Friday, August 5, 2011

Go Dora Go!

I have a disclaimer to this post....I have no references.  I could spend the time to find the references that I need on my book shelf but honestly it has been a hellish week and I don't what to, so when I do this (), a reference should be there.

Parker and I do not have cable.  We only had it when we lived with my mom from 2 months to 3 years old.  At that point in time we would watch Nickelodeon....and a lot of it.  The classics mostly like The Backyardigans, Dora, Diego, Blue's Clues...there was no Yo Gabba Gabba (which honestly scares me slightly, I feel like I need to be smoking some serious hash when I watch it).  Now our TV is permanently on PBS learn, and every night we watch The Wild Kratts.  I have discussed some of these shows within Women's Studies courses while I was attending UC.  A lot of my opinions though were formed out side of those classes but they all sparked a little more interest in what we were watching.  I am going to talk about most of the individually, kinda like a little analysis.

The Backyardigans.
I love this show.  I still find it extremely entertaining and full of imagination.  It was new on Nick Jr when Parker was about 2 years old.  We stumbled upon it one morning before our walk to library. It caught my attention because the characters were dancing the Hustle to a funky beat.  After a few episodes of watching I realized what it was all about.  There are 5 characters.  Uniqua (a pink tomboyish unknown animal), Pablo (a blue penguin), Tyrone (an orange moose) are all next door neighbors with a shared backyard.  Across the fence in the backyard is Austin (a purple kangaroo) and across the street is Tasha (a yellow hippo).  The start their daily adventure in their common backyard that transforms into where ever in their imaginations they are playing.  They sing and dance custom and catchy songs.  Their personalities are all different like their looks.  Uniqua was mine and Parker's favorite.  She is a very head strong girl who loves adventure and taking on a challenge.  There is one episode when Tasha sent Uniqua out to King Austin's and if she is successful she will become a knight.  She is a neat character because she is very opposite a "girly" little girl, which is the personality of Tasha.  Tasha epitomizes every little girl stereotype.  The boy characters have a different array of personalities.  Tyrone is easy going, Pablo freaks out every episode and they all have to calm him down, and Austin is a little shy and quiet.  I think it is great for small children because it has great music and dancing.  They go on great adventures where they have to work together to accomplish their voyage.  It teaches children team work, to be friends with anyone despite color, personality or looks and to have an imagination and explore the world through that imagination.

Dora and Diego.
I have to talk about these two together.  First there was Dora.  She was a little Hispanic girl who went into the world independently to explore it.  She taught children how to read maps, speak Spanish and how to be independent in finding things on their own.  Dora was a very different cartoon when she hit the lime light.  She was the only Hispanic little girl main character.  There is no question as to way Dora the Explorer is such a success.  She gave a voice to Hispanic children, brought attention to simple Spanish words in a country whose largest minority is the Hispanic population.  Because of her ethnicity and first language, she created acceptance in the white and black communities because all of those children, boys and girls a like, loved Dora and the new language/culture they were learning.  I know that this was across the board between genders because of how much Parker loved Dora a long with all of the boys in Dora shirts that I witnessed about 4 years ago.  She was huge.  Eventually they brought on her cousin Diego.  Then, off of Dora's coat tails, Diego was a success and got his own show.  I don't really have anything against Diego, but at the same time I do.  His show minimized the deeper essence to Dora.  His show has more Spanish and more variety of words.  His rescue pack transforms into whatever he may need to rescue the animals.  And there, right there in the name and what he does in the show.....he rescues and his title is a verb.  Rescuing.  Rescue.  We hear that word and we associate it with the masculine ().  Our entire language is divided between female associated words and male associated words.  Verbs are associated with the male (), Go Diego Go.  Adjective are associated with the female (), Dora the Explorer.  Male is action; female is passive.  Everything that Dora gave to little girls and boys about how they viewed girls as independent "go getters" in the world was taken away by how much more Diego did.  This is why I don't like Diego.  There was really no reason for his own show besides to make more money.  Dora is still important but the light that once shown on her was dimmed by Diego....hmm, imagine that, a male character taking center stage over the female....that doesn't reflect societal views of women at all.....right?

The Wild Kratts.
I am skipping the rest of the Nick Jr. shows to move on to The Wild Kratts.  I honestly don't have much a feminist view on this one.  The Kratt brothers are real brothers who are on the creature trail.  They are zoologist that turn to cartoon characters to help save whatever animal they are highlighting on the episode.  There are female characters in the show, who are both scientist.  So that is a plus.  Parker loves that show because he learns about animals and conservation.  He is proud of the education he gains from that show and it is one that I am very comfortable with him watching because he takes positive information away with him.  He will often talk about being on the creature trail too because of all of the animals that we see at mr's house.  Parker has included mr to be on the creature trail as well.

It is funny to think about the cartoons that I watched when I was little and seriously miss them on TV.  Remember Loony Toons?  Remember how everyone decided that it was too violent for children to be watching?  I mean, I get it, but doesn't a lot of the other side of what children watch come from the rest of the influence in their lives?   I am not a violent person and I can not tell you how many episodes to Wyle E Coyote trying to kill the Road Runner....but my parents taught me to not be violent.  Maybe I am just opening a new can of worms to talk about here.


  1. Good call on the passive Dora vs. the active Diego; I was out of the US when those shows came on so I missed most of it.

  2. My little girl is 12 so we watched, and loved, Dora in the early days. Diego sucks, to put it mildly. I haven't watched any of the newer stuff. Sounds like my instincts that to do so would completely spoil the show for me are right. And now there's a Dora iPhone app. And she's in a tutu. Sure there's a lot of need for them in the jungle.