Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW

The-Super-Hero-Squad-Show-Season-2-Episode-24-Soul-Stone-Picnic-I was all ready to do a review of Avengers Assemble! when the boy noticed The Super Hero Squad Show on Netflix, and he hasn’t watched an episode of anything else since.  There were only two seasons of this show for some reason, and both seasons are on Netflix.  I think we’ve watched everything at least once by now.

This is actually a pretty good show, believe it or not.  The premise: There are two cities, Super Hero City and what I believe is called Villainville, and they’re separated by a giant wall.  All the people and all the superheroes live in Super Hero City, and the villains do villain stuff so that the heroes have to fight them.  The first season is obsessed with finding and controlling little broken bits of a magic sword and the second season is all about what happens when the sword gets put together and is a lot more cosmic in tone.

There’s a rockin’ theme song, too.  It has no right to not be a Bowling for Soup song.  Check it out:

The cool thing about Avengers Assemble! was how seriously it took itself– and there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll still be writing a piece on that show soon enough.  The Super Hero Squad Show takes absolutely nothing seriously, and that’s the genius of the show, because it knows it’s goofy as hell and runs with it.  Particularly fun are the portrayals of Captain America and Thor; Cap (who is a side character, surprisingly) is convinced he’s still in the 1940s and talks like a dad from a sitcom from that era, and Thor has the Norse nonsense turned up to 12– the episode from Season 2 where Beta Ray Bill is introduced is especially funny.

Hulk calls the Falcon “Bird,” which absolutely never ever stops being funny.

My one beef with the show?  It occasionally kinda treats its female characters like crap, and flat-out sexual harassment is a bit more of a theme than it ought to be, in that sexual harassment is a thing that happens and it shouldn’t ever be.  There’s a bit where Mr. Fantastic is proud of Ms. Marvel for having a good idea and he kisses her on the cheek as a reward.  It doesn’t surface all that often but when it does it’s really jarring and annoying, and Ms. Marvel is frequently a part of it; she’s frequently portrayed as a ditzy girl and it’s really obnoxious.  She ought to be Captain Marvel anyway, dangit.

(It’s a boys’ show, you say?  Shut up, I respond.  Boys need to see females who aren’t doormats and aren’t going to take time during world-saving to squawk “You think I’m cute?” like Starfire does to Human Torch at one point.  Boys need feminism too, goddammit.  And that’s before we get to the part where girls watch superhero shows too.  Even if no women or girls ever watched the show, the show needs to portray women better anyway.)

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BOB ZOOM

bobzoom_toalhaI don’t know what to do with this one.

I hesitate to call BOB ZOOM the new hotness; more like a passing fancy– the kid noticed it and insisted on watching it a few times and then it disappeared from Netflix like a bad Brazilian dream.  Bob Zoom is an ant.  He does not, in any noticeable fashion, ever zoom anywhere, and the provenance of his last name is unclear.  Then again, the show is Brazilian, and translated from Portuguese, and I’m really tempted to ascribe all of the weirdness to the fact that the show was originally written for a Brazilian audience.  But I’m not convinced.  They find this shit weird too, right?  They have to.

Start off with this: the ant’s name isn’t Bob Zoom.  It’s Bobby.  They never once call him Bob, ever.  I originally wondered if this was also an artifact of translation, and the show was originally called Bob y Zoom, and Zoom was some other character, but there’s no sign of him anywhere and I’m not sure y actually means and in Portuguese anyway.  But here, watch the intro to the show.  His name’s Bobby!:

There’s no actual storyline to BOB ZOOM; there are (well, were) two episodes on Netflix and they’re entirely composed of songs.  Bob himself doesn’t do much of anything.  Some of the songs are fairly normal; there’s the alphabet, and they do a version of BINGO that isn’t far from the American standard but has entertainingly been translated from English to Portuguese and then back to English again.  There’s a Maori song called Epo I Tai Tai é, and I dare you to head down the Internet rabbit hole that trying to figure out what that translates as will lead you to, because it’s terrifying.

And then there are what I assume are a couple of traditional Brazilian children’s songs, and that’s where the show gets weird.  Well, not immediately.  The song about the cow named Barnabe who is in love with another cow is fairly catchy and fun and normal:

Your foot’s tapping, right? And you’ve already got it sorta memorized? That’s how kids’ songs are supposed to work.

I give you Mrs. Cockroach:

Now, before I say more, let me point out that my wife works with an actual Brazilian national and he has never heard of this song.  Which is comforting, because make fun of the lying poor person isn’t something that I’ve gotten an impression is a big part of the Brazilian psyche, and this song vibes all sorts of creepy and very probably racist in some sort of coded Brazilian way.  And the animation is messed up, too; Mrs. Cockroach spends the occasional moment in the video looking seriously depressed and sad and then puts on her strong face, fully aware that the white children in the back of her car are going to keep making fun of her no matter what she tries to do.

And that’s before we get to what are obviously translation issues:  her shell being hard as steel seems difficult to connect to her class ring, for example.  But this song, and one more that keeps the weird but takes away the creepy and the “Wait, is this racist too?” element, definitely put BOB ZOOM high among the ranks of weird shit that I would never have been exposed to if I hadn’t had a kid.

Ah, what the hell, I’ll give you the chicken song too.  It will haunt your dreams.  Enjoy:

Creepy Children’s Programming Review: OCTONAUTS

6630bc3207651991e913e0e48d119eeeaa360e59So here’s the new hotness:  Octonauts, a show about British (mostly) animals (mostly) who live underwater in a giant octopus and Do Science.  Most of them, as I said, are various flavors of British, and their accents are region-specific.  Then there is the one with the southern accent (and by “southern accent,” I mean “southern US”) and what might be an attempt at a Mexican accent, maybe, since the character’s name is Peso?  Only they’re all done by British voice actors, and they are perhaps done by British voice actors who have never met southerners or Mexicans, because the southerner (“Tweak,” the rabbit) sounds like the worst stereotype of a toothless Mississippi white-trash hick you’ve ever heard and the Mexican accent sounds so un-Mexican that I thought the character was supposed to be Asian at first.

Here are the Octonauts.  They are so, so, so British, even the ones who aren’t British.

587d105778baebb5135df748f2f31a2d.jpgYou’ll recall I said they were mostly animals.  Note the plant on the right.  His name is Tunip, but I thought it was Turnip until seeing it in print just now.  The rest of the characters have personality and agency; Tunip and his other plant-based lifeforms appear to be either vegetable-based Oompa Loompas or actual slaves, and they really don’t fit into the rest of the show very well.  It’s bizarre.

At any rate: Every episode involves the Octopod tooling around in the ocean and dealing with some sort of sea animal’s problem, or sometimes the sea animals are the problem.  The animation is kind of cool and the ocean backgrounds are really neat even without the massive, Thomas the Train-level Britishness.

So goddamn British.

There’s a weird colonialism thing going on here, too:  the white … polar bear? in the middle up there is Captain Barnacles, who has the Britishiest of the accents, and he’s in charge.  He’s supposed to come off as this nineteenth-century naval captain dude.  In practice, this means that he assumes in any situation that whoever he’s dealing with will understand and assume that he’s rightfully in charge and what he says is the best thing for everyone.  Even if it’s a indigenous culture species of animal they’ve never seen before, obviously everyone ought to just agree with what the white animal thinks.  He’s the Captain!  Don’t you understand what that means?

Then there’s always a song at the end.  It’s the Creature Report.  It lives in my brain now, and I hear it all the time, everywhere I go, no matter what, forever.  Let it be in your brain now:

I like the show.  It makes me crave crumpets, and I don’t know what crumpets are, but I like it.  That said, if I try to drift off to sleep one more night with the Creature Report running through my head, I will kill a substantial portion of the Midwest’s population.

No big deal.

REBLOG: Sex positive parenting: the book we are going to burn

I endorse this message.

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My wife and I are huge book lovers, the word ‘bibliophile’ definitely comes to mind.  On top of this, we are also very sex(uality) positive when it comes to parenting, both wanting our four children to grow up with a healthy understanding of sex and sexuality, theirs and in general.  Our eldest daughter is 11 now and is going through puberty; she loves reading puberty books, demolishes the damn things, then reads them two, three, four more times… and a month later will get them out from the library again.  It got to the point we ended up buying the books for her.

A few months back we were in our regular secondhand bookshop, perusing the shelves full of booky potential.  I came across a hardcover book – ‘Questions Kids Ask about Sex: Honest answers for every age’, Melissa R. Cox (ed) – and thought HEY!  THAT SOUNDS FUCKING…

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Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: PINGU

PinguI haven’t done one of these in a while, mostly because the boy’s last couple of obsessions have been shows that I’ve liked.  Pingu tends to come and go, and I’m mostly writing this because the damn show is about to make a milestone for itself: it’s getting damn close to being the first show that I’ve ever banned from further viewing in my house.

(Two notes: one, I can see one of you quivering at the chance to mention Caillou, which comes up every single time I talk about shitty kids’ programs.  I haven’t banned that show so much as declined to ever show it to him.  This is a show that he used to be able to watch and will very soon not be able to watch any more.  Second note: Every time you see me say in this post, read “my wife and I,” as this isn’t a unilateral decision.)

Anyway.  Pingu is… Korean?  Or something?  It’s insane in a way that I usually associate with Japan but I don’t think it’s actually a Japanese show.  Pingu is a penguin.  He’s Claymation.  He has a big penguin family and a few penguin friends and they all have the same name, or some shit like that.  I dunno, because everyone speaks in gibberish, and worse, it’s Korean-or-whatever gibberish, which is even more gibberishy to the English speaker, except for the occasional time when the gibberish sorta sounds like English.

(Looks it up)

Wait, what the fuck.  It’s Swiss?  How the hell is this nonsense from Switzerland?  This show has to be Japanese.  Or Korean or whatever.  I refuse to believe reality.

Anyway.  There’s also a seal:

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And this horrifying fucking thing, which isn’t the reason I’m banning the show but probably ought to be:

hqdefaultAnd its theme song is by David Hasselhoff.  Let that roll around a bit:

I maintain that this song is insane enough to make the show Japanese even if it isn’t already.

One more thing before I discuss why I’m banning the show.  It has a really weird obsession with toilet issues.  Pingu has a baby brother, and he’s… well, he’s not in diapers, but he poops himself a lot, and the show has no problem with the pooping happening on camera, as well as the subsequent butt-wiping.  This happened on-screen as well:

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I don’t have, like, a moral objection to this?  But it adds to the weirdness, certainly.

So.  Yeah.  Boy can’t watch the show anymore.  And here’s why.  Every so often something happens to Pingu that he doesn’t like or he doesn’t want to happen.  And this is his reaction:

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Note the posture: head tossed forward, arms back, biologically improbable extension of beak.  I wouldn’t spell the sound he makes “Noot noot,” more of a nrrt nrrt, but whatever. Every single meme pic (and there is a startlingly large number of them) spells it “noot noot,” so maybe I’m hearing it wrong.

The boy does this all the damn time now.  It is his go-to frustration sound.  So if, say, I want him to put his shoes on, because we need to go somewhere, or take his shirt off, because it is bedtime, or pick up his blocks, or eat his dinner, or basically any goddamn thing that a three-and-a-half year old might not be inclined to immediately do, I’m likely to get a nrrt nrrt back in response.

And then the boy gets a response, which he tends to not like a whole lot, and the thing that Daddy wanted done gets done anyway.

But my point: It is insanely irritating to get nrrted at by a toddler, and this is literally the first show he’s wanted to watch that I genuinely feel has taught him bad habits.  Which is kind of a shame, because in a lot of ways it’s a charming show.  But: the fact that I let the kid watch TV is bad enough.  It doesn’t get to make my kid into a butthead in the process.

Nrrt nrrt, Pingu.