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Location: Hamilton Square, New Jersey, United States

Tax guy, host & producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, former co-host of the Wall Street Journal E-Report

Friday, April 13, 2007

What happened to all the white Americans in kids shows?

(Disclaimer: the below is meant to be funny. Please don't railroad me out of town like Imus.)

With a 2 1/2 year old and a TiVo, I've been immersed in pretty much every kids show known to man. Sesame Street, Barney, Blue's Clues, the list goes on. What amazes me about these shows is how forcibly diversified each one of these shows are. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's amusing how they seem to go out of their way to include at least one or two minorities in every program. Not only that, but with more and more shows being produced outside of this country like Caillou (Canada) and Kipper (UK), finding a white American is hard to come by.

Let's examine the TV shows my son watches.

  • Sesame Street - one of the pioneers in the field of children's programming as well as in promoting diversity. Let's look at the primary human characters of the show. Gordon, Susan (when she's even around anymore) and their son Miles are black. Luis, Maria and their daughter Gabi are Hispanic. The only white people are Gina and Bob (and let's face it...something's just not right about Bob). There WAS Mr. Hooper who ran a convenience store in the 70s, but he died off and was replaced by Alan, an Asian (an Asian taking over the local convenience store? Impossible!). And that's not it, they apparently felt that Mexicans weren't represented enough so they had to introduce a Mexican Muppet named Rosita. Incredibly, Muppet labor was cheaper than just going out and hiring a real Mexican to be a cast member. Not only that, but one of the animated skits revolves around a young black kid in a wheelchair who like to play basketball. His name? Traction Jackson. Wait...Traction Jackson?! Apparently it wasn't stereotypical enough to put a basketball in a black kid's hands, but they had to be insensitive about his handicap too?
  • Dora the Explorer - a Hispanic kid of unknown Latin American origin, neglected by her parents and forced to use her imagination to take her on incredible quests. Dora apparently feels the need to interject Spanish words into every other sentence, confusing many young viewers of the show. I can see the "What the f*$%?" look on my son's face whenever she tells her viewers to "say rojo!".
  • Go, Diego, Go! - Dora's cousin. Not only does he feel the need to throw Spanish words around like frisbees, he also introduces seriously exotic animals like spectacled bears, macaroni penguins, and pygmy marmosets. What the fuck is that all about? What happened to horses, cows, or other animals our kids might actually encounter on this continent? And what's with the need for everyone to need to know how to speak Spanish, anyway? To communicate with our landscapers? The hell with that, they should have more India-based shows so that our kids will know how to speak to that AT&T representative on the phone.
  • Caillou - Bingo! A white kid! What's that? Oh wait, he's Canadian, not American. Dammit!
  • Backyardigans - Okay, there's a penguin named Pablo (Hispanic), a moose named Tyrone (black), some odd pink creature named Uniqua (black), a kangaroo named Austin (white) and hippo named Tasha (white). I don't know what "backyards" these guys play in, but I suspect there were former characters named "Kyle" and "Brandon" who moved away after their parents hastily sold their houses at reduced prices.
  • Blue's Clues - One of the few shows where pretty much every character is either white or seem to be white-oriented (aside from being tagged with a different color, like Periwinkle or Green Puppy). Wow, how the hell did they pull this off? Who produces this show, the Ku Klux Klan?
I think I got them all but, hey, if you can think of more, by all means chime in.


Anonymous Darren R. Sussman said...

We're getting hooked on Jack's Big Music Show. There's plenty of white people on there. :)

4/14/2007 12:45 AM  
Blogger Doobie said...

By the way, SNL recently did a great spoof of Dora. Check it out here.

4/15/2007 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Flexo said...

That Dora spoof was the ONLY funny thing on that episode of SNL. I happened to catch it.

By the way, your average television-watching white kid throughout the country sees mostly white kids and white adults all the time. In areas of the country where there are much fewer minorities, it's not so bad that they're getting some exposure to minorities on television.

4/15/2007 12:47 PM  
Blogger Doobie said...

Oh, I'm not saying it's a bad idea, it just amusing to me how they try to shoehorn in all different kinds of minorities...kind of like when you watch a movie that tries to be politically correct by showing a street gang that has a white, a black, a hispanic and an asian.

Another thing many shows do in addition to all that is assign a different color to each character. Nearly every main animated character is Blue's Clues is even NAMED by the color (ex. Blue, Periwinkle, Magenta, Green Puppy, etc.). Each character in the Backyardigans is also a different color. Ditto for the Muppets in Sesame Street...although they seemed to overload on blue (Grover, Cookie Monster, Herry). Of course, I'm sure one of the primary reasons is to keep kids' interest but there's also an underlying theme of diversity as well.

4/15/2007 1:01 PM  

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