boom

Oz: Mom, can I watch this show?

BOOM! SMASH! PUNCH! EXPLODE! PUNCH! Minor narrative insertion. PUNCH! PUNCH!

Me (to Oz): Sorry, little man. I don’t think this is a show for 4-year olds.

Me (to self): Or anyone for that matter.

Oz: How about this show?

[Watch show for a while...]

Me: Are there really NO female characters in this show? At all?! Sorry, little man, this isn’t a good show.

So, Ozzie’s growing out of his current crop of shows and is venturing into new Netflix territory. (For him, Netflix is the only means of television viewing. Kids these days, amirite?) He was hooked for a while on the old-school Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends which I liked because there was lots of storytelling around the superhero elements and Firestar was always a big part of each episode. As his hit the end of the last episode, though, Netflix dumped him into all sorts of awful superhero shows.

I can handle violence as long as it’s contextualized, but some of these shows are truly a non-stop wall of punching and fiery explosions punctuated by little-to-no plot development. Basically these shows set up the good guys and the bad guys and then set them loose in battle. I do mean guys here quite literally, because female characters are nowhere in sight. It’s so important to me to raise a boy that realizes that girls and women are capable protagonists, and it’s inexcusable that shows feature no female characters because “boys won’t like them.” Tell that to my boy who’s obsessed with Elsa.

We have settled on a few new shows, though, that cut through some of the issues above.

ninjago-ninjas

Ninjago, like other Lego cartoons, has a good sense of humor. Ozzie was five minutes into his first episode when he proclaimed, “Ninja’s are cool!” The ninja characters train with Sensei Wu, learning about ways to sharpen their skills and build their teamwork. Their ninja battles are woven nicely into the stories and the violence is mild.

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As for girl characters, there’s one, Nya. Unfortunately she’s not a ninja, just the younger sister of one. She gets to be smart, but basically she just helps launch the boy characters into action. She’s fully at service to their stories, not her own.

transformers-blade

The show that I can’t believe I like is Transformers: Rescue Bots. This one has jumped to favorite show status for Ozzie. Optimus Prime sends robots in disguise down to Earth to help humans. There’s a police car, a fire truck, a helicopter, and a construction vehicle, and they work with the Burns family, a family of first responders. The Transformers have a strong code of honor, and given that they’re designed to help mankind, this isn’t a super-violent show.

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There’s also the Green family, Doc Green and his cool daughter, Frankie. Doc Green is a scientist that doesn’t always think through the ethics of some of his machines, like a weather machine and a rogue dinosaur-bot. This is great for plot, though, because it gives the characters and Transformers something to do besides fight bad guys all the time.

The girl characters are great. In addition to Frankie, there’s Dani Burns, the Burns sister who happens to be the helicopter pilot. I can’t help but laugh, though, that these two characters are given boyish names. Just as I was extolling the feminist virtues of this show to some friends yesterday, I looked up at the episode Ozzie was watching this morning and saw this:

rescuebots

WTF? Somewhere there was an animator with a vision. Hahahahaha! Look at him and his sexy woman body! What didn’t help is that this is in an episode about a beauty pageant. Dear television show creators, please find a filter for stupidity like this. Or hire more women. Or both.

My awesome husband suggested we try out with Ozzie a show that Olive loved: WordGirl. She’s a superhero, so of course he loves it. I forgot how funny this show is, and I love the comic-book style of it. If you haven’t seen it, WordGirl came from the Planet Lexicon with her monkey, Captain Huggy Face and assumed the Earth identity of Becky Botsford. She battles bad guys both with her superpowers and her super vocabulary. This show is on PBS kids, so there’s more educational content than violent content, and the battles are cartoony and often hilarious.

To all those that say a boy won’t watch a show with a girl lead, Ozzie has already asked a few times to be WordGirl for Halloween.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this not-so-subtle image of WordGirl battling a sausage cyclone.

wordgirl

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Maleficent: A Complicated Villain

by Amy Kraft on June 7, 2014

 

Maleficent

Olive had a day off from school this week and on a whim while we were killing time between appointments we went to see Maleficent. I had shown Olive the trailer a while back and she said she wasn’t interested, but I had been reading about it being a great feminist film so I talked her into it.

I fear in our current climate where discussions of feminism lead too quickly to accusations of misandry that I might turn some off by saying that, which is unfortunate. It’s a fine feminist film indeed, and while it hates a man, it certainly doesn’t hate men. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, but gives us a host of interesting, well-rounded characters, great action, and great storytelling that should appeal to everyone.

aurora

I’m a sucker for stories told from unexpected points of view, so it’s logical that I would like Sleeping Beauty as seen through the eyes of its villain. And a hundred and fifty viewings of Frozen have not dulled my desire for fairy tales that focus on the women and girls in them.

I don’t want to tell you too much about this movie because it’s nice to be surprised watching it unfold. I’d rather tell you about the conversation Olive and I had leaving the theater, a conversation about how hard it is to label someone as a villain, how the world is not so black and white. She asked me if it was OK to murder a murderer. Whoa. I was all set to answer but then realized the better path might be to ask her what she thought. She thought for a long time. “I don’t think so,” she said, “because don’t you become a murderer then, too? Couldn’t someone murder you?” We went on to talk about justice versus vengeance, and even talked for a while about Hitler. (PS: thank you BrainPop for giving her a primer on all of this.) It was one of the deepest talks we’ve ever had, inspired by a Disney princess movie. If Disney keeps this up, I’m never going to be able to hate on them and their princesses again.

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Prehistoric Funtime Off the New Jersey Turnpike

June 6, 2014
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Last weekend the family and I were invited to a blogger day at Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus, NJ. It’s one of those things I’ve heard about and thought, yes, one day let’s get a car and go do that dinosaur thing in New Jersey, so I was glad to get the invitation as a […]

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Interview with a 9-Year-Old

June 4, 2014
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It’s hard to believe my wee little girl is now a beautiful 9-year-old. What an amazing age… still so interested in the world around her with little of the snark that goes so week with tweendom. And yet, she gave me answers to my annual interview questions with no interest in expanding on those thoughts. So, […]

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Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeee

May 22, 2014
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Six years ago I had an idea to start a blog as a way of keeping up with the world of kids’ media. And while there have been times life has pulled me away from blogging, I love having this platform to share the things that I love. Thanks, as always, to everyone who swings […]

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My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl

May 21, 2014
Zita-BlogTourBanner

I couldn’t be happier to be a stop on the “My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl” Blog Tour in celebration of the release of the third book in Ben Hatke’s amazing Zita the Spacegirl trilogy. Olive and I have formed a very special relationship with this particular heroine. For the uninitiated, the story begins when […]

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Minecraft: Beginners Don’t Stay Beginners for Long

May 19, 2014
Minecraft-dragons

If you’re an average human being who exists anywhere near computers, you’ve most likely heard of Minecraft. Now, if you’re a game designer who works on games for kids, you’d better know it. Until I had a kid who reached Minecraft age, though, I didn’t motivate myself to give it a go. I just faked my […]

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Interview with a 4-Year-Old

May 7, 2014
ozzie4

Unbelievably, my baby turned 4 this week. That means it must be time for a roundup of his favorite things from the past year. Of course, this is still an age of unreliable witness, so I added some family thoughts as well. Favorite Book: Too Many Toys by David Shannon It’s hard to argue with this […]

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Kickstarting Your Little Game Designer

April 17, 2014
gamedesigner

I recently reaped the rewards of two board games that I backed on Kickstarter, both of which caught my attention as a game designer mama. The first is Robot Turtles. With a goal of $25,000, the Kickstarter for this game closed at $631,230. Not. Too. Shabby. That money shows incredible support for a game designed […]

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10 Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging

April 17, 2014
mblogo

Dang, I’m seeing that I’m about to hit two months without a post. Sorry ’bout that! Here’s what I’ve been up to while I’ve obviously not been blogging. [UPDATE: This post mysteriously vanished from my blog, so I am reposting it thanks to my lovely Feedly archive.] 1. The biggest thing going on is that […]

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