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.
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.
In case you hadn’t already put this together, I’m a huge fan of movies and television. Give me some good dialogue, a well-crafted plot, and I’m on board… whether it’s Breaking Bad or Gravity Falls.
But after watching all of these make-believe little universes, I’ve noticed certain quirky conventions common across all genres. We’re so used to seeing them, we don’t even think about how unrealistic they are.
I’m not talking about corpses reanimating into dangerous zombies or aliens taking over the Earth, either. Those are part of a wild premise you’re supposed to accept from the start.
No, I’m talking about everyday, run-of-the-mill oddities that are hard to un-see once someone points them out:
1 No one ever pays for anything
You might see someone order food or drinks or get into a cab sometimes, but you’ll never see money changing hands unless it’s specifically part of a plot device.
By this, I mean you could see someone ordering a round for everyone in the building while holding fistfuls of cash and tipping wildly to show how rich he is, or someone’s card being declined to show how his life is slowly unraveling to the rock-bottom point.
You might even see a group of people divvying up the check at a restaurant to give us insight into which characters are stingy and which are inclined to mooch off their friends.
What you never see, however, is the routine settling of bills that’s part of everyone else’s daily life experience. Usually, movie people just hop out of the cab or leave the restaurant like it’s an acceptable thing to do.
2. No one finishes their drinks
While we’re on the subject of leaving restaurants, have you ever noticed how often a couple of TV characters order drinks and then don’t drink them?
Usually, a server walks by their table to set down the beer/wine/vodka that our characters ordered, then something dramatic happens, prompting one or both to leave the table…
With their untouched drinks just sitting there.
Just once, I’d love for the restaurant manager to come running after them, yelling, “WHAT!? You just order some drinks and then take off? Who’s gonna pay for that?”
3. No one says “Goodbye” before hanging up
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that most movie characters never sign off before ending conversations on the phone.
That would make sense if they were having an argument, but it seems to happen all the time.
I don’t know about you, but if I were on the other side of the line, that would seem pretty abrupt. I would wonder what I did or said to make someone slam the phone down on me, or even whether something bad might’ve just happened to them.
But not so in the bizarre world of film or television, where characters just stop the conversation as soon as they’re done. No one ever seems to mind. No one ever calls back, wondering why the hell the phone line just went dead.
Actually though, I do have a real-life example of someone who did this: my grandfather.
I don’t know if it’s because he grew up in a household where they didn’t have phones and then never familiarized himself with normal social rules for phone transactions, or if he just lived by the beat of his own drum, but he would hang up the phone without warning after any random exchange.
A typical phone call with him sounded something like this:
I call him… [Ring! Ring!]
Me: Hi grandpa! It’s Erin. Is grandma there?
After a minute, I call him back… [Ring! Ring!]
Me: Hi grandpa, it’s me again. Do you know when grandma is going to be back?
Grandpa: Well, she went to the grocery store, so ’bout an hour.
I would’ve thought he was furious at me if I didn’t know any better, but that was just how grandpa talked on the phone. He seemed to confuse it for a telegram.
And the strangeness of this encounter kind of illustrates what it would really be like if people used phones the way film and TV characters do.
At any rate, these weird behaviors, taken together, show us what an oddly centered universe we find in the world of fictional entertainment. No one truly exists except the characters we are watching at the time… No one needs to be paid, or told you don’t plan on drinking the full pints you left at your table, or given explanations for your abrupt departure on the phone.
Now the next time someone orders drinks on your favorite show, watch to see if they actually finish them. I bet they won’t, unless it’s the whole point of the episode.