The boy has been diversifying his television viewing habits lately, there’s no doubt about that; we’ve moved away from talking crayons and melodramatic censors and onto a few different programs, several of which probably deserve their own entry here. But Curious George is absolutely his current favorite.
Now, for the most part, I don’t mind this show at all. I was a big fan of the Curious George books when I was a kid, although at the time there were only a few of them, and the show itself is not really that bad. Eminent blues/zydeco musician Dr. John provides the intro music; William H. Macy did the voice-over for the first season; there’s some quality stuff going on here, and if you ignore the core ridiculousness of the show it’s pretty easy to get along with.
But man, that core ridiculousness. The show never gets into the fact that the Man with the Yellow Hat is a poacher who stole George from the wilderness. Two of the main characters are scientists and they still insist on calling George a monkey when he is clearly an ape; he’s an orangutan, by the way– lots of people want him to be a chimpanzee; chimps are black and George is brown. He’s an orang. Deal. The fact that most of the characters are cool with an ape being around and the fact that the city the Man lives in has no health department of any kind are also just sort of taken as given. Also, sooner or later George is gonna hit sexual maturity, rip the Man’s face off, and masturbate with it. That doesn’t come up often either. As kids’ TV shows go, I can deal.
And then there’s Bill. Bill is the one thing keeping this show from Sesame Street territory where I’m just as happy to watch the show all damn day as the boy is. The Man’s job is unclear; it involves sciences somehow, but sometimes involves just impressing actual scientists with his ridiculous, childish drawings, and twice they’ve tried to send him into space. At any rate, whatever he does, he has enough money that he has an expensive-looking high-rise condo in the city and a country house as well. The country house, judging from the accents of everyone around and the amount of snow it gets, is in Minnesota, although they drive there from the city all the time and the city is clearly not in Minnesota and appears to contain Central Park. But whatever, right? Kids’ show.
When George goes to the country with the Man, he gets to hang out with Bill. This is Bill:
Bill fucking sucks. I’ll get to why in a second, but let’s start with what’s interesting about Bill and to some extent the show in general: Bill was white during the first season. He’s now… that. The show is really good about diverse casting, really; side characters are almost always people of color, especially in the city, and a number of the main ones, including Bill himself, are as well.
Right, though. Bill. Bill’s a bigot. And he’s a bigot in an especially annoying way; he’s the biggest know-it-all on the show. There is nothing in the universe that Bill doesn’t know more about than you do, and nothing that he won’t take half an hour to tediously explain, always arrogantly and frequently incorrectly, although the show doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s wrong a lot.
Bill is the only motherfucker on the show who doesn’t know George is a monkey. Let that sink in for a second. This know-it-all genius asshole doesn’t realize that that’s a monkey.
Well, okay, ape. Still.
What does Bill think George is? A “city kid.”
What’s a “city kid?” An uneducated moron, apparently. There is nothing– nothing— about George that Bill won’t immediately attribute to George being a “city kid,” and I think this is something that started out being intended as a cute affectation but after 630 hours of listening to him it’s actually a serious problem with the character. He’s a huge fucking bigot.
George wants to sail a boat. City kids don’t know anything about boats!
George participates in a corn maze. Let me incorrectly talk about “maize” for ten minutes; city kids don’t know anything about vegetables.
George wants to enter his worm in a worm race. City kids are too stupid for that!
The phrase “city kid” or “silly city kid” is literally probably 10-15% of Bill’s dialogue, which is a lot more than it sounds. They won’t let him get through a scene without a “city kid” reference. Now imagine someone substituting literally any other description of humanity in for “city kid”– “woman,” or “black person,” or “Latino,” or fucking anything— and you should see how goddamn awful the character is.
I like Curious George a lot. But God do I hate Bill.