Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Watching Cartoons with Lily: Liberty's Kids

Jen and I differ on what constitutes age-appropriate material for our five year old daughter. That's not unusual. You'll probably find a similar dynamic at play in any relationship with kids.

I'm working from a home office now, so I pick up Lily at the bus stop in the afternoon and we'll sometimes watch some cartoons when she's done with her homework. I tend to be a bit more liberal with letting her watch shows for older kids. Sometimes that works out and other times it doesn't.

One time we were watching an episode of the Justice League where a parallel universe version of Superman shows up and deals with a supervillain by blasting him with his heat vision right through his forehead.

Lois Lane realizes what he did and calls him out on this ("You...lobotomized him.") and then when Jen gets home and we're all sitting down to a pleasant dinner, Lily pipes up with "What's 'lobotomize' mean?"AWKWARD!

Domo arigato, Mister Loboto

And then I tried my hand at something that was definitely age appropriate, with a Superfriends comic book. I read it to Lily and she listened attentively, and then when I was done, she said "Daddy, that was really, really boring."

She's right. This was crap.

So it's a bit of a balancing act, finding something she likes, that isn't too inappropriate, and which we can at least tolerate, since we try to be in the room with her when she's watching TV.

That's why I'm happy that she likes Liberty's Kids. I had seen it once before she was born, and it just fascinated me. It's a fictionalized account of the Revolutionary War era (from the Boston Tea Party in to the ratification of the Constitution), with a couple of kids as viewpoint characters.  It also has the craziest stable of celebrity voice actors this side of the Simpsons. Walter Cronkite is Ben Franklin and we have Arnold Schwarzenegger as Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Billy Crystal, Maria Shriver, Michael Douglas, Warren Buffet (!), Norman Schwarzkopf, Liam Neeson, It's really impressive. Here's the link to Wikipedia's list of all the Historical figures in the show.

I think the most interesting part is the treatment of Benedict Arnold. Dustin Hoffman voices him, and we get his whole character arc over the length of the show, from his military career, to his plan to surrender West Point to the British. We've watched about twenty episodes so far, and right now we're seeing him as a man passed over time and again for the promotions he believes he deserves and slowly consumed by bitterness. The one kid in the show, Sarah Phillips, is very close to him, and it will be interesting to see how she reacts to his treason.

 In the internet era, everyone knows that Darth Vader is Luke's father, and that Schwarzenegger is the good Terminator in the second movie and that Gandalf comes back in the Two Towers. When I was growing up, Benedict Arnold was a byword for traitor. But Lily doesn't know this. It will be interesting in seeing how Lily reacts to this too.

(Assuming we ever get beyond the 20th episode. Lily is always asking for "The one with Doctor Franklin in the bathtub." She's a weird kid.)

It's surprisingly nuanced for a kid's show.  One of the viewpoint characters starts as a loyalist to the crown and her arguments actually have some validity. Slavery comes up very often. The brother of one of the fictional characters, (Moses, a former slave who had bought his freedom) joins the British army because they have promised to free the slaves once they put down the rebellion. And the fact that the Constitution does not abolish slavery is not glossed over.

We're going to take her to the Constitution Center in Philly when she's old enough to appreciate it, and it's starting to look like that day's not far off. 

1 comment:

  1. Dude, you HAVE to show her Adventure Time! So good!