5.29.2009

what world does curious george live in?

I have a 5 year-old son and, because I do, I end up watching plenty of children’s programming. Programming I would otherwise be very unlikely to ever watch. Now, I know it’s for kids. And I know anything is possible in cartoonland, but some of this stuff really drives me crazy.

My wife and I have our son watch the kids’ programming that can be found on PBS and a few of the shows are pretty good. I like ‘Fetch’, ‘Arthur’, and, especially, ‘Word Girl’. ‘Word Girl’ is particularly good because the producers realize that adults may be watching so why not entertain them too?

There is one program, however, that consistently gets under my skin. It’s ‘Curious George’. What world does this monkey live in? Believe me, I try to suspend my disbelief, but it gets so difficult when George causes so much damage. He floods the apartment building he lives in, he steals the other tenants’ recyclable goods before the items have been used, he splashes paint all over an empty apartment. He never gets in trouble! The Man in the Yellow Hat must be worth millions or have quite the insurance policy to cover all the damage this monkey does.

In George’s world, people don’t realize he’s a monkey. Well, they do, but they treat him as though he’s human. In one rather excruciating episode, George finds himself in a department store that has a candy counter run by an incredibly stupid woman. Naturally, she and George hit it off.

By the way, Mr. Yellow Hat is constantly leaving George on his own, even though he should know that any time George is left alone, mayhem ensues.

The candy counter lady realizes that she’s running low on supplies so she leaves George (a monkey!) in charge and traipses off, in the middle of the day, to get supplies. Supplies she should have realized she needed earlier. Doesn’t she ever do inventory? Can’t she temporarily close the candy counter? Can’t she have the supplies delivered?

Nope, she leaves the monkey in charge.

What had been a slow day at the candy counter suddenly becomes very busy, now that the human has left. Do any of the customers find it unusual that there is a monkey waiting on them? Do any of them consider that the monkey, being a monkey, may have difficulty comprehending their orders? Of course not!

George makes a huge mess of the candy counter and ends up giving away almost all the candy. Somehow the moronic humans thought he was giving away free samples. But what was George to do? He’s a monkey!!

The numbskull gal finally returns. She sees her station in shambles and realizes that George (the monkey!) had given away so many free samples that, even if she sells all that is left, she won’t be able to afford new inventory. She’ll have to go out of business.

George is sorry and says something in monkey language. I think it translates to something like, “What did you expect, dumbass? You left your business in the care of a monkey!”

This is PBS cartoonland after all, so nothing really bad happens. Somehow, despite her certainty of bankruptcy, she gets so many customers because of George’s samples give away, she stays in business. I don’t know how she managed that. Talk about voodoo economics.

Seriously, one of the biggest problems with the PBS kids’ shows is the fact that no one ever really gets in trouble. With the exception of ‘Arthur’ on which the kids get grounded or some other consequence for carelessness or bad behavior, PBS cartoon characters are always just forgiven when they say they’re sorry. “Oh, that’s ok. It was an accident.”

My wife has said that she thinks PBS is more concerned that kids understand they should apologize for mistakes or bad behavior. I agree that is important, but it’s also important that kids learn that careless or bad behavior may result in loss of privileges or trust. Why adjust your behavior if all you have to do is say, “Sorry” and all is forgiven?

But, in Curious George’s case, what can you do? He’s a monkey.

5 comments:

  1. It's 'The Man in the Yellow Hat', but let's not split hairs. One of my favorite episodes is when George and The Man in the yellow hat go into space, yes! space, to fix some space thingy. There's way too much to explain, or more to the point, too much to relay about the show, but it defies all logic.
    I agree, of course, that the better shows are written for adults too, but I think they are just plain good writing. They treat kids like humans by being imaginative yet intelligent, funny and educational, etc.
    In the case of 'Word Girl', the moments of illogic happenstance is pointed out which adds another fun element to the show. There are shows that give consequences that are smart and fun at the same time.
    The trouble with Curious George is just... too many contradictions, dumbing down (which is a huge problem in most societies), poorly creating reality in no reality, etc. It's a mess of a show. It's too bad. Monkeys should make a show fun. (there's a monkey on 'Word Girl' which proves my point.) It's not cartoon snobbery either! I like a lot of stupid things. Curious George just ends up making me angry. I'm not sure if that's what they are going for. It's not so much George that gets to me, it's the moronic human beings that he encounters. And the fricken tag line from the kids, "George is a monkey. He can do things we can't do." Argh.

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  2. You guys are crazy. Curious George is the best kids show on tv. He has a good little heart, and he teaches my son so much. It is a show for little tykes, not for discerning adults. Compare this to the mind destroying Spongebob Squarepants. Geez. I do agree, however, that the tagline at the end of the show really pisses me off.

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  3. Finally! Someone who I can agree with! I know this comment comes several years later - it's because i have a three year old daughter who "loves" George. There are many things like the one you mentioned that bothered me.
    One time a stupid girl that was in charge of a snack shop at a kids baseball game said she had to go and call her mother while on the job and had a long line of customers. Naturally she asks a wondering monkey if he can take over and the customers don't mind!
    What a load of crap, PBS.

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  4. Wow, this is kind of sad that adults don't appreciate creativity and imagination anymore. Yes, all facets of this show are illogical, but that's not the point! The point of the show is being inquisitive, thinking, playing, and just plain developing a scientific and *curious* outlook towards problems or daily life. It's a very basic and fun intro to teach kinds about the fun of science, experimenting, and being creative, whimsical, and imaginative. It's a conversation starter so kids can ask adults about kites, stars, periscopes, or an idea generator so parents can take kids to the beach and teach them about tides or to the train station and explain how schedules/time tables work.
    And for adults, I think it can easily be the same, but on a deeper level, it can be an escape, if you will, from the 'serious' and 'logical' and usually 'dull' or 'boring' or even 'harsh' world. Calm down with the logic! Let loose and enjoy the show, people! Bring out your child-like curiosity.
    In full disclosure, I think the tagline should be more like "You can be curious too, just like George." However, that new one could encourage kids to do the same things he does, like run water from a hose into the living room to clean the carpet or climb up random dinosaurs in the museum. In which case, since it seems like adults try to be rational at all times, it's pretty clear that the tagline works very logically; it's a (friendly) note (to the kids!) not to repeat these experiments at home. Obviously.

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    Replies
    1. Oops, and agreed with the first anon, I'm late to the posts also but came around by searching about the show. Of course, I respect all of your opinions and understand where you each are coming from (particularly Dan!), but it somewhat disheartens me that some adults think that way, imho.

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