Children’s Shows are Weird (Part III)

Writer’s Note: If you want to know where this all came from, check out the first part here and the second part here. If you want to read the third part, just crane your head slowly downward.

With that out of the way, on to more weirdness.

daniel-tiger2
“This is food to you guys? Weird.”

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” I can’t believe I went so long without hearing about this show. Surprisingly, it’s a side continuation of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” – a show many adults now grew up watching. The only real difference is that it’s a cartoon, is set in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, and is objectively terrifying if you think about it for more than a few minutes.

Sure. It seems harmless enough. And as a parent, I appreciate a show that focuses a lot on feelings whereas most are telling kids how to use objects or learn numbers or letters. Except, you know, the feeling they should be talking about is fear. Of tigers.

Half the episodes I saw involved one inconvenience or another befalling Daniel Tiger. And every time he was kept waiting when he wanted to go to the music store or scraped a knee or told to be quiet, I just kept expecting him to lose it and start killing everyone around him. Because that’s what tigers do when various meal-sized piles of meat try to teach them life lessons through adversity and hardship.

And yeah, yeah. I know. “It’s just a children’s show! It’s not meant to be taken seriously,” you say, rolling your eyes at my third column in a row on the same subject.

“Who are you? Show yourself! Why can I hear you!?” I call back. “And why is our conversation being dictated in my column! I’m starting to get really weirded out by all this,” I say, because I enjoy a good bit of meta-humor as much as the next guy.

Constant interruptions aside, though, that’s not how kids see it. My kid, in particular, is generally shielded from notions like the fact that most things in nature would like to kill him or at least give him a solid mauling. That’s why when we went to the zoo I didn’t tell him that the gray wolves could be bloodthirsty killers (especially if you tried to teach them to calm down by singing). And then he promptly brought home a stuffed wolf from the gift shop that he named “Puppy” and regularly gives kisses.

But okay. Let’s forget all that pesky murder. Luckily, there’s another particularly weird aspect of the show – politics.

As you may or may not remember from the Mr. Rogers’ era, the Neighborhood is run by King Friday. In the Daniel Tiger era, he’s still King (though no longer a hand puppet) and has two sons. In short, he’s built himself a strong dynasty despite living in a Kingdom the size of a Wal-Mart parking lot. With similar wildlife.

Daniel Tiger regularly plays with the youngest Prince like he’s just another kid. And sure, it’s nice that the royal family would rub elbows with the common folk. You know, until the Prince stays over for a slumber party, trips, cuts his cheek and the host family is put to death for causing harm to a Prince.

Except maybe not, since the host family is tigers.

The two major problems with the show intersect quite nicely in the episode where a group of children are playing a version of musical chairs with a smaller and smaller number of sleeping bags. Another bag is removed at the end of each round until, finally, everyone is left with a single sleeping bag to leap onto when the music stops. The result is that the Prince and Daniel Tiger end up on the bottom of a dog pile. And while there were no negative consequences whatsoever, I expect a horrible outcome every time that episode comes on.

daniel-tiger

And if anyone survived, they’re tried for treason by a very angry King.

See what I mean? The King who’s willing to walk among his subjects seems great. But if history tells us anything, it’s that the best way for commoners to stay on the King’s good side was to stay as far from him as possible. Preferably on the opposite side of a wall. Or at least a very tall bale of hay.

The only reason half the people in Europe weren’t offending one monarch or another was that they were never within walking distance of one another. Now imagine your King is always just hanging out and chatting with you. And you’re just nodding and smiling and trying not to mention how you wish he’d address these constant tiger attacks by doing more than just making them wear people clothes.

Also, I’m skeptical of even fantasy worlds where people regularly break into song, random strangers seem to know the words and no one thinks it’s strange. But in the grand scheme of this show, I suppose it’s a minor quibble comparatively.

sesame-street
Not Pictured: Smoke.

“Sesame Street.” Since I’m pretty sure they turned on the first television and this show was already in its sixth season somehow, there’s a lot of ground to cover here. And rather than do an in-depth look at every single troubling thing about this show, I’ll just distill it down to a single point, save myself six months of writing and you half that in reading.

The cold days are coming soon and I must gather wood for fire.

What’s the deal with the Count, anyway? I’ve heard a lot of excuses ranging from “he’s a friendly vampire” to “there’s no proof he was actually meant to be a vampire at all.” And to at least one these I say, “Well…no.”

He’s clearly a vampire. He’s not just really, really Eastern European. For one, our skin is more olive than purple. For another, he’s got vampire fangs. And for…nevermind. I’m not doing this. He’s clearly just a vampire.

And yes, obviously, he’s friendly. I don’t have any real curiosity as to why he doesn’t regularly devour other members of the cast to feed his insatiable blood lust. It’s a kids’ show. By which I mean…I assume he’s held onto to a tiny shred of his humanity and refuses to give it up by killing those he loves.

All I’m really wondering is how he can just stroll around in broad daylight. Since he already doesn’t do anything else a vampire does, having him be one and not avoid sunlight is kind of the last straw. At that point, I can only picture Jim Henson showing off some character sketches to a producer who asks why the Count has a to be a vampire at all. And Henson just sort of shrugs and say, “I don’t know. I sort of like the cape, I guess.”

Having someone be a vampire without any characteristics of a vampire is like me claiming to be an Olympic medalist. And when someone asks if they can see the medal I’d just shake my head and say, “No, no. I’m not that kind of Olympic medalist.”

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