Children’s media. As a parent you have to love it. Seriously. You have to or you’ll just go crazy sitting through the seventyeleventh viewing of something. Children need that repetition—they are learning sequencing, they are hearing lots of new words, they are soaking up the values illustrated by what they watch. I have a deep appreciation for the Wonder Pets because c’mon—an operetta with a speech impaired duck and a guinea pig in a cape? How could that not be hilarious? Yes, they are also important tales of cooperation (What’s gonna work? Teamwork!) and appropriate social behavior for the pre-school set but like a good old fashioned Bugs Bunny cartoon, they work on several levels. I like Sesame Street too, and Word Girl and I have reached an understanding. It was the Disney princesses, however, that did me in. Never mind my scholarly disdain for candied versions of emotionally resonant folktales or the formulaic approach—great songs, cute animal sidekick and a sassy lead character. No. It was the prospect of having to watch The Little Mermaid again that did it. I’ve seen it so many times that at this point I don’t care about the jam session under the sea, and I find myself hoping that Ariel will just turn into sea foam the way she’s supposed to. Are you feeling me here?
Pizza and a movie is the Friday night treat at mi casa but I think it needs to be a treat for the entire viewing audience. It was hard and ugly breaking the Disney princess habit, but we did it. I started off easy, with the cartoon/live action hybrid Enchanted. We moved from there to The Incredible Mr. Limpet and Gay Purr-ee. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Pollyanna, Mary Poppins and the Three Lives of Thomasina followed. It was getting better. Still I moved on to the hard stuff—Bride and Prejudice, Bringing up Baby, Singin’ in the Rain and Harvey. Fridays got a whole lot better and imagine my delight when we had a rare rainy morning and my own personal muppet was doing a pretty good Gene Kelly impression on the school parking lot. The best was when the teacher asked me who Harvey is because he’s now a regular on the playground and he causes a lot of excitement. Move over Princess Ariel—Don Lockwood and a pooka have earned a place on the Great Pretend Bench. Of course, Beauty and the Beast is coming out of the Disney vault soon so Harvey better watch his tail.