Monday, August 24, 2015

Why Mufasa "Got Dead" and Subsequent Lion King Conversations with My Kids

Mufasa. Doomed.
I arrived at my parents' house to pick up my kids this evening and found them watching "The Lion King."

My first thought took me back to 1994 when I saw the movie in the theater and clung to every word spoken by a pre-pubescent Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Simba (and, yes, I cursed Matthew Broderick for taking over when Simba grew up, but I digress).

My second thought was that my kids were going to freak out over the death of Mufasa, something I, personally, have freaked out about plenty of times in my life.

When you really think about it, children's movies have softened over the years. Today I watched cartoon Simba nuzzle himself under the arm of his dead father ... nuzzle under the arm of his dead father!

Nowadays, we see a tortured ship at sea and then a mourning Anna and Elsa in a Frozen castle, left to wonder what the heck happened. The entire thing completely sails over the heads of kids (see what I did there?) because they only had one scene to recognize Anna and Elsa had parents in the first place.

Back to the present and preparing my kids for the death of Mufasa. My mom wanted them to see "Hakuna Matata," and I wanted to give the kids the opportunity to see the tragic scene if they wanted to. I told Abby the dad dies and she confirmed she wanted to see the scene. Jack -- eyes fixed on the television -- nodded yes as well.

Hakuna Matata.
I essentially did a play-by-play of the scene to keep them from getting too sucked in and, let's face it, to keep myself from crying. He nuzzled under the arm of his dead father, for Pete's sake!

Once the scene was over and I had wiped my eyes, the recapping began. There were far too many conversations to reference, but I will provide a fun overview.

Conversation 1: Who Died?

Abby: "Jack! Did you see what happened? All the animals were running and bumped into the king and then he got dead."

Jack: "Yeah!"

Abby: "And then the king killed him."

Me: "No, the king died."

Abby: "Yeah, Mufasa killed him."

Me: "No, Scar killed him."

Abby: "Yeah. Why?"

Me: "Because he was mean and he wanted to be king."

Jack: "Yeah ... and then the animals were running and there were rocks and then he was the king."

Me: "..."

Conversation 2: Cactus Butt

Abby: "And then the black ... and white ..."

Me: "The hyenas."

Abby: "The hyenas ... said ... 'I don't want to look like you, Cactus Butt!'"

Jack: "Yeah ... and then he ran away and they said, 'I'll kill you!'"

Me: "They said if he came back they'd kill him."

Abby: "Yeah! Because the king died ... because the animals were running and bumped into the king and then he got dead."

Refer to Conversation 1.

Conversation 3: Enough Baby Talk!

Abby (referring to the scene in which Simba grows up): "And then they move like this (swinging her head back and forth) and he gets a little hair and then he gets a lot of hair and he's growed up!"

Jack: "Why did he get hair?"

Me: "Because lions get hair when they get older."

Abby: "Why?"

Me: "Because it happens. Just like babies. Like Evie who doesn't have any hair."

Abby: "Evie has hair!"

Me: "Yes, but not a lot. And some babies are born bald."

Abby: "Yeah! Like ... I have some baby dolls that I don't play with anymore that just have one little curl of hair and nothing else."

Jack: "We're not talking about babies! We're talking about lions!"

Me: "Okay, okay. Yes, boy lions get manes when they get older."

Abby: "Just like babies --"

Jack: "No more babies! We're talking about lions!"

Conversation 4: Who's Your Daddy?

Abby: "Do you have a mommy?"

Me: "Yes."

Abby: "Who?"

Me (still in disbelief she does not retain this information): "Grandma is my mommy."

Abby: "Oh."

Me: "Do you know who my daddy is?"

Abby: "No."

Me: "Guess."

Abby: "Papa?"

Me: "Yes. Do you know who daddy's mommy is?"

Abby: "You?"

Honestly, how does she not retain this?

Getting Dead

I'm glad we got through our first movie in which a character "gets dead" in front of the audience. I have to say, though, the minds of children fascinate me. I had to explain to Abby that Mufasa wasn't a real being ... even though he's a cartoon. How can she not tell a cartoon isn't an actual animal? I'm not sure, but apparently she can't. I had to tell her that Mufasa was an illustration and that someone spoke for him. So now I've probably helped her through her first character death and managed to ruin the Easter Bunny in the process somehow.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why Caillou isn't THAT Bad ... and Three Shows I Think are Worse

Please do not throw things at me ... hear me out. I do not think Caillou is that bad. Yes, he's irritating. Yes, he's whiny. But on a scale of 1-10 -- one being the least annoying kids' TV show I have to endure and 10 being the most annoying -- I give him a five.

Perhaps it's because my own kids have mastered whining on a global level, so Caillou's game is pretty weak as far as I'm concerned. Or maybe it's because Caillou was the only thing that would get my then-two-year-old daughter to give me a break while I was caring for her infant brother that I became immune to Caillou's less-endearing qualities.

Regardless of the reason, I can, in fact, look past Caillou's no-name parents (in one episode, a restaurant host actually refers to them as "Caillou and Rosie's mommy and daddy"), the fact that they also have no tempers, and the fact that his teacher wears a red jumper every single day. I have no issue allowing my kids to watch Caillou.

There are other shows, however, that I absolutely mind them watching.

Dinosaur Train

I hate Dinosaur Train because it is illogical. Yes, I understand the message it is sending and I give it credit for that. A couple of pteranodons have four eggs -- three hatch as pteranodons, but one unexpectedly hatches a tyrannosaurus rex. Whoa, what happened?

To the credit of this loving family, Mr. and Mrs. Pteranodon adopt the T-Rex ("Buddy") as their own, and the family of six enjoys adventures in prehistoric times. There are a few problems, though.

First off, this would not happen. And before you tell me that it is a kids' TV show, know that I understand that. But you are mixing carnivores and herbivores and pretending it would be no problem at all! Even in the movie "Madagascar," Alex the Lion had to fight urges to eat Marty the Zebra when they were stranded without food.

Second, this is prehistoric times with a train. A train! Why is there a working train on this show? Yes, I get that the dinosaurs also speak English, which is unrealistic in and of itself, but c'mon.

Finally, I just find them annoying. Simple as that.

Daniel Tiger

It is somewhat ironic that I find Daniel Tiger irritating because I loved Mister Rogers Neighborhood as a kid. Ironic both because I should, therefore, like Daniel Tiger and also because the same character in Mister Rogers Neighborhood injected "meow meow" in between every third word, yet I still manage to find him adorable.

It isn't the character himself that I dislike in the new version, it's the fact that each show has it's own jingle that is repeated over and over and over and over ad nauseam. 

One episode I tolerated was about potty training because, well, I was willing to try just about anything to get my kid potty trained. The episode stresses the importance of stopping to go, regardless of wanting to stay and play. This is an awesome message, but every other line in the show is interrupted by one of the characters singing this little jingle: If you have to go potty stop! and go right away ... flush and wash and be on your way!

By the end of one 25-minute episode, I'm singing the damn song, my kids are singing the damn song, and no one altered their potty methods!

Curious George

This is another show that drives me insane because it is so improbable and ridiculous. Yes, I understand that this story predates my birth, but why is there a man who looks like an oil tycoon for Bananaland housing a monkey in his apartment? And why does he take this monkey to human doctors, restaurants, and schools? And how can he talk to this monkey?

If the show is ever on (and, thank God, it never is), I find myself getting riled up over the fact that a monkey can walk into a store and have a chat with the owner by making a bunch of monkey noises and pointing ... and that no one finds it strange. At all. Then you throw in a dog that also can apparently communicate and this man with the yellow hat whose only friend in life is a monkey.

We have a handful of the books, one of which I read to the kids the other night. In it, George gets a job washing windows, but gets in trouble after he breaks into one of the apartments to paint a jungle scene on the walls and furniture. He nearly escapes, but breaks his leg in a fall and is sent to the hospital (not a vet, a hospital). 

The man with the yellow hat sees the story in the newspaper and rushes to the hospital to claim George so he can hire him as an actor to portray himself in a movie about his life as a curious monkey. Totally plausible.

The reason I'm recounting this story is because the final scene of the book has the man with the yellow hat smoking a cigar. Seeing him smoking a cigar gave him some credibility for me. Clearly anti-smoking laws have emasculated the man with the yellow hat.

In conclusion, as I look back over this blog, it appears the one thing you should take from my ramblings is to avoid PBS at all costs. As someone who loves Sesame Street, I don't recommend you avoid the network completely, but the evidence speaks for itself. There are some hokey and annoying shows on public television.

This is why your kids probably love the network and why you probably loved the network as a child. And with that, I'll provide a walk down PBS memory lane:

There's this guy, who did odd things in the name of books.
This guy, who had a second home so he could change into sweaters,
feed his fish, and play with trains.
These people, who were obsessed with dots.
And, finally, not a kids show, but let's end with Bob Ross
and his happy little trees!