Super Why is a children's show on PBS. It should be something I, as a parent, should love. It encourages reading, talks about letters, and discussing spelling. I don't, though. Because it's awful.
On the show, the "Super Readers" jump into traditional fairy tale stories and try to save the day. In each instance, the creators of the show change the plot so much to make the original story almost unrecognizable.
- Jack and the Beanstalk - Instead of a story about a plucky hero who climbs a beanstalk, and is able to raise his fortune from the evil giant - Jack climbs the beanstalk to hear the giant crying and plays him music to calm him down. The giant is dressed like a giant baby.
- Rumpelstiltskin - Rumpelstiltskin is too busy to help the girl as opposed to being okay helping the girl, in exchange for her first born child.
- Ugly Duckling - Instead of a story about, frankly, racism / bigotry where the "ugly duckling" is mocked based on its appearance, the story is about an ugly baby duck that can't dance.
- Goldilocks - In their second take on the story, Goldilocks didn't make the mess, but was blamed for a mess she didn't make.
- Sleeping Beauty - Not about a mystical sleep which can only be broken by a Prince's kiss, instead it's a story about a princess who really likes sleeping instead of trying new things.
- Boy who Cried Wolf - No one believes him, until the Super Readers convince them he's not a liar.
- Little Miss Muffet - The spider can talk, somehow, and didn't mean to scare away Little Miss Muffet.
- Snow White - Snow White doesn't eat the apple, the Super Readers save the day and prevent her from doing so.
Why are these stories changed? What is wrong with the original intent of the stories. Be them stories to instill a sense of natural fear of certain animals in children which can hurt them, to teach people that hating those who are different is wrong, or a story about a Princess' salvation coming from true love. What is wrong with these messages? Why did the messages need to change to needing help dancing or falsely being accuse of a mess. Why did the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" not realize the error of his ways on his own, why did they need to interact with the story? It's intentional. It's trying to change our values at a very early age.
A few things which I'm noticing.
- Romance is Gone - Romance between man and woman as a serious element of the stories are all removed. I get that it's for little children, but who cares? The love story of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White show that love can triumph over the evils of this world. Love can triumph over those who hate us. Love can defeat the anger which exists in this world. Isn't that a message we want to be teaching our children? Yes, it also displays chivalry by men and the differences in gender roles. Is that a problem? Why is it bad to acknowledge the fact that men and women are different. You can have equality without a sense of sameness. If we were all the same, it would be a boring world.
- Accountability is Gone - The Boy who Cried Wolf is saved by the Deus Ex Machina known as the Super Readers. Snow White doesn't eat the apple. Goldilocks isn't responsible for the mess. In each case, accountability is removed. Something comes in to prevent the people from suffering for their actions. Accountability matters. When we make mistakes, we need to either find a way out of the situation or deal with the consequences. Consequences matter. It helps ensure children grow up to be complete adults. Without consequences, we are creating a nation of really tall children who think they can get away with anything.
- Differences are Ignored - We are all different. We are white, black, men, women, adults, children. That's a good thing. Society would be incredibly boring if we were all androgynous grey skinned individuals with the same personality. The cast is a diverse group of characters of varying ethnicities ..and one pig. But, they all act the same. They all have the same, childish problems. They all are basically a bunch of children, including the adults. This isn't healthy. While we should not mock people for their differences (the entire basis of the actual ugly duckling story), we shouldn't pretend they don't exist. We should be excited to meet people who are different. We should be interested in what they have to say. We should embrace their differences instead of pretending that men and women are the same; that black and white people are the same; that white collar and blue collar people are the same. We're not and that's more than okay, it's something to embrace and be excited about.
- There are No Savages - When differences exist which are clearly wrong - like giants who like to eat little boys or spiders who enjoy scaring little girls eating curds and whey, they're changed on Super Why to be something tamer. I get changing stories to not scare children - Disney was the king of that creating a happy ending in the Little Mermaid which originally didn't have one or removing gruesome tales of feet being cut up by the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. But what's wrong with including a natural sense of fear of those things which can genuinely hurt you. What is wrong with the fact that there are people, monsters, or animals which are mean or evil. Evil exists in the world, look at the murder of Christians in the Middle East or the shooter in Newtown for examples. We do not need to pretend it doesn't exist.
My kids don't hate Super Why, but to them it's mostly white noise in the background while they play. That I'm glad about. It's awful and it's shows like Super Why are are hurting our children. We should be embracing traditional values. We should be embracing chivalry. We should be embracing our differences and enforcing in children that consequences exist for a reason. We should teach our children that there are evil people in the world, not just people who need a hug. There is real evil, be prepared for it.
I hope my wife and I can instill the truth in my children through the way we raise them. I plan to do so through parenting, loving my children, church, and regular reading of the Bible. We need to instill values in our children. Society sure isn't going to and the values they try to instill, are false. True values are found in God's word, teach it at home.
Image via Cake Events Blog
Cross posted from Old Line Elephant