Is Thomas on the Wrong Track?
When my eldest son was two, he loved Thomas the Tank Engine, we had a Thomas-themed birthday party which has provided us with hours of play for each kid. And as much I loved the toy, I never felt very good about the show, there is a puritanical bent to the series that I could never embrace.For instance, whenever anyone makes a mistake they get coal dumped on them, and the highest praise that is heaped on a hard-working train? They are a very useful engine.
It just all smacks of conservatism, and I am sure the Rev. Awdry who penned the original Thomas would be quite happy with that. And I am not alone in my feelings, Shauna Wilton, a researcher at the University of Alberta studied 23 episodes of the show and found that that it definitely has a "conservative political ideology" that punishes individual action. And more concerning, says Wilton is the lack of central female characters.
Wilton is not trying to ban Thomas from your TV set, in fact her three-year old daughter enjoys the show. She is just pointing out that television shows carry messages and as parents we should do some work and talk to our kids about the messages they are exposed to.
Well, you would think that she was trying to ban children from their electronic babysitter. Marni Soupcoff in the National Post (predictably?) calls her out as ridiculous and then went after her again on CBC radio's Q. The study received coverage as far away as Australia. And wherever the story has ran the comments have been uniformly against Wilton and her study.
But why? Isn't it our job as parents to assess the messages that our kids are exposed to? Why is it wrong to question Thomas the Train? Because it is old, because it iconic? Please, that is exactly why we should question it.
I for one look forward to Wilton turning her attention to all the crappy shows my kids watch on Teletoon and Family -- her assessment of the Fairly Odd Parents and Suite Life with Zack and Cody would be much appreciated around here.