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 he 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, 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.