i've been thinking lately of all the programs that i watched as a kid... when i was very young cartoons didn't seem to have any moral besides "don't try to eat other animals, they will outsmart you". as i aged, however, all of the shows that became popular seemed to have one thing in common... they tried to teach children how to live. the following are some examples of common moral lessons that are poured like hot wax onto the eyeballs of children through the miracle of television and why i think these lessons are crap.
1. if you give the nerdy kid a chance, he/she will surprise you and become your best friend for exactly one episode and then disappear forever.
the reason this is crap is that i've tried to take socially impaired people under my wing. invariably it ends in awkwardness and sorrow. and they NEVER disappear... they just hang around asking you to do things with them. most of these people are social pariahs for a good reason... even children... it may be that they smell bad, are stupid, think they are smarter than they are, or are trashy. all of these are symptoms of deeper social ills that none of their child peers have the psychiatric training to "fix". the best way to handle them is to remain courteous yet distant. that way you can avoid being targeted in the high school killing spree and also the death hit by association that your social life will invariably take.
2. if you dream hard enough, you will achieve your goals.
this is such obvious crap it needs no explanation... however i will provide one anyway. some people are talented in areas, others are not. most common is the person who isn't talented in any area that is applicable in any way to any type of success in life. this type of person more often than not doesn't know that they have no talent, they write their crappy poetry or draw their one dimensional sketches of hearts and dolphins on lined notebook paper and go through their childhood thinking that there is a future for them in the art world. unfortunately the misinformation that their dreams will translate directly into success is beaten into their heads from a young age and there is no helping these people. any criticism is seen as jealousy so it's best just to follow the previous rule... remain courteous yet distant and move on as quickly as possible. there is no danger of a killing spree from these youngsters. however if you see one of them walking around with a notebook or a sketchpad... under no circumstances ask to see what they are working on.
3. people from different backgrounds are all the same, with the same problems and the same desires to be liked.
while all people are essentially the same, the idea that they can get along with each other once they realize that basic truth never will come to pass. all kids are one uppers... it's a fact. most adults are also one uppers. because of this, they can very seldom see similarities between themselves and perceived enemies. in reality when one child complains about their life, the child that they're complaining to immediately starts to explain how much worse their own life is. they create their own differences, negating any chance they might have to recognize any common ground.
4. mean kids are insecure and have deep problems that can be solved with either a modicum of kindness or by standing up to them.
mean kids, realistically, do have problems. unfortunately they can rarely be solved with kindness. in reality mean kids generally grow up to be mean adults... we know them as "assholes". the common scenario in children's programming is that the nerdy nice star of the show is somehow forced into a situation that involves tutoring or detention with the mean kid... thereby forcing them to interact and realize they both have something to gain from each other. realistically when this occurs and the mean kid suddenly has unsupervised access to the nice kid it ends horribly, and the mean kid has a new mean story to spread about the nice kid pooping his pants and crying when the mean kid punched him in the jaw. standing up to the mean kid is likely to end the same way.
5. every child should be college bound.
some kids are meant for trade school, some for college, and some for mcdonalds. this is a fact. no child's life ends because they don't go to college, this has been true for the duration of human history. pumping children full of the idea that if they don't go to college they will end up "flipping burgers" or "working in a factory" is demeaning not only to everyone who has ever worked in the service or manufacturing industries but to humanity in general. it implies that the only jobs worth striving for are the type of jobs that 95% of humanity is not cut out for. the world needs garbage men, burger flippers, line workers and waitresses. i wouldn't want to live in a world without them. i haven't been to a doctor in four years yet i've been to countless restaurants in that time... short order cooks and waitresses get my vote for the jobs that most effect my life. implying to children that they are "wasting their potential" if they don't give their money to a four year college is setting most kids up for failure and disappointment.
these are the "life lessons" that television has seen fit to force feed children, and kids eat that tacky crap up unquestioningly. it is unfortunate however that the kids are bound to realize that it is just that, tacky crap, by the time they get to high school. by then it's too late to "undo" the programming and the kids just have to take the let down for what it is, a let down. i like kids, i think they're funny and charming little people and just a few years ago i was one... but i know from personal experience that they aren't idiots. every kid knows how not to be an asshole without a tv show telling them. i managed to grow up knowing not do crappy things to other people without "that's so raven" telling me not to. this is going to sound crazy... but i learned how to interact with other kids by... drumroll please... interacting with other kids!!!
i'm not saying that children's programming should eschew all moral boundaries and only show realistic depictions of tween life... i'm just saying that morally relevant shows are irrelevant. also i'm a bit pissed that the one morning of the week that i used to cherish is filled up now with live action tween programming that treats children as though they need to have every life lesson seared directly onto their brain... why can't subtelty and pure entertainment rule again?