Saturday, January 3, 2009

Where are their parents?

It has been a concern of mine since Amelia and I have been paying attention to children's television.  Elmo has their picture on his wall but never mentions them.  Max and Ruby have a family portrait, but they clearly live alone.  Even Handy Many only has an Abuelito. And like any good single Latino working man, he should at least be living with his Mama until he finally shacks up with the hardware store owner he clearly has the hots for.

When I first saw Elmo, I thought the opening song said "Elmo loves his Mommy and crayon too". He actually sings "Elmo loves his GOLDFISH and crayon too."  There is a picture on his wall of an older couple that resembles Elmo but we never see him on the show.  I spoke about this with my coworkers who insist monsters don't have parents.  It takes the village  of Sesame Street to raise them. Ok, fine, Elmo is not human or animal so he doesn't need parents.

But don't bunnies need a Mommy and Daddy?  That is what my friend Ingrid and I keep asking each other.  Max and Ruby must have parents and a litter of siblings at that. What did they do to be left behind?  If you are not familiar with this cartoon,  Max and Ruby are brother and sister. They live ALONE in a two level house.  Ruby takes care of her little brother Max like a mother should.  Feeds him, dresses him, plays with him, teaches him right from wrong plus has time to play with her own bunny girlfriends and do school work. She even tucks her dolls in bed after tucking Max in.  If her little brother has a nightmare she's there. Not her parents.

They have a grandmother but she doesn't even visit every week let alone seems to want them in her house.  When she comes over for tea, Ruby prepares the hot beverage and mini sandwiches. No one ever tells us if the rest of the family was cooked during an Easter feast or what.  Ruby raises Max and that's it.

I know Handy Many is a grown man. But I'm Latin and my hard working brother lived at my parents house until he was 26 or 28 years old.  Many Latin men see no reason to leave the comforts of Mom's house but Manny doesn't seem to have a Mamasita  to go home to.  Abuelito, contrary to almost every grandparent in the world, especially Hispanic, doesn't take him in.

What is my beef with all this?  Are parents not important to the cartoon world?  Who do they think is sitting at 5AM next to their target audience?  A tired Mom or Dad who would like to be portrayed at least as a constant presence in these characters lives.  I want Amelia to be independent but not afraid that I'll leave her at Sesame Street with the monsters or that Abu Tita or Grandma won't take her in.

By the way, don't get me started on Disney and the way they kill every mother in every movie: Bambi, Nemo, Little Mermaid, Cinderella.  Ay Mama! 

1 comment:

Caroline said...

Ana, your post reminded me of a similar question my five-year-old, Sophie, asked me after my read-aloud of Pippi Longstocking and James and the Giant Peach: “Why did they kill their parents?” So... I found myself going into a pseudo-philosophical discussion about how children’s books authors kill off the parents so that the kids can go off on adventures without any limits. After all, would a kid be able to float into the ocean in a giant peach for weeks on end if he had parents putting out a search committee after he was gone missing for more than five minutes?

Max and Ruby is following in a long tradition of replacing parents with kind/over-indulgent/clueless grandparents (think Ni Hao Kai Lan, among others) who won’t get in the way of a good laugh. Grandma always thinks Max’s ideas are hysterical—I mean, Ruby has more sense than she does!

While parents get in the way of a good story on TV, or even in children’s literature, their absence is as obvious as it is necessary. We notice it, and the good news is that once they’re five-years-old, they notice it too!

It was a treat to read your blog.