Of course parents should be making sure that their 5 year olds aren’t accidentally switching on to Sex and the City followed by some Sopranos on HBO. That’s the obvious part. Here’s the not so obvious part. Sometimes on shows specifically for kids on channels like Disney or Nickelodeon, channels you think their biggest crime must be capitalism, celebrate characters that are horrendous human beings. This is the part you don’t realize until much later. You think making sure your kids only watch movies that are G and PG will cover your bases. Oh no, you got to watch out for so much more.
High School Musical has a character named Sharpay, a self-involved snob who wants to be a superstar. I don’t actually have a problem with her. This is an example of a mean character who’s celebrated, but in what I consider a responsible manner. Why? Because she doesn’t always get what she wants despite having fought dirty for it. She tries, but fails when a more talented person steps in. And she’s not really friends with these people either. They don’t go hang out at the movies after she tries to ruin their hopes and dreams. Sharpay doesn’t half-ass it either. She gets on that stage and gives it her all. I can respect that.
Here’s who I do have a problem with, Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) on Wizards of Waverly Place. Yes, I let my daughter watch it, but I point out how frustrated I am with certain situations. My daughter knows I can’t stand Alex and she’s the star of the show. Alex is a lazy, self-absrobed pretty girl. She half-asses everything. She almost fails in school. She doesn’t study her wizard stuff. She gets into trouble not because she’s bad at magic, but because she does things with it that she knows are wrong. She doesn’t care, she wants what she wants and damn the consequences. In one episode her mistake costs her brother the $200 he’d been saving up for something. Her reaction? She laughs at him. His reaction? He lets it go. She’s a horrible human being with only one friend in the world, and I just want to punch her smug little smile in every time I see her. This character should not be celebrated. It’s like putting the guy from the Karate Kid on your lunch box.
On Suite Life of Zach and Codi they all hang out with a girl named London Tipton, the dumb clueless heiress who makes Paris Hilton look like a normal human being. What bothers me is that they all hang out with her. Why? She says horrible condescending things to them and has no human compassion. Her character should be hanging out with other clueless blue bloods, not being put up with by poor and decent human beings. I don’t get it. It’s not like they’re after her money. The other girl on the show (can’t even remember her name) is very nice to her despite getting insulted repeatedly by London. Is Disney trying to teach my daughter her place in the class struggle?
So what started this rant? Surely, it must have been something that triggered it. Yes.
On iCarly, the other girl (the one who’s not Carly), Sam, is kind of a bad egg. The show has made it a point to say that if it wasn’t for Carly, Sam would be in juvy. Ok. Fine. She’s a troubled kid and plays mean pranks on Freddie, their tech guy, but is a very good friend to Carly to the point that viewers can believe she’d be willing to be expelled if it meant avenging some wrong done to Carly. Could be worse. At least she’s loyal. But then she starts dating Freddie. Four months later the audience (and the cast) find out that Freddie had applied to some awesome summer school program in hopes of getting into a good college. Around that time, Sam asked Freddie what time it was once, he didn’t know, and Sam was so angry she secretly botched his summer school application so he wouldn’t get accepted. Carly convinces Freddie to forgive Sam and one commercial break later they kiss and make-up.
Go ahead and read that again because I’m not exaggerating. I started screaming bloody murder and spent a good 30 minutes lecturing my daughter on how and why what Sam did was completely unforgivable. Like ever. That’s not something you do to your friends. That’s not something you should forgive. This isn’t like the time that Sam made Freddie lose the big locker at the school. This might have effected the course of his life. Screw you Nickelodeon.
So don’t let the ratings fool you, don’t let the brand fool you, don’t take anything for granted, and make sure that you explain to your children the actual values you want them to learn. Sometimes I let my daughter watch stuff that other parents might criticize me for, but… yeah, whatever.. screw them too.