Monday, January 12, 2009

Thomas the Really Useful Engine


I don't really like children's music, or children's movies. The daycare where I work often has the radio tuned to the local classical station. I hate children's clothing, which is why my children wear small versions of adult clothes rather than Spazz the Floppy Dog shirts with odd shaped pockets and detachable hoods with dog ears. Why can't my children just wear clothes like adults, cut to fit them? Viri looks good in jeans and sweaters, Arkaedi is very pretty in a dress. What's wrong with that? The answer is nothing at all. So, normal person clothes for them.

This makes my choice of career seem odd to some people, but it makes perfect sense to me. Children are small people, not their own category of being. Terry Pratchett has a great line in one of his books about this. A bogeyman is talking about the fairy stories and holiday customs, and says that in the past there were just humans, some big and some small, and we created little worlds and made the small people into children.

This is why my son usually watches Gamera, or the Simpsons. We have made one concession to the world of children, however. Recently we got him some dvds of Thomas the Tank Engine. It's a cute show, and being British it avoids the frenetic acid trip quality that many kids shows have. (Spongebob makes me want to check myself into a rehab clinic)

It's a general life lesson kind of show, teaching children not to brag or complain and to be helpful in a polite, vaguely distant English way. They focus a lot on being useful, and the theme song goes on about Thomas himself being useful. The "bad" trains in each story typically are less than useful. One entire story is devoted to a train (Scottish. Not sure what they're trying to say there...) that stops on a bridge and refuses to carry passengers. Everyone says he's a load, he gets in trouble, end of story. Not terribly objectionable, but odd and preachy in a children's show kind of way.

The trains look cool though. And they have crazy names. Viri loves the end of the show, when they flash past signs naming all of the trains, because I'll read them out. They're really fun to say, names like Skarloey and Sir Handel. (Skarloey sounds threatening. "Skarloey says pay 'im the money you owe.")

Sir Topham Hatt is the director of the railways, although Jaime always calls him the mayor. He's in charge, and very paternal and sympathetic. That's also a fun name to say. It makes me want to get knighted.

I'm not sure if this means I'm getting over my frustration with children's things or not. I just need to be a little particular. Being around kids all the time, you need to choose these things wisely, or you will be driven insane quickly. If Viri can stick to trains and Britain for a bit, I'll be okay.

3 comments:

barker blog said...

narrated by ringo starr.I watch It every sunday here on pbs.I love thomas.......

Herc said...

I was on a ride once, back in PA and came across a full-size Thomas the Tank Engine. I was pretty stoked, so I took a pic: http://www.littleblackstar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/imgp3094_500.JPG ... but looking at it now, it looks like he was bound and gagged. Sort of creepy, really.

WildBeggar said...

I'm not letting Viri watch the S/M version of Thomas. Just the polite British one.

Still, big Thomas. Awesome.