I'm overeducated and understimulated, with shelves full of long-ignored critical-theory books, trained in the reading of "texts" through Marxist, feminist, and postmodern perspectives. It's no wonder that the dormant critical theorist within me awakens when faced with the coded wonderland of children's programming. Hitchcock is well-covered territory, but Thomas and Friends presents a minefield of untapped deconstructing opportunities!It's Slate, and it might be partially tongue-in-cheek (although the story contains references to skirmishes elsewhere in the culture wars). But it might be Thomas and Friends's E-T-T-S moment: the show has new producers, new animation, and new characters. (Spencer, the private toy of minor royalty, is a Gresley Streak, and I've seen passing references to a character called Melanie the Long Engine, supposedly based on a Hiawatha 4-4-2, although this engine has not yet been released. Is that part of the patriarchal conspiracy? Couldn't have the fastest and biggest engine on the Island of Sodor be a girl.)
It may be a few years before I lay out the particularities of British imperialism to my son (I think 5 is probably about right for Kipling criticism), but it's still important to instill basic skepticism in your young media consumer. Otherwise, you face the very real possibility that your toddler, raised in an environment full of labor abuses and pro-toadying propaganda, might one day look at you and earnestly promise to be "very useful"—the show's highest compliment for an engine. In our home, Thomas and Friends must rule Brittania no more, and some ugly truths about unjust train society must be told.
WHY SOME PEOPLE QUESTION THE RESEARCH IMPERATIVE.
Via Laura at 11-D, the cultural-studies machine deconstructs Thomas the Tank Engine.