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Posts tagged ‘kids tv’

A beginner’s guide to Anglophilia

The first bite of pasta and tomato sauce for an Italian-American baby is a momentous event. This is what they’ve been building toward since birth: getting past the milk and mush to a plate of macaroni. My Italian-American baby, C, had his first bite of the stuff at a wedding in a country house in England. And this was exactly how I wanted it to be: a perfect marriage of his inevitable upbringing, with a little bit of balm on the raging case of Anglophilia I’ve had since I was a teenager. Can we blame Morrissey? Maybe, I don’t remember when it started. But it remains.

So when our good friends were getting married in Devon, we popped onto a plane to Heathrow with a nine-month-old C. Along with a car seat, and case; stroller, and case; diapers, clothes, a bear and an extra bear. He squirmed and cried in a strange baby hammock given to us by Virgin Atlantic, which was hooked onto the bulkhead wall. People walked by and grimaced. But we made it. And it was all worth it when I pushed him out into his first bit of British air: the sandwich aisle inside the airport Marks and Spencer where I immediately ate a well-deserved egg and bacon sandwich. I swear I love England for those triangle sandwiches alone. They know exactly their worth; they’re not trying to be heroes.

On the way to Devon we stopped at Stonehenge so C could commune with representatives of his ancestry: German tourists. We had come dressed for our idea of English spring: cozy tea behind rain-fogged pub windows. But the sky in the Salisbury Plain was perfect blue, stretching on cloudlessly without end. C covered his eyes with his blanket, and I listened to the audiofuhrer, as the Germans call it.

Cheap sunglasses at bright Stonehenge.

In Devon before the wedding we stayed at a thatched cottage with friends. I mean, really. It was awesome. In the early morning, before everyone else was awake, I fed C Tesco-bought baby fruit from those little squeeze packs that we didn’t have in the US then. It was a wonder. I squeezed and looked past him at the sun coming up over sloping fields, and far-off forests that probably held fairy cottages and cairns. Or not – I couldn’t hike that far with a baby on my back. But even in more reachable places like the patio, the pub, the village church, or Tesco…oh please let me put in this Wordsworth quote – even though if you read the whole thing it doesn’t really fit: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,/But to be young was very heaven!”

For the wedding, we dressed C in a seersucker suit and took pictures of him with a fascinator on his head. I wanted to wear one myself, but I knew I couldn’t; people from Long Island can’t wear feathers or insects on their heads and not look like they made far too much of an effort. Look here’s Kate Middleton laughing: ah heh heh ha! ha! ha! Oh, it’s all just too grand being you.

The England that I love, that I imagine, and that I see (or choose to see) when I get to go there, is something I can only peer at from outside a window. In fact, as someone said to me at breakfast the day after the wedding, as I tried to open a leaded window in the dining room of the impossibly beautiful Elizabethan estate that we were so lucky to stay in: “Careful, that window is older than America.” Duly noted.

Windows older than America.

I think that remark sums up what I find so beguiling about Englishness or what I, as an American, perceive as Englishness. First off, that was a quick, funny remark; it’s why I love British comedy television so much I’ll admit membership to New Hampshire Public Television’s Britwit Club. But it’s also emblematic of how the English, unlike we here, live in the shadow of a long history – a history that gives England a rich culture and community life: quaint Medieval villages around a green, gnarled hedgerows, listed homes, Iron Age remains by the layby, the local pub, a rich language for Americans to destroy…Ordnance Survey maps. Anthony Trollope. Only Fools and Horses. But with the legacy comes the stewardship of it: living up to its glories, facing up to its wrongs, keeping the best of it alive while trying to move forward. I don’t mean to dissect the entire English psyche here, and I don’t think that the person who made that joke to me was getting at some huge meaning, I am just saying that perhaps part of being English means sacrificing a little bit of yourself to maintain that history. Stiff upper lip and all that. Choosing to schvitz, say, rather than risk breaking the lovely old window. Unless you’re Kate Middleton. Then you can do whatever you want and people call you a duchess. No, I’m not jealous.

I think this is why in a lot of great English TV comedies (which is where I get many of my ideas about England, for better or for worse), there is such a strong sense of irony – the people in these shows aspire to better lives, higher things, more money or status, but those attempts are foolish, to be mocked. Look at Basil Fawlty trying to put on a “gourmet night” at his sad little seaside hotel. Look at Del Boy Trotter, who says, poignantly, “This time, next year, we’ll be millionaires!” but he never (quite) makes it out of Peckham. There’s the ridiculous Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet), Blackadder, David Brent, Edina Monsoon…on and on.

Meanwhile, in America, it’s all meritocracy, the sky’s the limit! The road stretches on forever! You can be anything you want to be, darn it! President? Astronaut? Go for it! It’s what we tell our kids, and look at the TV shows that are produced here for children. So few of the kids on them are typical; most of them are extraordinary. Look at Big Time Rush, Hannah Montana, iCarly, even Dora the Explorer: everyone’s a rock star of some kind or another (this is why I prefer Caillou). It’s an impossibly positive message, it’s the vastness of land and mind that this country is built on, which is great…but it’s annoying, isn’t it? Because, and I think the English know this, one in a million of us will make it to some higher eschelon, fame, fortune, whatever we determine to be outsized success, but most of us? Won’t. Which is fine. And in the face of that, you need to take comfort, more than comfort, pleasure, in everyday things: a cup of tea, a good joke, a well-done day of work in whatever it is that you do. We all have dreams, of course, we all want to be as good as we can be, and we should always try. The British themselves have achieved a bit of success over the years. And I’m not saying in London jigs of glee are being danced every day at elevenses. But look how happy they look on TV when someone brings them a cuppa! That’s nice.

Anyway, there’s got to be a halfway between the UK and USA in this way of thinking. That you can dream but not let the dreams overtake you. What’s halfway? The middle of the ocean? No, look at the Titanic. Canada? Have they got it figured out? I don’t know, ask Caillou.

So back to the kid. When C’s off being president of the United States of the Moon, how will be remember his dear old mother and her fondness for the English way of life? How will he build on those first experiences of British sun and pasta coursing through his little body in those tender years? After the wedding dinner (in England, do you call it a “wedding breakfast” even if it takes place at dinnertime?), he went up to his crib while we danced to Parklife in the old hall, the baby monitor straining to transmit through ancient stone. And then it was time to go home.

On the flight back to Boston, desperate to stop him crying so that we (and everyone aboard) could have a peaceful flight, we jettisoned the baby hammock, propped him up in his car seat, and turned on the seatback television. We discovered Pocoyo, and he watched a string of episodes whilst shoveling Virgin America pasta and tomato sauce into his face. Now that’s his first AND second bowls of pasta outside driving distance of Flatbush Avenue. But it worked. And he discovered a show that he loved, narrated by Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry (left) as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie a...

Stephen Fry (left) as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster in the TV series Jeeves and Wooster. (Wikipedia)

Like the Italian language, I think it can only do him good to get the tones of Stephen Fry in his young ears. Pocoyo is a Spanish children’s show, narrated in translation by Fry. Against a white backdrop, Pocoyo and his animal friends (including Pato, the fussy duck) have a series of silly adventures. It’s sweet – a sort of whimsical Caillou, that Fry enhances with a gentle wit. It’s just fun, none of the characters have Grammys or their own talk shows. And when he is a little older (but not much), together we’ll read my favorite English author, P.G. Wodehouse, and watch Fry and the incredible Hugh Laurie portray Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Why? That deserves its own blog post. To come. In the meantime, I know Fry’s voice can pull C out of a cranky mood, which I understand. It’s what I do to stop myself from crying sometimes. I turn to Fry, Laurie, to Wodehouse, and to the comforts of an imaginary England.

I like to think, maybe even in England, there is someone that might find some romance in the place that we live. I hope so. That would make me feel less like running away to run a post office in a small village in the Cotswolds. Maybe someone there wants to come see Mass. Ave., that looks so straight and dreary to me, full of nail salons, pizza parlors and CVS stores – and find some beauty in it. The streak of Paul Revere as he rode to Lexington, say, or the start of a western trail that blazes across a country, full of hope, without limits. I don’t know, maybe I can squint and see that myself. I’ll keep admiring those worn old colonial route markers that pop up along the way. I’ll drive out of my way to pass them, and pretend they’re Stonehenge.

Oh no, I accidentally broke up the Wiggles

So, do you think Sam Moran is in the Outback somewhere, in a dressing room of a traveling production of South Pacific, laughing like this: “Mwah-ha-ha-ha. Ha.” That’s right, the Wiggles broke up.

English: The Wiggles performing at the MCI Cen...

Drive on, Big Red Car. Photo by Anthony Arambula  (Wikipedia)

According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, just a few short months after announcing Sam’s sh*tcanning and Greg Page’s triumphant return to the band, Murray, Jeff, and Greg are leaving the Wiggles. For good. The word down under is that the negative reaction to the last yellow-skivvy transfer was too much for them to bear, and they felt it was time to retire. An “insider” said, according to the Daily Telegraph: “Murray and Jeff are getting older and they’ve been thinking about this (retirement) for ages. And Greg is still a very sick man. The ill feeling towards them after Sam left really pushed them to do it. They felt ‘What’s the point in going on after all this?’, they’re all millionaires anyway so why would they? They don’t exactly need to.”

After 30 Rock sent up the Wiggles a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the group and their machinations of late. I compared them to Oasis. And well, look now.

That “ill feeling”? That’s me! I don’t mean to take credit for the downfall of a international kiddie phenomenon, but literally dozens of readers in Australia (thank you Word Press blog stats page) read my post, and look at the result!  Didn’t think I had that much of an impact on Australian preschool band affairs. Wow. I even tweeted my post to @sammoran and he never responded. Which I take, considering my little joke about not buying his album, to mean “F*ck you,” or the Australian equivalent. Fair dinkum? Fair dinkum, indeed.

And fair dinkum to the Wiggles. Greg and Jeff have some illnesses that they clearly need to recover from. And they are all going to “spend some time with their families,” which I know is true, of course, but it’s also what you say when you’re a politician and you don’t want to say why you are really quitting your post. I wonder if we’ll ever know just how it all went down, beneath the hood of the Big Red Car.

And may I further say DID I NOT CALL IT when I said the Wiggles were all about Anthony Field? Because guess who’s the last man standing? I told you he was running the show! He’s going to continue on in the band, the undisputed leader, at the helm of three newbies in his grasp, with a back-up chorus probably made up entirely of his nieces, nephews, dentist’s roommate’s cousin, etc. And the others are going to remain at Wiggles HQ. Translation: stopping in to collect royalty checks. Maybe an occasional, impromptu jam session of “Move Your Arms Like Henry,” if the ill-will level is low. Who knows.

It is nice to see, though, that they chose a woman to wear yellow. For one, it helps disassociate the yellow skivvy from the nastiness of the recent hand-off, and for two, how refreshing to see a woman take center stage with the Wiggles while not being trapped inside a giant dinosaur suit. Though she doesn’t need that crazy hair bow they’ve given her; we know she’s a lady. Can I also add another of my own opinions, while wholesale changes are being made, Wiggles Pty Ltd.? In your future television programming, can you drop all the green-screen and CGI and go back to filming your videos in random locations all around Sydney? Like some weird little beach or the side of the road? I kind of liked that. Fair dinkum.

But OH NO this isn’t actually what I wanted! No! This isn’t how I intended to use my great blogging power! To be the Yoko Ono of the Wiggles? No no no! No more Fruit Salad! No more Wags the Dog! What about Sprout’s Wiggly Waffle (though they were pretty much phoning it in there)? Murray’s guitar?  Who’s going to wake up Jeff if he falls asleep behind the wheel of a car again? I’m sorry, children! I’m sorry, Australia! I’m sorry, children of Australia!

And what about the collateral damage? Has anyone thought of Captain Feathersword? Is he going to be OK? What’s going to happen to him? I’m sorry, Captain Feathersword! And somebody keep an eye on that overexcited Wiggly dancer from so many of the videos! Those who know, know of whom I speak. A lot of big dance moves, and (even for the Wiggles) a lot of mugging for the camera. I commend his enthusiasm, but he appeared like he was angling pretty hard for the top job when Greg left. And now that the new Wiggles have been announced, and he’s not one of them? Well, you’ve been warned, A. Field.

Paul Paddick who plays as Captain Feathersword...

Are you OK, Captain Feathersword? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for Sam, the Daily Telegraph says, “Moran hasn’t spoken to any of his former bandmates since he was axed. He is negotiating a deal to do his own kids TV show and is expected to announce his plans any day.” Go get ‘em, Sam! Stick it to those rainbow-colored Gallagher brothers.

So good-bye, Wiggles. I don’t know if we’ll be on board for their next incarnation – the family member currently in their demographic has got it pretty bad for the Bubble Guppies (blast them!) and that’s about it. But still, I have to thank them. My older son really loved them, and I was fond of them, too. The Wiggles gave my older son a nice introduction to music, and me a few peaceful moments, when he was younger. And they’ll live forever in our DVD player; C cannot ride in a car to New York without watching Wiggle Bay at some point. I don’t know why that DVD in particular. With the barbie on the beach and the lady in the mermaid suit.

I’ll leave you with my top three Wiggles songs to remember the good ol’ days. One of them will now be stuck in your head all day. Mwah. Ha. Ha.

“Can You (Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist?)”

“Rock-a-Bye Your Bear”

“Bow Wow Wow”

Mad Men: Caillou for grown-ups

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue

Don Draper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s just a guy who’s 40. Each day, it’s debatable whether or not he grows (emotionally) some more. He used to like whoring, he’s Don Draper.

I love Mad Men, but I know that a lot of people don’t. The main reason being, according to my very unscientific research, is that the pace is too slow. You know which other show people hate for being to slow? Caillou. See my earlier post on the vitriol that Caillou inspires in parents. Or don’t; to sum up, many parents think the show is boring because very little happens. It’s a four-year-old boy going about his day. My response: the show is not for you, parents. It’s for the child, who gets taken in seeing his or her own experiences reflected on TV. They are engrossed so we can go off and do something else for 20 minutes. Like read a recap of Mad Men on EW.com.

True, the pace of Mad Men seems slow. It’s not 24, nor is it meant to be. The show isn’t littered with car chases, hostage crises, or melodrama (although that was some good action last week, when Lane…you know what, I’m not going to spoil it. I know it can sit on a DVR for the better part of a week. But it was pretty exciting!). It’s like Caillou for grown-ups; its languid pace allows adults to see themselves in the events of the lives of these intricately developed characters. I can lose myself in the show, and sometimes laugh, and sometimes feel uncomfortable, because I can relate on some level to many of the struggles of  Joan, Peggy, Betty, or even Pete Campbell (though probably not Bert Cooper or Roger Sterling), trying to figure out their roles and lives, just as Caillou does when he struggles at school or gets pissed off at those twins who live next door. There may not be a lot of fireworks on either show, but this inner turmoil shining through is what keeps you riveted – in a preschooler way or in an adult way. Are you telling me Caillou didn’t have major inner t . when he got freaked out by his creepy neighbor? Who turned out to be just a doll after all?

Mad Men works this way on a macro level as well; I am not old enough to match the age of any of the characters on the show (Don Draper is about the same age as my grandfather, who pounded the streets of New York at roughly the same time), but it is fascinating to watch the events of a decade that formed such an important part of our national consciousness today. Let’s see, can I draw a parallel about Caillou? Is Caillou macro in any way? A Canadian way maybe? Nah, better not push the analogy too hard.

Update on Caillou, for all the haters

UPDATE: someone on Facebook posted, in response to this blog post, this article from Wired, about how SpongeBob SquarePants hampers the executive function of preschoolers immediately after watching. And what’s the control group? That’s right, haters: Caillou. According to this study, Caillou has the same effect on preschoolers’ brains as no TV at all! It’s like they’re doing nothing, just like on the show!

I agree with the writer’s statement that this study has limited value because it doesn’t show long-term detriments (and with the article in general: e.g., four-year-olds are too young for SpongeBob), but, science aside, in my opinion, shows with a slower pace, like Caillou, or Max & Ruby (RUBY!), must make better viewing for little children, because they force them to focus on one idea for a relatively extended period of time (as they must in executive play), rather than be bounced back and forth like a pinball between several (ridiculous) ideas, like on SpongeBob.

So even though one episode of Caillou feels like it goes on forever because the pace is so slow, I think that’s what makes it a pretty good show for little kids. I’m not saying I want to will Caillou to life so I can hang out with him and take him to Chuck E. Cheese or whatever, I’m just saying he’s pretty good.

In defense of Caillou

Caillou (character)

Caillou. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s just a kid who’s four. So why does everyone hate Caillou? Rather, why does every parent I know hate Caillou? And don’t even read the comments on Caillou videos on YouTube. They’re vicious! I won’t even link to them.

What are the complaints? He’s annoying. He’s whiny. He’s a goody-goody. He’s bald – why’s he bald? Click here to find out! Nothing interesting happens. Well, here’s a reality check! Except for the baldness, that pretty much sums up fourness (with an apology to my own little C)!

But though it can be a bit cloying, Caillou is a sweet, simple, day-in-the-life of a preschooler done in primary colors. And it’s hard, I think, for children’s TV to hold a mirror up to the daily life of little kids without resorting to too many bells and whistles (like giving them fins, say, or a talking backpack). It’s a good thing that children see children on television as they really are: they get excited about little things, and angry about little things. They go to school, they get along or they don’t, their little siblings get in their way. They’re not mini rock stars or astronauts or explorers, they just dress up like them.

My own four-year-old loves Caillou, unless it’s one of those episodes where the teddy bear, the dino, and the cat come to life as live-action puppets. Then he checks out, and I think it’s because that fantasy element takes away from what is good about the show: it’s created a little world for Caillou in which little kids recognize their own experiences.

So, parents, leave Caillou alone! Actually except on two points. One: I’ll grant you the voice is not great. It is a little too obvious that it’s an adult, or much older child, doing a kid’s voice, in an overly cutesy, sing-songy way. I never forget that it’s not a little kid talking.

And two: Caillou taught my son the phrase “Are we there yet?” which is nearly unforgivable. Once he saw that episode where Caillou had to drive like twenty minutes into the big city to visit some friend of his mom’s, I started hearing that on every trip to the grocery store. I don’t need that. I already know it’s Caillou’s world, and I’m just living in it.

Follow up: Firefighter Bubble Guppies and a few notes on Fireman Sam

Even the Lego Fire Chief has an awesome grey mustache.

Did I call it or what?

Bubble Puppy got stuck up a tree and the Fire Department came to get him down. And Gill climbed up there (why didn’t he swim??) to be with him, looking all scared of heights. Well, Gill, why couldn’t you just swim down yourself, without using undersea taxpayer resources?

The most realistic detail of the firefighter-themed Bubble Guppies was the awesome grey mustache on the crab/fire chief. Fire chiefs must have awesome grey mustaches. Just look at a firefighter-themed show that does justice to the profession: Fireman Sam. The blowhard, yet loveable, Station Officer Steele has an incredible mustache.

This is a show for young children, but things get real in Pontypandy, Wales – just off the top of my head, say, Fireman Sam and his crew deal with: a school bus full of children teetering on a cliff; a child trapped under falling rocks on a beach; several people marooned at sea; heads stuck in railings (one of them was Station Officer Steele); road accidents, people lost in the wilderness without cell phones and, oh yeah, ACTUAL FIRES (at least Bubble Guppies didn’t have the nerve to set a fire under the sea…but then again I wasn’t watching that closely). All this was handled capably by Fireman Sam, sometimes on his day off. And all of it taught children that though the world can be dangerous, there are good people in your communities able to help you, and also, safety and common sense are important.

Fireman Sam is a pretty good show, albeit it ten minutes long (or maybe because it’s ten minutes long), but I think for an American audience it benefits from that inevitable sheen of class gained from British accents and quaint landscapes. In a sad way, I kind of like being immersed in this small town. I feel like I know the hippy Bronwyn, the dotty Dilys, the impish Norman Price, which gave me the time to wonder (next para for adults only, for you millions of kids reading this blog):

…I know Norman Price is a pain who deserves his constant comeuppance for causing all sorts of problems for Fireman Sam to solve, but don’t you think Sam is a little hard on him? He assumes the worst on sight. He deeply resents him…because…he is Sam’s own love child with the grocer Dilys. It all makes sense; think about it! Spend valuable brain cells thinking about this: Norman’s father?  We don’t know who he is, we never see him. Dilys gets all moony and lovelorn around Sam, always thinking of reasons to get him into her shop. And Norman and Sam? The only redheads in the town…

And now I have to go Fireman-Sam the baby off the stairs…

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!

[Please - it might not be the best joke in the world, but this essay is meant to be A JOKE - so if you cannot see this and are thinking of sending me a comment in which you explain to me that guess what? Barney the Dinosaur isn't real either, or I should find something better to worry about, please move on with your own life instead. I have gotten several of these comments and I am no longer going to post them, so feel free to advertise your inability to understand sarcasm elsewhere. This post was a first attempt at a humorous blog post after a long period of not writing - if you can do better,  go straight ahead]

Can we all just agree? Ruby stinks

Can we all just agree that Ruby from Max & Ruby is the worst? We’re all reasonable adults here. I watch the show, or I am present when someone else is watching the show. Quick wiki check: I’ve seen every episode. And can think of only ONE in which I feel that Ruby (who is a seven-year-old rabbit, in case you don’t know) is being ill-treated by her little brother Max. It’s the one where she’s trying to give him a bath and he keeps getting dirtier and dirtier. Fair play there, Ruby. You kept your head when Max was for once being really annoying.

I thought maybe it was the point-of-view of the show: we are meant to side with Max against his priggish, bossy, fastidious older sister. She constantly tries to hamper his fun, or get him out of the way so she can do lame stuff with her dorky friends or her Bunny Scout troop. She is a stickler for rules – overmuch – while Max, in the end,  prevails because of his intuition. What about when they have to put Baby Huffington down for a nap? First of all, who lets a seven- and a three-year-old put their baby down for a nap. That’s first.

But then, Ruby is being all uptight about it, thinking she knows what the baby wants, when Max just knows. He just understands. The cuckoo clock. Just like he knows a seven-and-a-HALF-year-old like Roger doesn’t want to play stupid croquet. He wants to play cars. You don’t know what’s best for everyone, Ruby. Listen to someone else for ONCE, just ONCE, for crying out loud.

These are unassailable arguments, right? It’s the intention of the show that we see that Max is just, and Ruby is a tiresome nag? But then I talked to my mother. Because that’s all we have to talk about, shows that our children and grandchildren watch. Shows that are five minutes long. “Ruby is the best,” she said. “She’s always trying to do right thing, and Max is just being a pain. Poor Ruby.” But then I realized, she has daughters, I have sons. Maybe a parent of girls has greater empathy for Ruby, say, and thus for all girls. And I like Max because of my own little boys. My mother has one granddaughter and four grandsons. “Even though she’s the oldest,” my mother said, “it still breaks my heart that little bit more to see J [the girl] cry.” While my heart, I admit, goes out just a tiny, tiny bit more to sad little boys.

But maybe it’s not just about gender. There are boys that act like Ruby and girls that act like Max. Of course. Maybe the parents on Team Ruby see their own kind of child in her, and the same goes for Team Max. So, maybe my mother sees not just a daughter in Ruby, but her own daughter…wait, this argument is starting to fall apart. Obviously Max & Ruby doesn’t bear close examination. Just forget it. Go play in the sandbox, Max. I’m busy.

 

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