I am so excited for today’s post. Have you ever sat and watched some of your kids’ shows with them and just thought, ‘Wait, what?‘ Like where is this town where the rescue services are all dogs? How do animals in danger know to call some class pets with a can on a string? And how are there lakes underwater (with ducks swimming in them)? So many questions. Now, there is no doubt some of these shows are great and teach our kids important lessons. But if you have watched enough of them you know some discrepancies get to you. You might even have some theories in the works. (Seriously, Chickaletta is running that town.) Pat and I have gotten in to some debates on this.
Pat is usually the one in our house that actually watches shows with the kids. And let me tell you, he has some theories and opinions. He has been kind enough to write some reviews for us here. Now remember these are just meant in fun. I am not trying to insult your child’s favorite show or say your kids shouldn’t watch them. We have these theories and opinions because they are played in our house. So here is Dadrage’s first review. Enjoy!
A bit about DadRage: I’m a father to 3 kids, with the oldest being 3 years old. If we watch any television while the children are awake, it’s likely children’s’ programming. Even though we keep it limited, even limited viewing adds up over the course of 3 years. Three years of Daniel Tiger telling you what’s “grrrrific” and Pinky telling you a story and the Wonder Pets using teamwork…it wears on you. I’ve seen things, man. I’ve seen a cactus named Toby make a milkshake, trains who talk, and Swahili-talking animals defend the Pridelands. I’ve seen a princess become a mermaid using a magic amulet, a Mickey Mouse version of Tron, and a Canadian town whose entire public services department is run and maintained by a 10-year old boy and his stable of mutant talking dogs. I’ve seen…so much. And much of it is terrible. Just some awful, horrible, soul-sucking garbage.
DadRage – A Review of Children’s Programming
REVIEW 1: Doc McStuffins
*Disclaimer: This is in no way meant to be a suggestion, criticism, or approval of anyone’s parenting. My kids watch these shows too…that’s how I know about them. The author is simply a father who, due to having 3 young children, watches an ungodly amount of children’s programming. Also, we play outside, hike, go to the library, etc…so please keep any “screen time” comments to yourself. Thank you.*
The show is about a six-year-old girl who uses the occult to bring toys to life and then perform operations on them while they’re alive. Even though she’s had no medical training, she goes by “Doc” instead of her given name, Dottie. Her main aspiration is to be a real doctor when she grows up. She never pretends to be a police officer or ballerina or princess or construction worker…she only wants to be a doctor, which is totally short-sighted for a 6-year-old. Maybe because her mom is a doctor, the family whispers in her ear at night while she sleeps and this has unconsciously manifested itself in her single-mindedness toward participating in the medical field.
Luckily for her, her grandmother gave her a magic stethoscope that turns toys sentient so when they break she can fix them up, therefore learning to ply her chosen trade at an early age. Also, the toys being able to talk helps quite a bit when Doc asks them about their symptoms and whatnot. In the first few seasons, the plot was pretty formulaic: One of the toys gets broken in some small way, Doc diagnoses the problem, the toy is fixed, and everyone is happy.
In an effort to sell more toys (or, if you’re less of a cynic, “keep things fresh” for the kids) Doc has expanded beyond “general toy practitioner” into the realm of “Pet Vet” and then Chief Resident at McStuffinsville Toy Hospital.
DOC MCSTUFFINS – The main character, and namesake. She fixes toys. The fact that the toys are alive make her seem like a doctor, but since she’s actually fixing toys and not people or animals, she’s really more of a glorified tinkerer or repairwoman. Like you know that kid whose toys lasted forever because their dad was super-handy around the house and had his own woodshop in the garage where he went when life in the house became too much to bear because the kids are screaming and darn it Deb the game is on and I don’t care if your sister is coming in from Tulsa, you can clean the guest bedroom yourself because it shouldn’t be dirty anyway because I never go in there, so why’s it a mess; because you let the kids play in there EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE A PLAYROOM SET UP DOWNSTAIRS FOR THAT SPECIFIC PURPOSE DEBORAH!
Yeah, you know that dad? Doc’s like that Dad…fixing stuff wise. She’s too young to have chronic depression and a bit of a drinking issue.
Anyway, Doc thinks she’s a doctor because she fixes these toys, and everyone else buys into the concept. Even her parents, who have no idea that she brings toys to life and performs surgery on them, call her Doc.
STUFFY – Stuffy is Doc’s toy dragon. He’s a bit of a moron, but like in a “he’s the nice guy who’s also a moron” sort of way. He has the most grating voice in the history of Stuffed Dragons.
SQUEAKERS – A squeaking fish. Speaks only in squeaks, even when “alive”. Pretty raw deal there, as he’s not represented as a pet…he’s just a toy that for some reason is rendered mute. Except for squeaking.
LAMBY – She’s a stuffed lamb that lives to cuddle. While a stuffed lamb coming to life and asking to “cuddle” everyone constantly might sound like nightmare material, they actually do a good job making her cute and not horrifying, so…credit where it’s due to the animators/voice actor.
HALLIE HIPPO – Hallie is Doc’s “Nurse” and basically works to assist Doc in any way while they’re in Doc’s “Clinic” (backyard playhouse). She becomes head of nursing when the action moves to the Toy Hospital and staffing expands. Hallie’s accent and demeanor are based on a stereotype of a diner waitress in the American south, straight down to her use of weird colloquialisms and calling everyone “sugar.” While a competent nurse (for toys, anyway), she’s a bad patient as seen in an episode in which she strains her voice before a big singing performance and isn’t allowed to talk, per Doc’s orders. Of course, she talks and sings constantly, making her condition worse in the process. It’s like she literally CAN NOT STOP TALKING. I know people like that. They’re not my favorite.
CHILLY – Chilly is a sad-sack snowman who can’t seem to remember that he’s made of plush and not snow. A running gag is that he’s constantly worried about melting, with one of the group having to remind him that he’s stuffed and therefore cannot melt. He’s basically a worrywart character, whose missteps or misconceptions are used to advance the plot or for comic relief. He’s obnoxious.
GRANNY MCSTUFFINS – This lady. She gives Doc the magic stethoscope when she’s a baby, but doesn’t tell her what it does. Doc discovers the power of the stethoscope later, but does Grandma drop by to tell her where it came from or explain anything? Nope, not until about a year or two after Doc’s been practicing her MASH-style meatball surgery on all her favorite toys. Then Grandma saunters in, tells Doc that she knows her greatest secret (which…”I can bring my toys to life” is a pretty darn big secret for a 1st-grader) and that SHE is the one who gave her the stethoscope in the first place. THEN, she tells Doc that she can also talk to toys, and oh-by-the-way, can use the stethoscope to transport her TO ANOTHER DIMENSION WHERE ALL TOYS ARE ALIVE AND SHE RUNS A HOSPITAL. What? So we’ve just jumped into a whole realm of alternate reality, and by the way the town is called MCSTUFFINSVILLE. Granny also mentions that her grandfather also had the gift, so Doc, her grandmother, and Doc’s great-great Grandfather area all glorified inter-dimensional repairpeople. Did Doc’s great-great grandfather create McStuffinsville? Was he some sort of traveler from the beyond who was able to create a pocket universe of his own in order to repair old jack-in-the-boxes and tin toys? Did he bring to life hoops and sticks? Why?
Anyway, the only reason Granny reveals all this is because she wants to retire from the hospital, and she thinks that her 7-year-old (Doc has a birthday by this time) granddaughter can run the hospital (and by extension, the whole town because…they sort of have a monarchy thing going on that nobody mentions). So, Doc assists her Grandma for ONE DAY and then…boom. The hospital is yours kid, best of luck. Grandma is off to live her life. She seems very altruistic unless you think about everything for more than 2 seconds.
THE FAMILY MCSTUFFINS: Mom’s a doctor, Dad’s a stay-at-home caregiver and pseudo-chef. They have 2 other kids. Donnie is Doc’s younger brother. Nice kid, a little naïve. There’s also a baby sister named Maya who is adopted because the execs at Disney Junior didn’t want Mama McStuffins losing that figure during the show. TV execs, man. Scum of the earth.
Doc is a little girl, so it’s awesome for little girls to see a cartoon which glorifies the medical trade and make no mention of it being something special…she’s just a girl who is also a doctor. Also, her mom is a doctor as well, so it’s just totally normal. Nice. She’s also African-American, so it appeals to a segment of the population that is underemployed in the medical profession: minority females. The show never mentions these points, so it comes across as all quite normal which, in a perfect world, it would be. It normalizes female minority representation to all the children who watch the show, so the concept of a black woman doctor isn’t a foreign concept, even in places where it normally might be.
Stuffy’s voice. Chilly’s demeanor. More unexplained plot devices than LOST. The fact that this is 2017 and having a black female child protagonist is still considered “groundbreaking” for children’s television.
The whole Magic Amulet…I mean Magic Stethoscope thing is weird, and it has an even weirder backstory wherein it only works for EVERY OTHER generation of McStuffins’, which is why Doc’s parents remain in the dark about it. Also, the stethoscope’s ability to transport Doc and her toys into another dimension, or pocket universe, or whatever, named “McStuffinsville” where Doc’s Grandma runs the hospital and by extension, the town. The episode where this is all addressed answered the longstanding question “So…where’d Doc get the stethoscope?” (Her grandma gave it to her as a baby) but opened a whole other can of worms. What is the actual origin of the magic stethoscope? Did Doc’s great-great granddaddy invent McStuffinsville? How long has McStuffinsville existed? Do the toys that are being operated on feel pain? Because doc never uses anesthesia. The whole family might be monsters.
The songs are catchy. I find myself humming “Time For Your Checkup” out of the blue. And it’s cute when you put a band-aid on your kid’s scratch and they sing the “I Feel Better” song. So that’s a plus.
The unanswered questions are annoying. Nobody mentions that Doc practices magic, but that’s exactly what’s happening. Also, in season 3 Doc converted part of her playhouse into a Veterinarian Clinic where she became a “Pet Vet”, which besides being redundant, gave us the knowledge that toys based on pets ACT AS PETS when brought to life. So if an animal toy is given a human characteristic, such as Lamby’s being a ballerina, then the toy springs to life able to talk and interact as a human would. But if the toy is designed as a pet for another toy, or a pet for a real human boy or girl, that toy IS STILL A PET WHEN IT COMES TO LIFE! So let’s say you had two stuffed animals. One is a stuffed dog that is meant to resemble a pet dog. The other is a dog that is also a mailman. Mailman dog comes to life and presumably tries to deliver mail, chats with neighbors, etc. Pet dog, meanwhile, chases mailman dog because HE’S A DOG AND CAN’T SPEAK AND LACKS SELF-AWARENESS. What? Why?
Here’s another one, and they can actually do this because… DISNEY. You have a Goofy doll and a Pluto doll. Both dogs. Doc does her black magic and brings them to life. Goofy is gonna Huck-yuck all over the darn place, and Pluto is going to be digging for bones in the yard. It’s not right.
IS IT EDUCATIONAL?:
Eh…not really. There may be some soft “emotional” learning or light lessons, but your kids aren’t going to come out of this show better at math or science. Maybe if Doc were a real doctor, there’s be some STEM content you could hang your hat on, but again..she’s more of a sorceress/repair woman.
Catchy, for the most part. The “Get Your Pet to the Vet” song, like all things do with the ill-advised “Pet Vet” diversion the show took, is pretty annoying. But “Time For Your Checkup” and “I Feel Better” are instant classics.
ANNOYING SCALE (1 meaning “Kind of Awesome” and 5 meaning “YOU WILL WISH FOR DEATH”):
3 half-eaten tacos. It’s not bad and Doc is a likable character. Most of the songs are catchy. Despite a deeply unsettling overall plot structure, the individual story arcs are cute. Plus, girl power. So yeah, go ahead and let your kids watch Doc…just don’t expect them to learn much from it.
Let me know what you think of this review! And please let me know what shows I should ask Dadrage to review next! I’ve heard he’s got some views on team work coming up… 😉