I will be the first to admit that I use the streaming services Netflix and Hulu to entertain my children while I focus on other tasks and obligations. Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services are useful for parents because they contain children’s television shows and movies for their kids to enjoy and learn. There are a wide variety of children’s shows and movies to select from with some content being positive and the other negative, so it’s important to me to be able to recognize the content that influences my children in a negative manner. I don’t just let my kids pick whatever they want to watch because that content might corrupt their behavior and attitudes in society. For example, I no longer let them watch Power Rangers because I noticed an increase in violent actions like fighting and screaming, which are behaviors that I do not condone.
No show or movie is perfect, but there are certainly better options to choose among than others. I can definitely say that I edit what my children are able to view. The shows and movies that they watch must be educational, have a good moral story, and be fair in treatment of gender, race, and ethnicity. The following shows and movies have been analyzed with a critical lens by myself and are the current shows that I’m letting my kids consume.
Curious George “Racist?”
Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat have been a staple in children’s literature since the early 1940’s. The show is based on the children’s books by husband and wife team Margret and H.A. Rey, who fled Nazi occupied Europe on self-made bicycles from Paris on June, 1940 while carrying the precious Curious George manuscript. The animated series is narrated by William H. Macy and follows the adventures of the world’s most famous monkey (more characteristically an ape) George, whose contagious curiosity may or may not encourage toddlers and preschoolers to explore their surroundings in a similar manner. The story lines are based off George’s many discoveries such as building a kite or learning how a clock works, which usually end up getting the curious monkey into trouble or mischief. The New Orleans setting and jazz theme song are two aspects of the show that stand out to me because it allows me the opportunity to educate my children on the soulful sounds of jazz and the historical city of New Orleans.
The Curious George books have been deemed “racist” by many scholars who believe that the popular children’s book contains undertones of white dominance and imperialism. The original story involves the Man with the Yellow Hat traveling to Africa who takes George from his African home because he was “a nice little monkey.” Now this could be interpreted as a direct metaphor of white supremacy capturing and enslaving Africans during the triangle slave trade, but I highly doubt that the author’s motivation for their children’s books was to spread the ideology of white dominance over Africans. As a matter of fact, I find it quite disturbing that academia has put so much effort and thought towards a lasting children’s book because it literally takes deep critical thought, analysis of symbolism, and a supreme understanding of historical contexts in order to come up with the thought of racism in the Curious George books.
The only problems that I have with the PBS television series are that George is classified as a monkey (first recognized by my six-year-old) when he clearly has the characteristics of a chimpanzee (ape), the bad so-called parenting of the Man with the Yellow Hat, and the sometimes dangerous situations that George gets himself into, which could cause my children and others to mimic the unintentional actions of the protagonist. Overall, it is my opinion that Curious George is one of the better and more appropriate shows to entertain and educate my children because of the shows inclusion of math, science, and engineering concepts and the use of vibrant, yet classic animation.
Wild Kratts is an animated children’s show presented by PBS that was created by animal enthusiast zoologists Chris and Martin Kratt in 2011. The two brothers were also responsible for the creation of the hit show Zoboomafoo that aired from 1999-2001. The Wild Kratts story follows the two brothers and their friends on amazing, colorful adventures that are creative, funny, and educational for the whole family to enjoy.
Each episode starts off with both the Kratt brothers in real life, who are being filmed in the natural habitats of the animals being studied and featured throughout the episode. My kids and I especially enjoy these intros to the episode because it allows us to imagine and picture what we learned and apply it to real world instances. As the two brothers continue on their adventures in animated form, their scientist friend Aviva whips up mechanical suits that are “animal” powered which the brothers wear during their examinations of animals and the concepts behind their behaviors.
My six and four-year-old boys including myself have learned a great deal of information from watching this PBS Kids television series. We have learned about important scientific topics such as animal behavior, habitats, and adaptation and extinction concepts. Not to mention the numerous amounts of different species that we encountered with the Kratt brothers and the many laughs from the added humor. Wild Kratts stands out as one of the best shows to entertain your children with in terms of education, humor, and positive messages.
PAW Patrol is an insanely popular Nickelodean show that revolves around the human Ryder and his six pup friends Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble, Zuma, and Skye. Each pup is unique and responds to tasks specific to the pups’ talents; for example, Marshall plays the role of a fire fighter so it would be probable for Marshall to respond to a fire alarm. The show includes attributes of problem solving, showing caring for others, and being brave (appropriate for shy viewers), which are all important for the development of my preschooler.
The major drawback for PAW Patrol is that the show is not available on Hulu or Netflix; however, my family and I have Playstation Vue, which is Sony’s streaming alternative to cable, that has PAW Patrol available to view along with other Nickelodean shows. Playstation Vue is a great alternative to cable since there are no yearly contracts and it’s much cheaper than cable, but the price can still be a little hefty with the lowest option at $25 per month and the highest package that includes 100 plus channels at $60 per month.
Altogether my preschooler and I cannot get enough PAW Patrol. He loves wearing his PAW Patrol merchandise and playing with his pup toys, and I can definitely notice the positive messages having an impact on his behavior and attitude. There are some concerns that the show doesn’t have enough educational value, lacks female gender equality, and has subtle messages that kids are better than adults. My six-year-old did notice that Marshall habitually messes up each episode and that the other pups laugh at him, which makes it seem ok when it’s not to laugh at others who make mistakes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is a 2012 reboot Nickelodeon series that is closely based on the past animated series about the infamous pizza-loving turtles. The story is all too familiar as the four brothers and their father figure Master Splinter fend off Shredder’s Foot Clan from the sewers of New York City. I absolutely loved the ninja turtles as a kid and watching the series as an adult gave me a warm nostalgic feel that initiated sudden flashes of happy childhood memories. I am biased in my recommendation of this show, but it is worth noting the creative storyline and in-depth character development. TMNT has three seasons that can be currently viewed on Hulu.
The obvious major drawback of TMNT is the immense amount of violence in e
very episode, but that should be a no-brainer to any parent. My children are aware what fiction and non-fiction is and understand that fighting is not allowed under any circumstances, yet I do sometimes witness them getting rough with each other as they play pretend ninja turtles. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the animation and the use of vibrant colors, the above average voice acting and hilarious dialogue between the brothers, and the strong presence of two lead female characters Karai and April O’Neil. I’m also glad that my two boys enjoy the show as well because we can also spend valuable time bonding with each other while watching the show.
Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb is an animated Disney series that premiered in 2007 and can be currently viewed on Netflix. The story revolves around two stepbrothers named Phineas and Ferb who are constantly looking for something to do during their summer vacation days. The brothers also have a pet platypus named Perry who has his own side story within the show as an undercover hero detective complete with arch-nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz. The schemes that the two brothers eventually come up with are absurd and unrealistic, yet unconventionally hilarious as the two build space rockets, insane roller coasters, and backyard surfing. All the while their older sister Candace is attempting to foil their plans and ruin their summer fun.
My first impression of Phineas and Ferb was that it was a show that yielded little to none educational value and not worth the time for my children’s entertainment consumption, but after much persistence and begging from my kids I gave the show a second chance. Upon further review, I came to appreciate the wild and crazy plots that the two brothers devised. I noticed that their plans were almost always intended for the greater good because they included their friends in on the fun. The stereotypical older sister doesn’t send a good message and it does get quite annoying how she is always nagging and whining about her brothers. Candace’s obsession with her boyfriend doesn’t help the show’s image in gender equality either.
The Jungle Book
As soon as my family finished watching the remake of The Jungle Book I let the boys go outside to play, and almost immediately the kids proceeded to gather sticks in the back yard to make “red flower” from the movie, which in other words they wanted to start a fire. After watching the film I didn’t think the boys would have the desire to make man’s red fire, but I was mistaken since the kids gathered up all the sticks into a pile that had the potential to make an engulfing flame. That being said, parents please make sure that you have a conversation with your children to prevent accidents from starting a fire and burning down your house.
The Jungle Book remake was much darker and realistic than the original animated Disney film, but also fresh and more closely adapted to the book compared to other remakes of Disney films. The voice acting and singing was excellent in the film ranging from all too familiar voices of Bill Murray and Christopher Walken to prominent high profile voices in Hollywood of Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba. The jazz influenced soundtrack also added a nostalgic feel since the film was able to use original scores and themes from the 1960’s version.