Good versus evil. An age old question. Right now, it is a 5 year old’s question. Which TV characters are good and which are bad and why? My son is asking when he is good or bad. He seems to be trying to make a generalization by use of cartoon character examples.
But have you checked out kids’ TV lately?
Recently, the little guy watched an episode of Team Umizoomi. (What the heck happened to Joe from Blue’s Clues that he now plays a robot cartoon? I mean, I knew he was getting porky, and losing his youthful “cuteness” but cartoon robots?) If you know this show, then you know the “team” uses shapes and counting to create objects and solve problems for human children in Umi City.
The episode in question was “Team Umizoomi versus the Shape Bandit”. The “bandit” is a cat who steals shapes and the team’s “shape belt”. [The “bandit” reminds me of Dora the Explorer’s Swiper - also a weird cartoon character who is beloved, although he steals stuff and throws it away, and does such a bad job of it that Dora gets it back in less than 30 seconds. How lame is that?] Eventually, of course, the team gets the belt back, just in case you were worried.
The bandit confesses at the end that he just wanted to build himself a house in Umi City because his hideout is lonely. The team says he is not a “bad” guy after all, because he was “lonely”! In the end, all is forgiven but only after the team builds the house for the thief who then gives back the shape belt and all the other crap he’s stolen from all the innocent citizens of Umi City.
Really? What are these writers on? Is there a Vicodin glut amongst the kids’ show writers and they turn out this kind of story line? What is the moral of the story? I guess that it’s okay to steal if you’re lonely. Once everyone else figures out you’re just lonely, they will give you what you want, and you can just give back the other stuff you didn’t want in the first place. Wow. Good stuff, right?
Now, having watched this show, my son has a few questions. Often, T will ask a question by giving me a sentence with a question inflection in his voice like a professor, waiting for his students to fill in the blank. First, “Shape Bandit is a _____?” I have a few chosen selections for the blank he gives me to finish his sentence.
How about “manipulative thief”? No, he won’t get that. I’m debating how to answer while he repeats his question a few more times. He alters it a bit as he asks, “When Shape Bandit has the Shape Belt, he is being ______?” Hmm, is it being a petty theft or is he actually involved in grand theft? I guess the correct answer would be “criminal” or “felon” depending on the value of the shape belt. Little Tootles won’t get that either.
So, I just turned the question back around on him. His fill-in-the-blank was quite simple. “…he is being bad.” Then, we reach the hard part. I asked him why is he bad. He did not answer. I told him it was because Shape Bandit took something from someone else without them saying it was okay so that was “stealing”. He repeated “stealing”. Not sure he gets it.
I wonder how much of this the typical parents escape. I know that I’ve heard typical kids tell their parents how so-and-so was good or bad and what they did to earn that description in the telling child’s opinion. That is a lot of sophisticated information that those kids can pick up on that my child cannot.
My kid is busy trying to decide, as I write this post, whether his Dodge Challenger remote control car is good or bad. He often gives objects physiological needs (hunger, thirst, pain) and emotions but will exclude those attributes with people. It seems it’s almost like it’s too much to consider people to have these needs and emotions. It’s much easier to pretend that an object, which he can hold and control, can be good or bad. Then, he will talk to that object. The Dodge Challenger will not judge him, hurt him or talk back. He won’t have to read its emotions. He can assign it emotions and needs that he can pretend to fulfill or ignore if he wants.
Pretend is great practice. It’s almost like he is getting to that point where he is hauling around objects like ‘dolls’ (but they are cars for him) to practice for social encounters some day in the future. And how could that be a bad thing? He’s throwing a little dabble into philosophy in the mix as well.
Someday, he will learn that his Dodge Challenger can be used as an undercover cop car to go pick up the Shape Bandit writers and haul their cat-loving butts to jail for writing such a lousy script. Goodness, I hope he recognizes that same cop car can pick up Swiper and his inventor on that criminal round up too.