Monday, March 21, 2005


The seven year old now knows how to program the VCR to record her favorite show. I regard this as another piece of evidence to support our theory that TV is Good For Kids. She would never have learned this important life skill without the incentive of Totally Spies, a teenie bopper Charlie's Angels copycat that is shown while she is on her way home from school. Yesterday my mother confessed that she can't figure out how to play DVD's in her DVD player. The seven year old has been spared this embarrassing and frustrated inadequacy by virtue of access to The Virtues of Television.

I'm not the only parent who has come to this conclusion; Jeff Vogel of Irony Central likes that TV shows encourage kids to play with toys (at least TV-themed toys):
Thomas the Tank Engine was invented by the Reverend W. Audry, a British minister, to amuse his son. The series shows every sign of having been invented by someone who believes in a vengeful God. It details the adventures of a bunch of intelligent (sort of) trains, who drag shit around under the harsh direction of Sir Topham Hatt, their master and overlord.

My favorite thing about the series, when I can stand to watch it, is the way the trains are cruelly punished for their transgressions. At the beginning of one episode, three trains are being released from the sheds, where Sir Topham Hatt has locked them for several days for misbehaving. The depiction of a world where the naughty can be punished with several days in the closet makes this series pure porn for parents.

Also, the series has an amusing, retro attitude towards the ladies. Female trains are generally crabby, annoying, and dragged around by the boy trains, who are the active ones who have all the adventures. It’s sort of like Harry Potter, but with trains.

At the heart of it, though, despite all of its supposed good intentions, PBS or not, Thomas the Tank Engine is a marketing vehicle. It’s Pokemon for two year-olds. It has dozens of characters: trains, helicopters, busses, other trains, and you can buy all of them. And you will. Thomas got my innocent little girl to start asking for stuff all the time. “Daddy, buy me Thomas a little, please?” Thanks, PBS!


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