Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The other day I was changing channels (probably looking for the Barcelona game), when I stumbled upon an old episode of Dora the Explorer. I never thought I would say this, but I have missed little Dora, her cousin Diego, abuelo and the baby twins. Dora’s mother was always a benevolent, smiling figure, sending her strong daughter out into the world.

My kids have outgrown Dora and the other Nick Jr shows with the only exception of The Backyardigans, who by the way, absolutely rock! Literally. Their music is awesome.

Even though my two older children are tweens are the other two are in early elementary school, they have moved from fun, educational shows (did I just type fun and educational together? Yes, because I’m a nerd) to the other “trademark” Disney Channel shows. I’m talking about Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm, Austin and Ally and Shake it Up, to name just the more popular ones.

I never payed a ton of attention to them. The kids would watch TV in the family room while I did whatever I was doing. When I was a kid, I loved Blossom (who didn’t?), and I have watched high School Musical and Lemonade Mouth (my favorite Disney movie for TV. Awesome writing).

It wasn’t until my mom said something about Good Luck Charlie being a fun, cute show that I started watching it with the kids. And watching opened my ears, my eyes and my understanding.

Good luck Charlie is a fun, cute show.

Teddy, the older sister, is absolutely adorable, as is little Charlie. My kids are fascinated with the show because they have the same boy-girl-boy-girl-boy pattern as our family. Hey! They even just had a baby boy, Toby, exactly like us! The show is actually pretty funny.

What’s not funny is how the parents act. They’re absolute idiots. I was a kid once. I know that most times, kids reach an age when they think parents ARE idiots. I remember thinking my parents didn’t know anything. Years, experience, and motherhood taught me that I knew nothing, and boy do I worship the ground my sainted mother walks on! But that is now.

As a parent, I know I’m not always right. I make mistakes every day! But the decisions I make are out of love and concern. My kids are, after all, my life, the reason I wake up every morning and for which I do all I do. They’re my everything!

That’s why it bothered me so much to see Teddy’s mother acting like a teenager and getting into stupid situations to which the kids usually have to rescue her from. Teddy is the one who imparts the advice and sets limits on the mother! They usually compete over who’s better than who. The mother is constantly talking about how beautiful she is, how clever and funny and amazing.

The dad is a funny, blabbering idiot. He’s forever avoiding anything that would antagonize the wife, and being okay with everything as long as the family leaves him alone.

In the show, the parents are buddies with the kids, who are such brats, by the way.

I know that TV shows are for entertaining not educating. But, as I’ve heard a million times and experienced myself, kids are sponges. It doesn’t take long for them to start imitating the behavior they see on TV.

When a character makes fun of the mom, the fake audience laughs and we all laugh. Right?

When my five year-old uses the same phrases on me, it’s not funny at all. Not even a fake laugh over here to cue me in.

We’re not huge TV watchers in this family, and by the time school starts in a few days, we won’t watch it at all. With school and soccer and dance, there won’t be any time left. I know the solution to avoid these shows’ influence on my kids is simple: stop watching them.

The point is, why can’t Disney portray family’s in a funny way without denigrating parents? We talk about girl power, and I am glad about the strong female characters in movies and books that are coming out. What about family power? What is so wrong about supporting the family unit and the parents’ role in educating the children?

The movie Brave, about Merida and her relationship with her mother is a good example too. The father is one more kid for the mother to discipline and control. He’s in charge, but one look from his darling daughter is all it takes for him to melt into a puddle of goo. I loved the movie, but there is that tiny detail about the dad that portrayed parents as intellectual inferiors to clever, strong teenagers that bugged me to no end.

One of the reasons I love the movie Soul Surfer so much is because of the strong family that raised and supported such a strong girl, Bethany Hamilton.

I say, give us more like Soul Surfer. Give us funny and flawed, but not idiotic parents.

I used to complain (and I know I’m not the only one) that in Disney movies parents were always dead. But worse than a dead parent is an absent parent. A dis-empowered parent.

Can there be a balance between the authoritative parental figure and the idiotic one? How do we reach that point?

Good luck finding it, parents.

One response to “The Stupid Parents on Kids’ TV Shows”

  1. Valerie says:

    I've had conversations with my children about this too, although I include a lot of the little kid shows. It is sad to me how absent the parents are from the children/teen's lives in the show and how disrespectfully many of the main characters treat their parents. I would like my children to be able to see funny, cool main characters who love their family and even when there are real-life like problems with family, they show love and respect.

Yamile Saied Mendez

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American, Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult author.

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