My wife thinks our daughter is too young for Batman: the Animated Series. I think that’s ridiculous, since our daughter recently turned 30 (months old), but the ruling stands. Here are five of the most annoying alternatives we’ve found.
Dora the Explorer
You’re cute, Dora. You are. It’s awesome that you’re bilingual, it’s awesome that you’re out there playing with foxes and monkeys, and I like that you give your viewers a full minute to figure out which is a volcano and which is a ball. But could you maybe not yell every word all the time forever? Could you teach your map a song with lyrics other than “I’m a map I’m a map I’m a map?”
Now about your dialogue. Here’s a sample:
“I’m lost and I have to get back home to my mommy!”
“Aw! You need to be with your mommy!”
To quote David Sedaris, there’s no fire. No give and take. Don’t give up, though, Dora. Just do everything better.
Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse
It’ll be quicker to list the things about this show that aren’t terrible. The costume design is on point. The characters are ethnically diverse. Every episode eventually ends. That’s about it. Everything else is Kardashians for kids, priming my child to gobble brash reality television for the rest of her life.
Someone should bury this show, and they should wear a hazmat suit while they do it. Otherwise they might carry some of this boring, ugly, indulgent goop back into town with them. Some shows are about education. The only thing this show teaches is how to pitch a loud, impotent fit that brings no consequences. Some shows are about fun adventures. This show isn’t. There is no plot. The episode are like life—just one thing after another, punctuated by a bald boy throwing tantrums.
Sofia the First
I like that Sofia makes mistakes and learns from them. I like that the show has well-constructed plots that build and resolve promptly. But I’m tired of hearing that true princesses share. True princesses help. True princesses don’t forget the poor friends they had before they became princesses. On more than one occasion, there are tests of moral fiber meant to verify the princessness of a princess. It’s all very fairy tale, but what is it suggesting about girls who don’t have a king for a daddy? Princesses always help. Great. What about commoners like my kid? Of course, this show comes from the same studio that produces Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which is awesome, but which argues that pirates never take things that belong to others. The dictionary disagrees.
This show-within-a-show isn’t annoying so much as it is terrifying. It depicts a world in which every song—whether about sharing, swimming, or feet—is sung to the melody of Jingle Bells. When Elmo imagines his birth, he envisions his father as himself, his mother as himself, the doctor as himself, and the baby as himself. I don’t want to belabor this point, but in Elmo’s world, Elmo mated with Elmo, who gave birth to Elmo with the help of Dr. Elmo. And my wife thinks Batman is too intense.
Happily, there are plenty of awesome kids’ shows out there, like Curious George, Sesame Street (if you skip Elmo’s Underworld), Super Why, and Phineas and Ferb. But even if my kid asks for one of the terrible shows, I’m okay with it. Sooner or later she’ll start consuming media that doesn’t suit my taste or back up my philosophies. What’s important is that she learn to think critically about what she’s seeing. So long as she eventually wonders if Caillou is a creep, if Elmo is a narcissistic maniac, and if virtue isn’t exclusive to royalty, she can watch whatever kids’ show she wants.