So my kids were watching Tom and Jerry this morning when my daughter Brontë finally stood up to announce:
“Well, the mouse won AGAIN. Like ALWAYS.”
And stomped off in disgust.
“But if the cat won, that would be the end of the show,” I tell her.
“Yeah, so the mouse is gonna SAVE THE DAY because he’s always the BIG WINNER,” she said with impressive sarcasm for a five-year-old.
I’m not sure whether she’s more upset by already knowing how a show will turn out, watching what’s clearly an anti-cat propaganda cartoon when she’s a fan of kitties, or her Nietzschean disgust for mindlessly favoring the underdog.
But I’m favoring the latter, because she IS my kid…
And I can remember also being disgusted by how the Roadrunner always won. I mean, here you have Wile E. Coyote, who is undeniably brilliant, inventing elaborate schemes to catch the roadrunner that involve sending away for specialized technical equipment and setting it up.
He’s an outside-the-box thinker who problem-solves from multiple angles. You have to admit that he’s VERY advanced, for a coyote.
Then… there’s the Roadrunner.
Who runs straight into landscapes that are obviously painted-on signs. He eats “birdseed” that’s blatantly rigged up to dynamite.
And he gets away with it. Every. Time.
Not because he outwits the Coyote or had worked up an ounce of forethought or defensive strategy.
No, he just confidently blunders forth, smugly aware that the very rules of Space and Time will bend to accommodate his idiocy.
It always seemed so colossally unfair.
Just once, I wanted to see the Wile E. get that roadrunner. Poor guy must’ve been starving to death.
A couple weeks ago, I finally had to block someone on Facebook.
See, we all come from different backgrounds and have had unique life experiences, so I’m okay with different religious, political, and philosophical points of view.
That doesn’t mean I won’t find them irritating, occasionally argue with you, or find myself trying to calculate the potential damage to our relationship if I were to post the Snopes link debunking everything you just said.
We can still be friends, though. Even as this agonizing election season has tested our mutual tolerance. I believe that everyone has a right to their own perspective, assuming no one’s invoking the swastika.
But when you post spoilers an hour before The Walking Dead Season 7 premier comes on, you’ve crossed my line.
Seriously, one of my friends did that.
And despite my forgiving nature, when I saw those Walking Dead names scroll across her feed, I could only think: If these are accurate, you and I are done.
Well, they were and we are. She must’ve watched the show in a different time zone or something.
You may be wondering why this is a bigger deal-breaker for me than politics and religion, so let me explain: someone who disagrees with you politically might still be an awesome person, even having your exact same end-goals in mind, but believe a different strategy would be most effective…
And someone who tries to convert you to their religion wants to save your soul from eternal torment. Their heart’s probably in the right place, even if they’re misguided.
But posting spoilers right before The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere couldn’t be motivated by anything pure.
And to post it one hour before it aired. Right when everyone was getting amped up to finally see the dramatic conclusion, you throw the whole artistic experience straight into the toilet.
Why would you do that? Did you honestly believe your friends, who were finally settling down to resolve the biggest six-month cliffhanger of the six long years they’ve invested in the show, would react to your ruining it by thinking, “Wow, she really had the jump on us. She must be crazy smart!”
Or was it pure hostility? A cry for attention? The delusional belief that the events on The Walking Dead are actual occurrences, representing urgent mysteries in the world of crime we need to get solved as soon as possible?
I don’t know, except it’s more than anyone should have to put up with.
Politics and religion aside, you can’t come back from this. You just can’t.
As a parent, I really appreciate well-written shows for kids.
Because it expands my kids’ minds and provides them quality entertainment?
Well… sure. But if I can be brutally honest for a moment, I also care about having to also watch whatever my kids are watching.
Which is why my kids have never, ever seen an episode of the Teletubbies. It may be great for development, but I find its glassy-eyed, brightly-colored characters so grating that the mere idea of regularly seeing them makes my teeth hurt.
Or Caillou. I can’t tell you how many parents have warned me about the perils of Caillou…
“I HATE CAILLOU!” they say. “But my kids are addicted to it.”
And I chuckle, right before they grip my arm…
“NO, you DON’T UNDERSTAND,” they say with a thousand-yard stare. “Caillou is a complete a**hole, a whiny little brat who always gets what he wants. Don’t do it, Erin! Don’t ever let them see that little jerk!”
And being spared the apparent hell of the endless Caillou loop, I figured I should pay their kindness forward. Here are five kids’ TV shows I think are entertaining enough to keep parents happy too.
Or even non-parents. They’re just that good.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010)
Many of us grew up watching the original series (at least in re-runs) and already feel nostalgic about the characters. This is the updated version, faithful to the original (Fred Welker still does Freddy’s voice) while adding more sophisticated humor. The kind that adults will get, but will go right over your kids’ heads.
There’s also a great cast, including Lewis Black and Patrick Warburton. Natalie from The Facts of Life does Velma’s voice, which adds to the childhood nostalgia.
2. Gravity Falls (2012)
This is a trippy, cerebral show about a brother and sister who spend a summer with their
great uncle in Oregon and find themselves battling paranormal forces. Dipper Pines, the brother, finds a supernatural journal to help sort out the town’s dark mysteries and he’s voiced by Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter AKA Jack Tripper).
His sister, Mabel Pines, is obsessed with parties, sweaters and Waddles, her pet pig. She’s voiced by Kristin Schaal, who is always an instant crack-up.
This is a weird, weird show. It even includes secret codes and messages. I was thrilled that my kids loved it too, because I was hooked after one episode.
3. Ruby Gloom (2006)
My four-year-old daughter is still afraid of the dark, yet bizarrely fascinated by vampires
and ghosts. She even wants a pet bat, named “Lola,” to sleep upside-down in her closet.
I always figured it had something to do with conquering her fears, but maybe it’s more about kids getting tired of happy, chipper, perfect-land too. Maybe because its forbidden, some kids like peering into the dark side once in a while.
If you also have a kid like that, this is the perfect show to satisfy those urges. It’s creepy (involving vampires and conjoined twins) while never crossing the line into truly frightening or inappropriate themes.
There’s Scaredy Bat, for example, a wimpy bat character who is afraid of everything.
4. Regular Show (2010)
Another odd show that centers on the lives of two friends, a blue jay named Mordecai
and a raccoon named Rigby. They’re employed as groundskeepers at a local park, but are also slackers whose misadventures sometimes veer into the surreal or supernatural.
Though it sometimes seems random, the show has been nominated for several awards. Each episode is packed with hidden jokes and risqué innuendo that is, again, skillful enough for only adults to catch. Sometimes the jokes are in song lyrics, to give you a better idea.
It’s off-the-wall comedy that sometimes jumps into outer space. Still, my kids love it. My daughter will drop her Legos whenever it comes on TV.
5. Over the Garden Wall (2014)
I wrote an entire post praising this multi-layered miniseries and having now seen it a
dozen more times, I still think it’s great.
It follows the journey of two lost brothers in a strange land of singing animals, with echoes of Dante’s Inferno. It feels like the colorful LSD trip of a bunch of brilliant Early American Literature professors.
Old-timey music, 1920’s style cartoons, beasts in the forest that feel straight out of a Nathaniel Hawthorne nightmare… it all comes across like an American history classic, packed with the peculiarly American demons that haunted our Puritan forefathers centuries ago. There’s enough creepiness to captivate your kids, but enough heart to not make you feel like an irresponsible parent while they’re watching it.
I hope you enjoy these suggestions, but I’m not finished yet. Stay tuned for five kid’s movies that I’m sure even adults will love.
Has anyone else noticed the bizarre relationship between hair color and evil on Game of Thrones?
It’s a simple, if troubling, old concept: light = good, and dark = bad. The good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy a black. Blondness typically means innocence.
Not so much on GoT, however.
The Lannister family, known for flaxen hair, are the evil, rich overlords of the show. Not only are they blonde and evil, but you can determine just how evil they are by how blonde they are.
Tyrion, the “black sheep” of the family, is the only one with brown hair and easily its most principled, likabable member.
Jamie is probably its next best member: capable of great evil, yet not without redeeming qualities. He’s blond, but his hair is dark enough to be considered light brown.
Joffrey, on the other hand, is a raving lunatic, so evil that he’s not even calculating about it. His family may be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, but even they think Joffrey gets out of line. He’s just cruel for kicks and his hair is almost white.
House Targaryen, the other blonde family, aren’t much better. King Aerys II wanted to burn down a entire city of innocent people and his heir, Viserys, pimped out his sister to a horde of rampaging horse-worshippers just to get his hands on some warriors.
That sister, Daenerys, is the only exception to the show’s blonde=evil pattern that I can think of, with her platinum locks and benevolent nature. She does have black eyebrows.
And there’s also Lady Brienne, who seems honorable. But they do make a big point about her “mannish” appearance.
Bronde= brunette + blonde, the hair color often sought by women who want the best of both worlds.
It’s a color that can’t quite decide it’s own category, a color of ambiguity. Much like the moral ambiguity of the brondes on GoT.
I’d argue that the Faceless Men are brondes. Jaqen has brown hair with blonde highlights and is a difficult character to pin down. He saves Arya, then trains her, but also tortures her and ultimately calls for her execution. Still, he wants it done painlessly and only because it’s demanded by his belief system.
The Waif sometimes looks blonde, sometimes brunette, depending on the lighting she’s in. She definitely unlikeable, reveling a little too much in beating blind Arya with a stick, but she was only following orders. She’d probably be considered Lawful Neutral by the old Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, which is about as morally ambiguous an alignment can be. Same for Jaqen.
And Margaery Tyrell? She’s definitely something between blonde and brunette and we’re not sure of her morality either. It’s hinted that she’s not nearly as chaste as she presented herself to King Renly. She was willing to marry sociopathic Joffrey when it was politically expedient, barely breaking step after his murder to ingratiate herself to the next heir.
Margaery seems sympathetic to the poor, but as she told the High Sparrow, her sympathies were always very public, more about winning approval than genuine.
Was this true, or was she just telling the High Sparrow what he wanted to hear? We don’t know. Whether her machinations are Machiavellian or purely meant to protect herself and her loved ones is unclear.
Like her hair color.
Gray hair usually denotes wisdom or fragility, but in Game of Thrones, no one fragile sticks around.
So maybe that’s why its gray-haired characters are among the most evil. You have to be pretty ruthless to last long enough for your hair to turn gray in a land where you win or you die.
The long-surviving set includes Tywin Lannister, the godfather of the Lannisters, who was once blond. While you can’t help but admire his cunning, he’s undeniably one of the most evil characters in the show, which takes real dedication. He won’t hesitate to force his own children into miserable, unfulfilling lives if it’s politically advantageous.
Neither will Walder Frey, host of the Great Red Wedding massacre, who considers his child brides replaceable, calls his sons weak and his daughters ugly, and marries off his youngest girl to a man seconds from being thrown into a dungeon.
Or Lord Greyjoy, who lost two sons twenty years ago and had the third taken hostage. His first reaction, upon his long-lost son’s return, was to call him a pansy and make fun of his coat. And THAT was the high-water mark in their relationship…
I’m starting to see a pattern here. Most GoT characters are ruthless against people outside their alliances, but the gray-haired ones aren’t even kind to their own kids.
Lady Olenna is the notable exception. She seems deeply invested in her grandchildren’s happiness, and I’m assuming her hair is gray. We never actually see it, though, from under her headdress. Maybe that’s on purpose.
The gray-hairs without children are even nastier. Littlefinger never had children, after losing Catelyn Stark, and he may be the most Machiavellian character on the show.
Or the High Sparrow, who has no children because he’s a religious fanatic, hellbent on destroying aristocratic sinners. He could arguably be considered a quasi-hero, being the only one capable of making Cersei Lannister answer for her crimes.
But I don’t think so. He’s a reformed lecher and a glorified hypocrite, brutally forcing everyone else into his own spiritual persecutive. He tortures homosexuals. His treatment of Cersei actually made me feel sorry for her.
And anyone who can make me feel sorry for Cersei must be pretty bad.
Brunettes fare pretty well in GoT. Most of the good characters are brunettes.
Ned Stark is brunette, as are Robb Stark and Jon Snow. So are Arya, Gendry, Khal Drogo, Bron, Brann, Dario, Benjen, Missandei, Oberyn Martell, Grey Worm, Meera, Mance, Gilly and Samwell Tarly.
Of course, “good” is a relative concept in this show. It seems to mean only being willing to do the heinous things you have to for survival, without enjoying them too much.
No one is entirely pure. Samwell may be the cleanest of the bunch, only having broken his vow of chastity after saving a damsel in distress. Or possibly Bran, who only sacrificed a friend while making his escape in a situation where everyone would’ve otherwise been killed.
Either way, dark hair is highly represented on the good team. We are even finding redeeming qualities in Gregor Clegane, who definitely started off as a bad guy. It feels like he’ll be renouncing the Dark Side in Season 7.
The grand exception to all this is Ramsey Bolten. He had black hair and was possibly the most evil character on the entire show, which was surprising. I didn’t think anyone could beat Joffrey for pure sadism, but I was wrong.
I guess Ramsey is the great outlier in the brunette equation, like Daenerys of the blondes. And both are hair-color extremes: Ramsey’s is black and Daenerys’is white. I wonder if that’s somehow significant.
Redheads are represented fairly well in GoT, usually good but flawed. They’d probably get a chaotic good rating by the old DnD alignment system. They are ruled more by their personal consciences than any arbitrary group rules.
You’ve got Ygritt the Wildling, who falls in love with Jon Snow and risks herself to save him. She is kind enough to make Snow sympathetic to the Wildings’ plight (a first for the Knight’s Guard), but angry enough to kill him after he betrays her.
Except she can’t kill him. She’s a marksman who keeps firing arrows into nonlethal parts of his body, maybe so she can rationalize that’s she’s loyal to her Wildling buddies while still not leaving him dead.
Or Tormund Giantsbane, with his shock of orange hair and Viking beard. After watching Jon Snow’s mercy-killing of Mance, Tormund decides Snow is alright and helps bring about the Jon Snow/Wildling alliance.
Apart from the Wildlings, there’s redheaded Catelyn Tully. She’s generally a good character, but can be nasty. For example, she was cold and unloving to the bastard infant her husband brought home. I can understand her being angry at her husband for having an affair, but why be cruel to an innocent baby? At least she felt bad about it, I guess.
And then there’s Sansa Stark.
I’ll admit not being much of a Sansa fan, so far (I’m much fonder of Arya). It all started when she thought her fiancé Joffrey was super awesome.
After the butcher’s boy incident, Sansa has every reason to believe Joffrey is a monster. He bullied a peasant kid and then Sansa’s own kid sister, had the peasant kid murdered and then killed an innocent wolf.
At this point, any reasonable-thinking woman would be freaking out about what she was getting herself into, but no. All Sansa was worried about was whether the smug little sh*t still liked her.
In fact, she seemed pretty squarely on Team Joffrey until he had her father beheaded then made her stare at his disembodied head while having someone smack her around.
That’s brutal, of course. But I’m wondering if there’s a word for people who have utterly no sympathy for anyone’s else’s problems until they are themselves facing the exact same problems. Sansa never cared about Joffrey’s cruelty until he was specifically focusing it on her.
Sansa goes through an enormous amount of personal suffering while refusing to learn anything from it. After finally escaping Joffrey, she throws a hissyfit about marrying Tyrion because he’s a dwarf.
Despite his kindness and sensitivity. You’d think after seeing how bad things could get with Joffrey, she’d be a little less worried about her new husband’s height than his character, but no. It takes Ramsey Bolten to put things into perspective.
Maybe we can cut her some slack for being so young. She definitely suffers from her foolishness choices and seems to turn around in season six.
Still, I’d argue that redheads in GoT are mostly good, with the exception of Melisandra, the Red Woman. Apparently, there’s a major outlier in every group.
So, what do you think? While not applying to every last character, there do seems to be hair color personality patterns on the show.
After jumping on the Game of Thrones bandwagon a month ago, my husband and I are now officially caught up. It didn’t take long, because being able to binge-watch a great TV series every night is the best part of showing up late to the party.
The worst, on the other hand, is the loneliness. You have to avoid every article, analysis, fan theory, and even the casual overhearing of anyone else discussing the show. Just in case you end up hearing spoilers.
So I’m now struggling to fill the painful void that new GoT episodes once filled by reading all the articles that I’ve been avoiding. And I came upon something interesting…
E-Poll Market Research put out some fascinating research about a week ago about political affiliation and favorite TV shows. Their monthly E-score tracker analyzes the viewing of over 3000 US television programs, providing detailed research to media and Fortune 1000 companies.
Turns out, Democrats love Game of Thrones and Republicans really don’t.
Now, I’m sure that tons of individual Democrats hate it and particular Republicans love it, but there’s an enormous disparity between the two groups as a whole. GoT came in first place for favorite Democrat shows, but didn’t even make the Republican top ten.
First, for Republicans, was Supernatural… a show I haven’t even heard of. Apparently, both teams love The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory.
Interesting… I wonder why Game of Thrones rubs Republicans the wrong way.
Certainly, there’s loads of gratuitous sex and violence. Of course, The Walking Dead isn’t exactly short on gore.
Maybe it’s all the boobies. I don’t know that you can get through a single GoT episode without eventually seeing someone’s boobs flapping around, which isn’t exactly family friendly.
But there are also a lot of nasty villains who eventually get their comeuppance, which seems like it should appeal to Republicans. The researchers found, after all, that Republicans tend to like shows with storylines heavily focused on good vs. evil.
Of course, “good” is a very relative concept in this show. Extremely good characters, like Ned Stark, tend to lose their heads. Or at least their neck integrity.
Other characters, like the Hound, see so many kind characters slaughtered in their dog-eat-dog world that they conclude that decency is a death sentence. It’s a world of extreme moral relativity, one where survival always wrestles with altruism.
Maybe it’s my Progressive filter talking, but I have to wonder if it has something to do with the nasty, brutish, might-makes-right existence depicted in a world without regulation or relative class parity. Even the good characters must lie, cheat and steal if they want to stay alive, because those are the conditions a truly free market creates.
I’m guessing a Republican might have a different take, though.
It reminds me of the time I suggested that Robin Hood was a good hero for both the left and right: he gives to the poor, but is anti-taxes.
A good Republican friend of mine, however, claimed that Robin Hood showed the evils of strong government. I pointed out that Robin Hood broke the unfair rules created by people born into an entitled class for the betterment of a strangled underclass. He countered that Robin Hood’s enterprise was stifled by unfair regulation.
It’s fascinating how the same story can be read so differently through different ideological lenses, isn’t it?
I wonder what it is about Game of Thrones that makes Republicans and Democrats react so differently. Any thoughts?
So, I’ve FINALLY gotten on the Game of Thrones bandwagon and want to talk about it.
I’d heard all about how awesome it is from friends whose opinions I respect, so about six months ago, I gave it a whirl. I knew the show was violent, but figured I could handle it since I liked The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.
Still, the pilot ended up being more than I could stomach. When a show starts off with frozen children, you know you’ve got a real challenge in store.
But I still wasn’t prepared for all the sexual exploitation and violence toward animals and kids. I don’t want to post spoilers, but trust me, it’s nothing pretty.
My husband and I decided to give it one more try, however, since people keep going on about it. This time we watched a few episodes and before we knew it, we were hooked.
Why? Because it’s a great story with well-developed characters in a fascinating make-believe world. Even if I have to occasionally avert my eyes while watching it.
Thing is, I’m far from the only one having a rough time with its content. The show has been repeatedly slammed for gratuitous sexual violence and its brutalization of women.
A friend of mine recently reacted to all this criticism by posting a long rant about it on Facebook. He’s a bright guy who isn’t shy about sharing opinions I don’t always agree with, but that always make me think…
Like this newest one. His counter-rant pointed out that while, yes, GoT undeniably includes loads of violence against female characters, there is EVEN MORE violence against men. Men are routinely tortured, humiliated, and killed in the goriest of ways… yet no one seems to care about that.
He makes an interesting point. One about which I have mixed feelings.
On the one hand, GOT‘s brutalization of men means women aren’t being singled out. The show depicts a world that is nasty in general. It’s not as if all the guys are all having a wonderful time while the women get crushed. It’s a dog-eat-dog place where “you win or you die” and female players just aren’t being handed a pass.
On the other, I don’t think it’s true that no one cares about tortured male characters. We’re upset by it too, especially when we like the guys being brutalized.
But I do think it’s fair to say there’s been more public uproar against female exploitation. The question then becomes, is that wrong?
Whether of not these attitudes are more sexist than fair, I can’t shake the sense that they’re natural. Even inborn.
Why? Because most people respect basic notions of fair play.
We all have the capacity for violence, however repressed. We HAVE to, out of our self-preserving instincts from a centuries-long race for survival, if nothing else. Few of us, if it came down to it, wouldn’t pull a trigger to save our own lives or those of the people we love.
But we call that self-defense, a form of violence we find acceptable. Even necessary and praise-worthy at times.
Most of us are okay with self-defense, but only sadists feel good about the unwarranted exploitation of defenseless innocents. That’s considered bullying, which violates the rules of the game.
So, violence is okay when the cause is just and the victim is fairly matched. We feel better, for example, about two guys squaring off than we do warriors beating up blind, unarmed children.
By this rationale, it makes sense to be less horrified by whatever happens to strong men, armed and warrior-trained, who have voluntarily stepped into battle. They hold most of the power, anyway, and seemingly have the most to gain.
Whether or not it’s fair, women seem relatively innocent and unfairly matched. Most women in the show aren’t fighters, aren’t armed, and are used as political pawns against their will (at least at first). Whereas the men fight other men in self-defense or to gain territory, they exploit women to appease their fetishes, a cause neither essential nor sympathetic.
Now, I’m not saying there aren’t evil female characters in the show. Far from it, but that doesn’t overrule our basic notions of fair play. We’re more horrified when women are hurt for the same reasons we’re more horrified when children and animals are hurt: there’s a sense they’re unlucky innocents, unfairly outmatched.
A telling comparison might be made with Tyrion the dwarf, a male character physically limited by his size. He’s such a likable guy, though, that it’s hard to decide whether his smallness earns him any extra sympathy points.
What do you think? Do you find the greater public uproar about female violence sexist, or do you think it’s natural?