Thursday, February 02, 2006

This from a man who never changes his clothes and plays with elves.

As you may have gathered by now, I'm not a particularly PC person (commence eye rolling and snorting and so on), and as such, old children's' books and tv specials don't offend me. They probably should, right? With all those messed up gender, racial and socio-economic stereotypes. But my thought has always been, I grew up surrounded by all that nonsense, and I turned out okay, right? Okay, already! Enough of the eye-rolling and tsk-tsking...

Now here's my dilemma. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is so horrifically prejudiced I can't watch it without crying out in indignation. Here's a sample:

  • When Rudolph is born, his dad Donner's eyes go all stop-animation googly and he freaks out at the sight of his red nose. Santa comes in, sees the nose and freaks out as well. Donner says, "I'm sure it'll stop as soon as he grows up." Santa says, "Well, let's hope so if he wants to make the sleigh team someday."
  • After Santa sings his song, he leaves and Donner gets angry/sad at the state of Rudolph's nose. He scrapes up some dirt and smears it on Rudolph's nose and says, "Here - you'll be a normal little buck just like everyone else!" Rudolph balks at having dirt smeared on his face and his dad scowls and says, "Now now, you'll get used to it."
  • Later, when Rudolph is trying out for the sleigh team his nose disguise falls off, and the other reindeer cower in fright (again with the stop-animation googly eyes). They taunt and yell derogatory names at him. Rudolph, shaken, yells "Stop calling me names!!" but can barely be heard above the crowd.
  • Then Cupid, the coach sees Rudolph's nose and says, "From now on Rudolph can not join in any reindeer games."

Well, you know the rest. Rudolph saves the (foggy) day and then he's accepted and becomes an icon of Christmas. BUT, What The Fuck?? The whole premise is that it's okay to treat someone with a physical difference like ass, UNLESS that difference is useful and validated by some patriarchal figure. It really pisses me off, and when I pointed out to Madeleine how shitty everyone is to Rudolph before they saw that his shiny noise could do something for them, she caught on immediately. In fact, she helped me make a list of Mean Things That Happen to Rudolph before I wrote this. Now when she watches it, she calls out to me when it's time to be angry, like some kind of kiddie drinking game.

It's sad that this is what it takes to make someone like me realize what the fuss is about when it comes to PC-ness, and I still think a lot of it is over-the-top, but Madeleine and I are going to read and watch stuff differently now. In fact, I'm bristling at the thought of old Richard Scary word books in which all of the "hard-working" jobs are taken by men. Sheesh! Okay, now you can eye-roll and snort again.


Blogger Dawn said...

Plus all the TERRIBLE sterotypes about "being a girl".

I though I was going to die the first time I watched it with Emily. Then I felt like a shit for wanting to show it to her.

2/02/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Harridan said...

Wow, I never realized that about Richard Scarry, but you're right! Damn.

2/02/2006 12:00 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

I have all the Richard Scary Puzzletown sets except Huckle Cat's Cottage (which I'd pay big money for, if anyone knows where to get it). The only female that held any kind of a job (hard-working or not) that I can remember was Nurse Nellie.

They're still great toys, though. One of the few that are fun for adults, too!

2/02/2006 12:47 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

"Now when she watches it, she calls out to me when it's time to be angry, like some kind of kiddie drinking game."

LMAO! *Deep Breath* LMAO! Thank you. I really really needed that today.

2/02/2006 12:57 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

Look, I had a debate with someone just last night about whether the Smurfs were really communists. You know what really pissed me off? I love the Smurfs. I wish I could watch them still. I didn't overanalyze them, I just really enjoyed their antics.

Obviously if you think the message something is sending is wrong then you should either turn it off or explain to your child why you disagree with it. But I think too many times we overanalyze things and force that on kids.

I LOVED Richard Scarry growing up and didn't feel any inferiority as a female because of it. I also love Smurfette, even though some might call her the Smurf Village Whore who had no substance beyond her looks. Kids are not adults, they don't get messages on the same level we do.

And the Smurfs weren't commies, damn it!

2/02/2006 1:04 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

I LOVE that you made a list with her. That seems like the best approach to a cartoon that kids obviously love and have loved for decades, but is clearly not sending the best message.
Will you be my parenting mentor someday?

2/02/2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Sure teebs, but as we were making the list, Quinn had nearly scooted his little high chair seat off of the kitchen counter. Yeah, not so smart mommy. And Madeleine chastised me for it too!

I agree about the overanalyzing, Jaye, but I also don't want Madeleine to think some particulary egregious behaviour seen in the media is acceptable (i.e., making fun of "different" people unless they serve a purpose) and I intend to point it out when I see it.

I don't feel inferior because the police officers were all men in my books, but I admit when I think of doctors/lawyers/firefighters my mental image is always male. I want to nip that in the bud, but I'll try to do it without drawing so much attention to it.

2/02/2006 1:54 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

I always point stuff like that out. Given that I'm the only woman in our house, I feel it's my job to make my sons/husband see how prevalent the patriarchal spin is.

Television is a big culprit in promoting the idea that men are really what the world is all about and that a woman's presence on the planet is really just that of a helpful minor player whose job it is to make sure that the man's time on the planet is fun-filled and productive. When the credits roll in the movie of life, men get all the starring roles. Women are the gaffers and grips...just there to make them feel GOOD about themselves.

2/02/2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

Wait, Smurfette had no substance behind her looks? Her LOOKS? Was blue IN? Gosh, I always miss the boat on this fashion-stuff. No wonder I couldn't get any dates in high school!

2/02/2006 2:56 PM  
Blogger Arabella said...

At the risk of sounding backwards and ungrateful, after a week like this one, I think being a woman without a meaningful career and living in a town in which people drive pickle cars might not be the worst thing in the world. Plus, Lowly Worm is sacred to me!

I tried watching the Smurfs about 4 or 5 years ago. It moved so fast that it was incomprehensible. I can't believe I used to understand it when I was a child.

2/02/2006 4:06 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

I may not be a sensitive to it because I have a son and he's not really old enough to watch shows that reinforce those sterotypes. I mean, his favorite show is Dora, which is pretty empowering when it comes to females.

2/02/2006 4:18 PM  
Anonymous roo said...

I was also angry about the poor Abominable Snowman. He was in his own environment, they were the intruders, but he was still de-fanged and ultimately lobotomized into an ornament-hanging Christmas drone.

Damned elf imperialists!

2/02/2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I know a lot of little boys that dig Dora. I'm sorry, but the big square hair? And the constant high-pitched exclaiming of the obvious? Dora makes my ears bleed. But the boys, they are liking the Dora, no?

Smurfs used to bother me, mostly because of Gargamel. Such a lame, OCD bad guy. And a bad guy with a cat as his evil sidekick. Whatever!

2/02/2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

I just noticed, thisyear, how awful Santa is in this show. Seriously, he is a jackass...telling Rudolph to hide and not to play with the other reindeer. I cringe at is sometimes. I ask my kids if what he is doing is nice, but I never made a list. That is a good idea.

2/02/2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

Wow. I feel kinda like a moron. I've never noticed anything like this before. Er, wait. I noticed that The Flinstones were a bit sexist.

2/03/2006 5:13 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I suppose your going to start picking on the Cat in the Hat next??? Is nothing sacred?

2/03/2006 6:01 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

The Flinstones! At least Betty and Wilma were the brainiacs of the show and not relegated to some dumb-ass housewife role. Hey - kind of like Bewitched.

I didn't see Cat in the Hat, but I heard it was unsettling and little bizarre (was the Cat hitting on the mom at some point?). Madeleine, of her own free will, decided the Cat was annoying and children were wimpy, so we've only had to suffer through the book once. Green eggs and ham, on the other hand... I love Doctor Seuss, but was he dropping acid or something?

2/03/2006 6:47 AM  
Anonymous 1 of 2 Dads in Dresden said...

Our daughter loves Dora. She often does the "we did it" dance after some accomplishment. We have some DVD's from the US with Dora in English throwing in little those Spanish nuggets (botanas?). Here in Deutschland she speaks excellent German, and throws in nuggets of English (and the "we did it" song remains "auf Englisch" too).

Alas when Dora uses the magic music box and sings "oingi, boingi, boingi, bing we'll get these rocks to sing" the damned lyrics become stuck in my mind. Sure it teaches the giant rocks to sing, but it remains painfully lodged in my head like some seed between the teeth.

Smurfs had an awesome score. Real classical music gems on a Saturday cartoon. How cool is that?

I always felt a certain empathy for Rudolph... Of course I tend to see the foggy eve as more of a coming out experience for that flaming red nose.

and Santa was definitely handing out the "don't worry, it's only a phase" advice.

Curious how anyone else's oppression can be so readily interpreted in terms of your own.

2/03/2006 7:03 AM  
Blogger Orange said...

Richard Scarry does have a few gainfully employed women. There's one book where there are a coupla pigs who deliver the mail—everyone's writing letters to each other because the phone system's down—one mail carrier's a boar and one's a sow. And then there's one where one of the ongoing stories is Officer Flossie's pursuit of Dingo Dog, who wreaks automotive mayhem. And she's doing it without backup, too.

2/03/2006 7:43 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

Smurfette wasn't a Smurf. Smurfs are all male.... Which leads to an interesting breeding question. Are they Asexual? Do they pop out of mushrooms? Anyway. Gargamel created her as a trap for the Smurfs. Papa Smurf made her more, "smurfy" once she proved she wasn't all evil.

The Flinstones were rebels in their time, one of the only "couples" shown sleeping in the same bed. That's gotta count for something. :)

2/03/2006 8:39 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

tink, I gotta ask... where you even born when Smurfs came out??

2/03/2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

Of course we must keep in mind that the Flintstones is set in the Stone Age. It was quite progressive given the time in which it was set.

2/03/2006 9:02 AM  
Anonymous LetterB said...

I think it's great that you're teaching Madeleine to think critically and not just accept things at face value. A very important life skill. My favorite part of Rudolph is the Misfit Toys. I always love the part when they find children who love them and accept them for who they are. Ditto with the elf dentist (which i still think is a coded story about a gay elf).

Richard Scarry books were my first experience with the guilty pleasure. My mom disapproved of them vehemently because they were so sexist but I loved them beyond reason. (Arabella, my son's nickname is Lowly Worm - one of the secret reasons we named him Lowell was so I could call him that).

2/03/2006 9:14 AM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

Gargamel created Smurfette as a trap? I missed THAT episode.

Next you're going to be telling me Bullwinkle and Nastasha conceived Rocky the Flying Squirrel when Boris wasn't home!

ARGHHH...STOP IT...You're making me question my whole childhood!

2/03/2006 9:37 AM  

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