Bubble Guppies, you’re on notice
American kids are falling behind in math and science. Here’s why: the TV program Bubble Guppies is letting our kids down when it comes to understanding the laws of physics.
Look, I dropped physics in high school. You know that law that tells you the rate of speed at which something is dropping? Well, I dropped it real fast according to that law. But I can tell you what: Bubble Guppies allows all sorts of things to be going on underwater that just physically CAN’T happen underwater.
I get, for the sake of art, one must often take a leap of faith, and accept certain fictional worlds have their own sets of rules. I know bunnies don’t talk, but on Max & Ruby they do (I still don’t like you, Ruby!). I know that community college study groups aren’t generally as tight as they are on Community, but for the sake of a good show, I’m willing to accept that as reality.
But on Bubble Guppies, there are no laws at all. They make a big show in the opening credits that the program is going to happen underwater: when the screen fills with H2O behind the title, my little one commences a fit of glee. Then after that, it’s all willy-nilly. The Guppies swim around, but they can also sit or fall on the ground whenever they feel like it. They can place objects on surfaces and they don’t float away. That’s not how it works in the pool, little Johnny! And let’s not try it.
And the most egregious flouting of physics comes in today’s brand-new episode: the Guppy world has a FIRE BRIGADE! REALLY? Where do they get the water from to put out all those fires? I couldn’t think! I haven’t seen the episode yet (and I assure you – I soon will) but I bet they skirt the issue by doing something dumb and safe by rescuing a kitten from a magical underwater tree. And I bet the fish-kitten won’t figure out that he can just swim out of the tree. We’ll see.
I guess they want to ease preschoolers into the hard facts of life: that gravity exists. That what goes up must come down. But like a lot of kids’ shows today, I think they take it a little too easy on children – they can handle a bit more than we give them credit for. On the episode I saw earlier today, one of the kids is sad he can’t dig up dinosaur skeleton on his own. Because he’s allergic to dirt! Dust clouds make him SNEEZE underwater! But by the end, just when he’s feeling so so down, he sneezes and the breeze that this stirs up (…) causes a huge dirt wall to fall, revealing a perfect triceratops skeleton! And then the paleontologist, who presumably spent years developing a career just to carefully and slowly achieve such a goal, does a dance of congratulation for the Guppy and everyone is so proud. Because he “finally” (as he says) found his dream fossil! After twenty whole minutes! What does that teach our kids? Nothing, that’s what.
It’s a sweet show and it really tries, in a very contrived way, to be inclusive and encouraging, which I appreciate. But I don’t mind a kids’ show with some teeth – baby teeth. Have you ever seen Shaun the Sheep? “He even mucks about with those who cannot bleat!” The sheepdog uses a clipboard to keep track of the sheep! See? That doesn’t obey the laws of biology, but it makes perfect sense!