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Calliou’s Anatomy

I have two television thoughts to share.

I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix, which is a not-as-terrible-as-I-thought Knitting Show. Knitting Shows are ones I am not a fan of per se, but are mild and pleasant enough to knit to. Mostly procedurals, which I cannot watch without something to do with my hands. My attention wanders. Anyway. I’m in season 2 and it’s not half bad.

But the title sequence makes me crazy.

The difference between Grey’s Anatomy and ER is pretty much that there are a handful more women on the show. It’s the same medical drama format that has been used since St Elsewhere and probably before. Slightly more protagonist-centered, but it’s Scrubs without jokes, the same interns-in-crisis thing that’s been making money on TV for years.

But the title sequence is basically: show medical thing, show girly thing. Lather, rinse repeat. Show clamps/forceps, show eyelash curler. Show a WOMAN’S red shoes among all the REAL DOCTOR SHOES! Show an IV dripping into a cosmo. WHAT.

This is not what the show is about. No one on the show drinks froofy drinks or obsesses over shoes or is really all that traditionally feminine. Yes, they are attractive, but this is television. Meredith is actually kind of plain. It’s a show that easily passes Bechdel, but doesn’t really tackle head on the issues of being a woman in a male-dominated field. To this point, everyone in a position of power is a dude. (Bailey is a resident, and though she has some authority over our protagonists, she is not part of the power structure of the hospital.) Yet the titles make it look like Sex in the City: Hospital Edition. There was plenty of romance in ER and it never got this treatment. (Also, the title, which I thought a cute pun at first, is actually kind of icky.)

All I can think is that this is the thing where if there are women onscreen, they must be frivolous and OMG SHOEZ AND BOYZ! The show undermines itself with this weird title sequence, because it clearly wants to be at least most of the time a serious show, but in a world of amazing titles–there really must be some kind of contest over at HBO–Grey’s Anatomy is selling itself as something it’s not, and it leaves me with a gross taste in my mouth. More than two men onscreen, that’s normal. More than two ladies onscreen, it’s a chick show about chicks and boning, and they must be talking ab out shoes, amirite? (Sorry, the red shoes really get to me. NO ONE ON THE SHOW WEARS THOSE SHOES.)


Second thing. I was over at a friend’s house the other night. This friend is possessed of young children. These children like to watch a show called Caillou. The baby asked for it by name and thus I sat through an episode of it. Holy crap.

Ok, first off, Caillou is this (weirdly totally bald?) little boy who learns lessons about things, I guess. Par for the edutainment course. But I cannot express how different this show is than anything I watched as a kid.

No one is ever mean to Calliou. No one ever tells him no. His life is awesome all the time. When he toddles up to some bigger kids (middle schoolers it looks like–Caillou seems like a kindergartner) on the skating pond and asks to play hockey with them, they’re like: Sure kid! We’d love to play with you! Then Caillou’s dad takes him to buy a bunch of expensive hockey equipment and they go back to the pond, whereupon the big kids play with him.


Allow me to tell how how this would have gone down if it were a 70s/80s era kid’s show.

The big kids maybe would have said they’d play with him. Maybe. Depends on the genre. They might have laughed at him and called him names right there. But when Caillou got back with all that equipment? They would definitely have beaten the shit out of him and stolen it, leaving Caillou to learn a hard lesson about how people are the worst. Or enter a fantasy world of magic and enchantment where he would make friends with a lion-bear or something and come back to get revenge on the bullies. Revenge was a big theme back then. If you had a bike, a bigger kid would magically manifest out of the air to beat you up and steal it. If you were in a movie for kids, you were an underdog, and anyone in a higher grade than you was pure evil. Sweep the leg, Caillou!

The conflict in this episode came from Caillou not being super awesome at hockey right away, and learning that maybe he’d have to practice or something, which bums Caillou right the fuck out. Also earlier, it didn’t snow when he wanted it to. I…have no words.

Listen, Charlie Brown not only never got to play football, but Lucy stole his ball, abused him verbally and caused him to hurt himself repeatedly, and then charged him for therapy. And the Peanuts are SUPER wholesome entertainment for children of all ages! I was waiting for this to be a bullying episode, where Caillou would learn something about something, but no, everything was awesome in the beginning and slightly more awesome in the end.

I don’t want to be all KIDS THESE DAYS but I can’t see how, exactly, you function on planet earth if this is what sets up your expectations of human interaction. If your idea of a bad day is when everyone accepts you and is extra nice to you only you weren’t better than them at their own hobbies. I don’t even want to meet adult Caillou, who has got to be some kind of monster of entitlement and douchery. He might have straight up murdered the first person who didn’t want to go out with him.

I know childrens’ innocence must be protected, but eventually they do have to learn that people are the worst, and they are a people, and therefore they have the capacity to be the worst, too. At which point other people will react to that, and the world will keep going round. Caillou is distraught that it didn’t snow on his schedule and that his cat wasn’t that into learning a trick. I mean, it is a baby show (though everyone is very articulate and talking in long dialogues, so not that much of a baby show? They aren’t teaching simple words or anything. There’s a plot.) but I just couldn’t get over how not-my-childhood’s-television this was. It made the Muppets look like the fucking Wire.

Of course, what I learned as a kid was that a luck dragon was a good tool for conflict management, so who am I to judge?

Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

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fwiw, Caillou is four.

If you're actually a non-casual caretaker of kids Caillou's age and younger, you know that in fact, toddlers and preschoolers do get distraught when it doesn't snow on schedule, or people don't do exactly what they want when you want, or similar -- my kid *right now* is threatening a meltdown b/c I won't give her a third cup of juice, only water. Caillou is intended to give them the emotional language to identify their feelings and also to realize that this shit ain't cosmic.

IOW, it isn't about protecting their innocence. It's pedagogical, not coddling.

Also, it's not like kids are going to have a diet of all Caillou, nothing else, until they reach the age of majority.

I, frankly, find Caillou alternately boring and annoying. And don't talk to me about his parents. Or the subtle racism and sexism. But the reason kids love Caillou is b/c it speaks to their world. I mean, not all kids, duh. What it doesn't do is speak to the world of adults, which is why we find it dissonant.

Edited at 2011-09-26 05:05 pm (UTC)

Also, having spent a great deal of time watching this show, I think your characterization of its lack of conflict and meanness is highly exaggerated.

I did only see one episode. It just struck me enough to post about it.

I think that some of what you're seeing is that in the last 20 years (thanks in part to Sesame Street) children's programming -- esp. preschool programming, and double plus especially for PBS shows -- are strongly affected by child development insights of, well, the last 20 years, and that's affected pacing, language, structure, and content.

It's more constructive IMHO to compare Caillou to its rough contemporaries -- I mean, you want a conflict-free utopia stocked with entitled children, with a dollop of cultural tourism on the side? Let me introduce you to Barney...or, man, don't get me started on the Nick Jr. shows up to and including Yo Gabba Gabba, aaaaaarrrrgh. Caillou is allowed to experience frustration and disappointment and still not get what he wants. Which is why I grit my teeth and bear it.

But I look forward to my kids being old enough for Word Girl with bated breath.

Butting in to say that this:

But I look forward to my kids being old enough for Word Girl with bated breath.

Makes me so happy to see (is an animator on Word Girl).

Oh yeah, Word Girl is great! And my daughters love anything with superheroes. Thumbs up from all of us.

you get a thumbs up in general then.

You know, maybe it's because I was already being abused at age 3 that it all seems so awful to me.

This. I had a really hard time finding child programming for my son when he was very small that didn't make me tear my hair out/get angry in an out-of-proportionate way. We ended up reading a lot of books.

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