strip bannernew-logo25By Dr Tim O’Shea, author of Vaccination is Not Immunization


The point here is, watch what your kids are watching. It’s not sex and violence that presents the worst threat to child development. It’s programmed dullness.

Look at the finished products we’re turning out.


dumb_deesAll the insights into syndicated propaganda and the science of media that we talked about in The Doors of Perception chapter – much of its darker aspect is manifested in the content of children’s movies, videos, and the games they’re watching on their ipads today. Grateful though parents are for those precious hours of quiet, the trade-off will shake out as betrayal in the long run. As well as creating yet another generation of doltish, uninspired, inarticulate high school and college students.

It starts at the beginning, when the kid’s brain is first introduced to the concept of pixels and sound – TVs, computers, ipads, iphones, apps. Parents brag about how electronic-savvy their 2 year old is, how fast they learn to drag and drop, refresh, move the cursor, download, log in etc. So sorry, but that’s not intelligence. No, that’s just Skinner’s rats in the box, pushing the lever for a pellet. The only likelihood is that it trains them for a lifetime of cretinous texting. LOL ?? Please.

This trend of deteriorating educational standards has been accelerating in the past 2 decades, to the point where the creators of most of today’s kids media are themselves graduates of that selfsame illiterate and often amoral upbringing.

The concept of liberal arts education has long been absent in all but a very few pockets of tradition and excellence. Hard to find people who even know what the phrase means. This bankruptcy comes across loud and clear in the content of most of children’s media.

Conspicuously missing are literary essentials like story lines, premise, character development, antagonist/protagonist, conflict, plot structure, moral dilemma, etc, – all the classical features of story since the beginning of human literature. Gone.

And in their place — what? The results of whoever shows up in the studio – let’s just do something, and record it. In most cases it seems like the friends and family of the owners of the large studios — whoever is closest, just come on down and we’ll put something together with all this glorious technology we own.

Talent, inspired storytelling skills, years of experience directing or producing, literary credentials and mastery – none of these are necessary, or even regarded as particularly valuable. Let’s just get together, have coffee and ‘brainstorm’ something, without worrying too much about making it perfect, or getting it right, and it will be wonderful… We’ll write it in the studio. Most of the audience isn’t really paying that close attention anyway.

And the consequences are precisely what we see on the shelves of Best Buy and ToysR-Us kids video outlets. Let’s just mention a few of the more obvious ones that fall into this genre.

Spongebob and Dora are certainly at the bottom of this hierarchy of mindless fluff, guaranteed to make your kid dumber. These same bland, unlettered writers put out mountains of videos and shows which all follow the same formula – there is no story line, no plot – the characters just start chattering away about anything at all, using only the most mundane of everyday cliched conversation and vocabulary.

It starts nowhere, it goes nowhere, there is no resolution. It runs for the allotted time and then is over. Five minutes later the kid won’t be able to tell you one thing about it. The child learns nothing about the world, about life, about human interaction, about moral values, or challenge – nothing. It’s 40 minutes of his life he’ll never get back, with nothing to show for it.

Most parents don’t watch these shows because they are unspeakably dull . But if you feed your kids a steady diet of this tripe, that’s exactly what they themselves are becoming – unspeakably dull. And we see it all around us.

Next is the My Little Pony empire. Not just the cartoons, this is another billion dollar franchise, make no mistake, with an enormous back-end market of everything from dolls, clothes, games, to lunchboxes, bicycles – you name it.. But what is it based on – 4 of the most contrived, fake anthropomorphic horses, pretending desperately to fairy tale status, or even conversational status.

Again, no plots, no character development, just a few glittery, artistically banal pretend horses, reciting the dullest most mundane dialogue for the duration of the show. A cornucopia of non sequitur. All the main characters are female, and though they try to give the impression that they are young girl horses, the voices are all those of white Midwest middle aged women – with their characteristic flat, mono-dimensional vocabulary and twangy WT inflection. Which makes the whole thing all the more phony. That’s what they should call it — My Little Phony.

It’s as though they got any little group of the most uneducated women at random, put them in a room and recorded it , and then used it as a script. No waiting around for an Ayn Rand or a Jane Austen. Anybody nearby with XX DNA was invited.

If you want your child to stop maturing intellectually, verbally, and culturally, just let them watch as much of this dreadful, soul-deadening series as possible. Steals their childhood – wasting the diamonds of their youth – time.

As long as we’re talking about vapid, bottom shelf banality, let’s not forget Pokemon. Different people behind it, but they all came out of the same school system. Or at least the same GED. Watching an episode of the show develop, it never does. They just keep cutting from one empty, addle-brained scene to the next one – no connection necessary whatsoever. Insubstantial flash, jangle the nerve endings – when in doubt have an explosion.

Half way through or by the time it’s over, you have no idea what it was about. Which is normal because it’s not about anything at all. Just ask your kids – they won’t be able to tell you.

If some prince of darkness studio mogul really wanted to do a show that would make kids as dumb as possible, he would have had no little difficulty finding writers as uniformly brain-dead as the simians who conceived the Pokemon series. Never watched one all the way through? Then you don’t know. Watch one and tell me I’m wrong.

Now there’s an intermediate echelon in this beleaguered genre wherein the creators did have some degree of upbringing and some qualifications in writing, directing, and producing a worthwhile kids’ show. In this category we would see things like Word Girl, who even though her stories are often silly, at least has an objective – to teach the kids some new vocabulary words.

Other than totally, like, and awesome.

Another one with some redeeming value would be Wild Kratts. They usually insert some elements of science and adventure into their shows. And the dialogue is fairly intelligible and intelligent. At least the kids aren’t being deliberately retarded by watching the show. Wild Kratts is artistically innovative as well, incorporating the conceit of live humans interacting with cartoon characters.

Don’t despair – there are also some very well written and brilliantly produced movies that actually entertain and raise kids’ IQ. If you don’t know what that is, I rest my case. Artistic and educational value – a rare combination in children’s’ media today.

These would include works like Cars, Rio, Ratatouille, The Lorax, as well as some of the Disney classic originals like Fantasia, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White, and a few others. None of the modern Disney movies approach these classics, in terms of story, production, and the ability to hold a child’s attention.

The illusion of technology should dictate that today’s movies, with all the digital complexity available to movie-makers, should be much better than these oldies in which thousands of acetates were painted by hand. Not the case. No amount of special effects can replace story. Just watch your kid – put on Ratatouille and compare that for holding their attention to most of the vapid cookie cutter modern Disney Tangled/Frozen clones, with all its digital IT.

Kids instinctively don’t want to be presumed to be as stupid as most of today’s children’s shows would make them. They can follow a relatively complex story line once they’re captivated, once they’re into a plot that moves logically from A to B to C. They’re not all on Ritalin. Yet.

The malevolence of the levelling, condescending, lowest- common- denominator mandate we have going today in this vital area cannot be overstated.

There was a Disney movie that came out in 1957 whose purpose was to teach kids the elements of the human circulatory system, in a comic and entertaining way. It was a brilliant success – you can still get a DVD today. If you’re willing to pay $150 for it, that is.

The movie was called Hemo, The Magnificent, of course. These 2 scientists were explaining how the human heart evolved from primitive life forms, and the hydraulics of how blood is delivered to every cell of the body every minute, etc. An intro to cardio-physiology for 8 year olds kind of a thing. But it was the first movie in which live human characters on film interacted with cartoon characters.

Hemo was brilliantly scripted, and was the acme of film technology for the time. This movie is still capable of holding the attention of young children for its entire length— over an hour. Was watching it recently with some kids, and they were mesmerized.

And then I realized why. They never saw anything like it before. Think about it – what movie company today – syndicated or indie – would fund a project this ambitious – to portray the fundamentals of blood circulation to children, in a very clear, simple, yet totally engaging way?

Are you kidding me? Why would we want to do that? They’d be thinking – Who’s gonna buy a Hemo the Magnificent lunchbox? What kid would sit still for an anatomy lesson? This is way over their heads. I don’t even understand it myself…

Studio geniuses are too busy dreaming up the next flying starfish or whatever who can read the phonebook while avoiding explosions…

The point here is, watch what your kids are watching. It’s not sex and violence that presents the worst threat to child development. It’s programmed dullness.

Look at the finished products we’re turning out.