Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Politics Of Children's Shows

I have been meaning to write about this for some time now, but was inspired once again by watching 'Thomas The Tank Engine' with my toddler this morning. This show was created in England, based on a series of children's books from that era. The class politics are amazing when you think about it.

In this show, train engines have become personified. Each train has their own face and design, and are able to express thoughts and emotions. One thought and emotion that runs rampant through the show is that they desperately want to "be useful" for their boss, Sir Topemhatt.

In today's episode, one of the trains misheard a conversation that the boss had, and was convinced he was being shipped to the scrapyard to be turned into junk because he had outlived his usefulness to the man. It turned out to be a misunderstanding, but in this show, if these human like trains aren't producing enough for their master, they are either destroyed, or abandoned all alone in a field. One bus got a reprieve for hitting a bridge. He was refitted after being stuck alone for years, being used as a chicken coop, where the birds crapped all over him. Master now had a use for him.

One doesn't really have to dig deep into these stories to see these class biases on display. What makes it offensive to me is the humanification of the trains. They are in essence worker bees whose only need in life is to produce for the owner. The trains never say off with his head, quit threatening to scrap us. It's just a trembling love, respect, awe, and fear that they must "be useful". Those of you with kids, or not, watch a few episodes and see for yourselves.

I want Thomas to quit working and call a general strike. That would be really useful to him, not so much the man in charge.