TV and your precious offspring: Learning to dance with the devil

My kids watch TV.

Not proud of it. Hate it, in fact. This (amongst several massive elephants in the room) was not part of my rosy, soft-focus dreams of child-rearing.

I’m not going to try to explain or justify it. I will say, though, that I can’t begin to imagine that I’m the only person of my stripes in this boat. There’s just too much disease and poverty going around for that. The mom-o-sphere may be dominated by women of a privileged class, but that doesn’t change the fact that the rest of us are out here, slogging it out with just two hands to do the job.

So for all the struggling, over-worked, underpaid, care-giving, grocery-buying, bill-paying, snow-shovelling, puke-catching, home-repairing, and all the other way too many to mention role and responsibility-wearing parents out there, here are some resources for when you realize that despite your best (frazzled and fractured) intentions, the electronic babysitter is on. Again.

To kick it off is the fabulous Peggy Orenstein’s resource page, with its irrefutable motto: Fight fun with fun! Most of this page is devoted to books. As well it should be. Except my kids can’t read on their own yet, and while I do my best to read for them when I’m not skidding from room to room (or from home–>work–>groceries–>bank–>hospital–>you get the picture), and while they do their best to read to themselves when I can’t, well, they’ve learned to flick the ‘on’ switch pretty easily. So I’d damn well like to make sure that what’s behind it is at least somewhat palatable. All this to say, scroll down the page and you’ll find a movies and tv section. What stands out for me is a big shout-out to Hiyao Miyazaki, which is eloquently echoed by Geek Dad here. Finally, my awe-inspiring sister was a HUGE Miyazaki fan, so really, that’s all I need. Number one on my to-do list. Although a couple of folks have mentioned that Princess Mononoke might be too intense for the little little ‘uns, so feedback on that is welcome…

Progressontheprairie also has a top ten list of feminist-friendly movies for kids. I can vouch for three of these – Chicken Run, Hoodwinked and Lilo and Stitch — although I haven’t seen them in a while. Will check back here once I’ve revisited them. I’ve also heard good things in several other places about Sailor Moon, so will also be checking it out and getting back to you. I’m a little less sure about Monsters Inc. While it’s definitely less offensive than most, featuring a plucky, non-princess girl-child, the main characters are still male. Check out this tri-feminist review for a decent critique spectrum. As for The Corpse Bride, and some of the films recommended in the comments section – not necessarily appropriate for younger children. Or for mine, anyway.

While the site can be a little dizzying to navigate overall, feministdisney has an awesome round-up of feminist critiques of Disney which you can find here.

Finally, Bitch Flicks has a big old section on animated films. Scroll through. Take your pick. Choose your poison…informed.

And, you know, keep trying. Who knows, maybe the happy ending – the one where all of us are magically granted the resources, capacity, good health, solid support communities etc. to raise strong, healthy, engaged, compassionate children without the aid of the frenemy – is just around the corner. In the meantime, there’s always the rebellion…

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4 comments

  1. nya98

    love this honest post, you are a true champion and a great mom! the fact that you have a conscience about this is a testament to your great mothering 🙂 i, like you am always conflicted about this. while we do not own a physical tv, we sometimes do show m-a little clips once in a while, but the fact that we are controlling it makes me feel somewhat better. when she’s with the grandparents, she also sometimes watches things with them there, but i know that it is not the bulk of her day. so it’s ok. ideally like you, i would love to be rid of it altogether, and just go out to the movies once in a while when she’s older, but it somehow seeps into our lives one way or another, the best thing we can do is regulate it, which is something it seems you are doing! thanks for the cool tips!

  2. mubeenah

    We love a show called the backyardigans, and pinky dinky do. Haven’t read the links you shared up there yet. I know in the unschooling community they share alot of literature on why tv and especially video games is good for kids, i’ll find some stuff to share with you. And I feel that when it’s online it’s not as bad since they are not watching commercials and what they watch can be more limited. Love reading your blog

    • el

      I’ve heard of backyardigans, this is a good reminder to check them out. That’s interesting to hear about video games in the unschooling community. I’d love to hear more about that. We’ve had an ongoing debate about that chez nous. Re- commercials – agreed. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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