon a time, in a living room far far less covered in desiccated bits of egg and chewed-up crayons, I swore on my stolen HBO Go password that I would not let my sweet baby's eyes fall on a television screen until he was done becoming a neurophysicist, or at least old enough to appreciate the subtleties of Amanda Woodward's eye-flashing oeuvre on vintage MP.

If I home-schooled, I would teach a class in Power Bitching. In related news, I should probably not home-school. 
Fast-forward to now. As I wrote in my most recent Observer column:
Every morning, after getting up, emptying his bowels and painstakingly bestowing at least four spoonfuls of yogurt onto the living-room carpet, my 15-month-old son turns and jabs a stubby finger in the general direction of our television. “Dis!” he cries insistently. “DIS.”
Spolier alert: I cave. I cave every time. Our new breakfast ritual is me, bleary-eyed and dressed like a less put-together Jeff Lebowski feeding a pantsless Sam yogurt while he alternately stares at/dances to Yo Gabba Gabba! or a 1970s episode of Sesame Street (Jeff has an aversion to Elmo, which I suspect  has nothing to do with the recent sex scandal and everything to do with the fact that Elmo speaks in falsetto AND has no anus.)

I could also teach a course called "Innocence Lost: Projecting My Perverse Sense of Humor Onto Children's Book Illustrations" (Subtitle: "But Seriously, Guys, You Had To Know That Looks Kind of Wrong")
Anyway. I realize that I am late to the Yo Gabba Gabba! thing, but dudes. Kid's shows are kind of fucked up. Even when they're fun, you have to wonder why the only beings that populate them are mentally and physically... let's just say "special."

Like, close your eyes and listen to DJ Lance Rock talk some time. Now, picture that instead of his retro Power Ranger outfit, he's wearing a standard-issue hospital gown, and instead of playing with dolls in a  nondescript white room, he's... okay, he's still doing that, but now imagine that the walls are padded. Easy, right? Because DJ Lance Rock is actually a character in American Horror Story: Asylum.

"Hear that, children? It's the big red dildo cyclops that orders me to KILL!"
So, yeah, the human characters on kid's shows are always kind of annoying, and prone to speaking as if they're an extremely friendly person with an IQ of 10 trying to ask for directions in a foreign country, but it's really the non-human things that give me pause. Like, I've never studied children's education, but judging from TV shows I have to guess that kids learn better from neon-colored animals with extremely specific and random genetic mutations.

Exhibit A:

Did someone throw a handful of Skittles, a TV antenna, and four mice into a TARDIS? I mean, seriously, what the fuck are those things and how do they affect brain development other than creating a new and terrifying category of nightmares?

Exhibit B:

I love Sesame Street. I love the Muppets. I have a heart. But look closer, underneath the protective cotton candy clouds of nostalgia. Now what do you see? A seven foot-tall bird who talks like Lennie from Of Mice and Men, and who hallucinates a giant, depressed scrotum for a friend? Yeah, me too.

Exhibit C:

Here we have:
  1. A big bumpy red phallus with one eye and fangs named Muno
  2. A Peptol Bismol-colored buttplug who wears a collar named Foofa (NOT Fupa, to my great disappointment)
  3. A striped, unibrowed, horned, noseless monster named Brobee with freakishly long arms (not pictured)
  4. A turquoise cat with gills named Toodee (NOT Tootie, to my--and I imagine Kim Fields'--great disappointment)
  5. A yellow robot named Plex
  6.  DJ Crazypants Orangina
And here are my questions: 
  1. Why do they have to be so unique to the point of being terrifying? What's wrong with a regular cat, or a dog, or a bear, or, I don't know, a dildo with TWO eyes?
  2. Why is it that every kids' show is also a great example of something that extremely stoned people would be captivated by? Is being a toddler basically like being really high? Or like being Joey Lawrence? Are their minds just in a constant state of woah? Everything made for kids is fucking trippy. Even Thomas the Tank Engine, which is boring as hell. (If I had the right pharmaceuticals, I feel like I could spend about two hours trying to decipher why Sir Topham Hatt is a really snazzy dresser but has no ears.) I must conclude from this that children actually lose brain cells, not gain them. And do not even say "Baby Einstein" to me--I have seen that low-budget shit and there is no way that watching a circa-1989 lava lamp for ten seconds is turning my baby into a genius. By that logic I could flush my toilet seventeen times a day while humming Fur Elise and Sam would be at Harvard by 2016. 
  3. Why do all children's shows have to have a character with a unibrow who is also a total dipshit buzzkill? It's giving us a bad name, for real. (Side-eye, Brobee, be cool for like one second. How hard is that?)
I am seriously thinking of getting rid of our TV. But not, of course, the Melrose Place DVDs. Maintaining a rich cultural environment is key to raising well-rounded kids. Or so I'm told.



  1. My landlady, who has two small children, has pretty much expressed the same opinion. Children's television is just fucking weird!

  2. Haha! Wow, this was hilarious! I dont have kids, and I even find these shows insanely trippy. Especially Yo Gabba Gabba.

  3. I made the mistake of checking out some "Zoobilee Zoo" tapes from the library when I was in high school, eager for nostalgia.

    Yeah, that shit is insane. And I'm completely in awe that you didn't mention H.R. Pufnstuf, since really, longing for that "innocence" is probably why anyone does drugs.
    Then you have the "educational" ones: "3-2-1 Contact", "Pinwheel". Baby Einstein just involves less claymation, really.

  4. Unibrows are the way we all identify the leaders of the Facial Hair Apocalypse, that is why they are depicted poorly on TV.

    BTW, try explaining Frida Kahlo to a bunch of lower elementary students, when they spend their days glued to Adventure Time.

  5. My 17 month old son does exactly the same thing. Except he yells "Dat, DAT". And ... I do exactly the same thing, right down to sitting beside him coaxing him to share my cereal. Or drink something. Anything.

  6. You are hilrious! And So right! It's been a while since I had children's television on in my house... Thank God!

  7. Hilarious! I have no kids, or friends with kids, so I don't have first-hand knowledge of this but I've heard stories. Although, to be fair to Sesame Street, I was watching it one morning hungover and it did teach me how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in 30 seconds and that's a lifelong survival skill.

  8. Anonymous12:41 PM

    We have stuck to our "no tv" rule but have, instead, totally caved on iphones and macbooks. There is an entire sub-industry of apps designed to make my toddler screech for my iphone everytime I check my email. And they, too, are pretty effed (I'm trying to edit my language since toddler started talking; its fine if toddlers know "effed", right?)

  9. Right?? If you want to see the really freaky stuff, watch LAZY TOWN. I don't understand why kids aren't scared of it. *I* am.

  10. In the Night Garden. It's from the people who did Teletubbies, but more recent. It's baby crack. There really is a thing that looks like a TARDIS in it. And it's got all the other shit in there that every kids show should....


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