Archive for entertainment

The Top 5 Cartoons Banned in my Home

Posted in Family, fathers, Mothers, Parenting with tags , , on March 19, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

(Please note: My blog is generally kid-friendly, but this particular entry deals with some issues you may not want your children to read. Please read this before they do, to make sure you feel it is appropriate. Thank you. – JR)

Like many of you, I am a parent, and like many of your kids, mine watch T.V. They don’t watch a lot  — we encourage books in our home first and foremost (of course) — but they have a few favorite shows just the same. As I type this, my youngest daughter, who is six, is watching Blues Clues, a show that I think is adorable and entirely acceptable.

Hence, why she is allowed to watch it.

There are some others like that. For example, all of my kids — including my son and my sixteen-year-old daughter — love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (Though my son insists he is NOT a Brony — he just has a crush on Rainbow Dash. ;-)) I’ll admit that even I enjoy watching that particular show with them. It’s hilarious, adorable, and very relevant to modern children. The morals and values exemplified by the ponies are also terrific. Despite my general distaste for fads, I have found nothing I dislike about that deservedly popular show. Hence, it is encouraged in our home, and I would highly recommend it to your children as well, without reservation.

The same can’t be said of all cartoons, however.

I’m not speaking of cartoons that are billed for adults. While I enjoy Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Venture Brothers as much as the next adult, I wouldn’t recommend them for kids in an way, shape or form. But they don’t pretend to be for kids, either. Adult-themed cartoons such as Family Guy air later in the evening for a reason — most kids in most homes are in bed by then, or at least close to it. And a large amount of adult cartoons air on Cartoon Network’s aptly named “Adult Swim” late at night. These aren’t for kids and they make sure we know it. For that reason I have nothing against them.

But there are some cartoons that are very much billed for kids… that really shouldn’t be. From my family to yours, here are the top five kids’ cartoons that are banned in my home:

#5: The Grimm Adventures of Billy and Mandy

The20Grim20Adventures20Of20Billy202

It took me a long time to ban this show, because I wanted to like it. (Hence why it is #5 on my list from least-offensive to most.) However, there were more than a few times while watching it with my children that I felt very uncomfortable. Now, I’m all for gothic / horror / thriller – based kids’ stuff. I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton, and I myself have been working on a gothic fantasy series for middle readers for a while now. Still, I very much feel that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed with kids… and Grimm crosses it on a regular basis.

Strongest Offence: Encouraging depressive / suicidal thoughts and tendencies in the very young.

Kid-Friendly Alternative: Ruby Gloom is a very cute show with an adorably monstrous cast, dark color scheme and rockingly Goth theme song (“…let me show you the light side of the dark side…”). However, where Grimm encourages cynicism and bullying as a solution to life’s problems, Ruby Gloom‘s stories are always uplifting and hopeful.

Summary: Leave depression and hopelessness out of childhood. So many kids already live not-so-great lives. At least let them retain some hope for the future… and for themselves.

#4: Caillou

caillou

This show is a big hit with many toddlers… and a HUGE miss for many toddler parents. I personally watched two episodes before I realized that this kid was not someone I wanted my kids to exemplify, and banned it without mercy. Bright colors, a happy family, and a racially diverse cast still can’t save the show from its protagonists’ whiny, selfish attitude… or the entirely complacent way his parents deal with it.  If you want your kid to grow up thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to throw tantrums every time something doesn’t go their way (and that they will get whatever they want if they do so), then by all means let them watch Caillou. I, for one, am not a fan.

Strongest Offence: Encouraging whiny, selfish behavior.

Kid-Friendly Alternative: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Yes, I already told you how wonderful this show is, but as a replacement for Caillou, you can’t get any better. Where Caillou encourages selfishness and greed, MLP is all about sharing, friendship, and learning how to get along no matter our differences. To those who, like me, dislike fads to the point of loathing, I only ask one thing — that you watch one episode. You don’t even have to watch it with your kids if you don’t want to introduce them to it at the moment, but it deserves a chance.

Trust me on this.

Summary: There is already more than enough rampant entitlement in this world. Why would we want to continue it to the next generation?

#3: Johnny Test

Johnny-Test-Season-5-Episode-1-Johnny-Daddy-Day

Jonny Test is a show about an “average” boy who has genius scientist sisters that use him as a guinea pig for their experiments. Notice I put quotes around “average”. That’s because nobody in this show is average. Normally I’d mean that as a compliment, but when it comes to Johnny Test, they really should have shot for average at least. For one, Johnny’s parents are the worst example of parents in cartoondom (yes, even more so than Caillou’s complacent parental units). His mother is a high-strung businesswoman who never has time — let alone patience — for her children. The ongoing joke with her is that she is hardly ever home. Funny, huh? Only not so much. Johnny’s dad isn’t any better. He’s a stay-at-home dad who’s just about as high-strung as his power-suited wife, and the running gag about him? He makes meatloaf… and screams at the kids. A lot.

Hah. Neglect and emotional abuse! Hilarious!

Then there’s Johnny. He’s not average. He’s not even above average. He’s… let me put it gently… he’s dumb as a post. And not only that, but he’s selfish and reckless to boot. His sisters dupe him into being their guinea pig by using that against him, promising him whatever he wants in that particular episode. His dog tries to talk sense into him (note: if your dog is smarter than you, you probably shouldn’t be getting into highly dangerous scientific experiments), but usually it doesn’t work. Sometimes the fault is the sisters’, sometimes it’s Johnny’s, but always something goes terribly wrong. This is pretty average (heh) for most stories of course, but here’s where Johnny Test fails this particular test — there is no moral. None. Ziltch. There may seem to be some lessons to learn in some episodes, but when there are absolutely no consequences to anything Johnny or his sisters do (short of dad screaming, of course), then the lesson is entirely lost. Not only that, but Johnny almost always ends up with what he wanted in the first place. Ugh.

Strongest Offence: Perpetuating the idea that there are no consequences for our actions.

Kid-Friendly Alternative: The Fairly Odd Parents is just as crazy, irreverent, and fun as Johnny Test claims to be. The stories and animation style of both shows are very close, but Timmy Turner, who’s wishes are granted by a pair of goofy fairy godparents instead of mad scientist sisters, always faces the consequences of his actions. That’s pretty much the entire point of the show. Something goes horribly wrong, Timmy learns a valuable lesson which he repeats to the camera, and in the end he usually doesn’t get — or even want — whatever worthless prize he was after to start with. Fairly focuses not on the thing, but on the person, which is a far more valuable lesson to any child.

Summary: When children learn that collecting things nefariously and without consequence can make up for lack of love and attention at home, everybody loses.

# 2: Chowder

chowder cartoon

I allowed Chowder into my home for a long time. In fact, it was my eldest daughter’s favorite show ever… for a time. I watched it with them at first, as I always do, but after a while I decided it was harmless and allowed them to continue watching without me. That was a bad idea. This show started out wonderfully. The characters were quirky and unique, the world was fascinatingly insane and fun, and Chowder, the main character, always learned a great life lesson that I could get behind.

When or why it changed, I don’t know, but one day my daughter  told me that she wasn’t comfortable with her younger siblings watching it anymore.

Taking her cue I watched a new episode, and was appalled. Gross nudity, suggestive jokes, and disgusting actions on the part of the characters was only the beginning. After all, while concerning, these things weren’t blatant or even very numerous per episode. But it was the change in the main character that really threw me. Chowder as a character had lost any semblance of intelligence or understanding. They had turned him into a freak show act. Nothing he did was for any reason than cheap laughs not with him, but at him… laughs that I didn’t want to encourage in my children. If any cartoon encourages the vilification of the mentally ill and/or obese, it’s Chowder. After all, if children are so easily amused by the antics of an obviously mentally challenged, obese cartoon character, how many steps more do they have to take to laugh at and make fun of a real person? I’m not saying that kids don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality — I’m a huge proponent of the opposite view, actually — but anyone can be trained to think a certain way, even without them knowing it.

That’s too bad, too. They really had a great show in the beginning.

Strongest Offence: Encouraging the lowest common denominator of humor — that mental illness and/or obesity is funny.

Kid-Friendly AlternativeFoster’s Home for Imaginary Friends is absolutely wonderful. Set in an old mansion and animated with beautifully stylized imagery, Fosters centers around the main character Mac, whose parents have made him give up his imaginary friend Bloo. Though he’s sad, Mac follows his parent’s instructions and takes Bloo to Fosters, an orphanage for abandoned imaginary friends. Mac still visits his friend often, and they have many fun adventures together. While Bloo himself can be somewhat rough-around-the-edges, the writers use his character as a springboard for Mac to learn relevant lessons about his own attitude and choices. This is entirely appropriate, considering that Bloo is an imaginary friend, thus the representation of Mac’s own worst attributes.

There are many different imaginary friends at Fosters, from all walks of life and childhood cultures. Some of them aren’t the smartest or prettiest crayons in the box, but they are always treated with as much respect as anyone else, and welcomed into the Fosters family as one of their own (unless, of course, inclusion is a lesson Mac needs to learn that week).

Fosters was discontinued in 2009 but as you can see from clicking the link above, this was changed rather quickly when fans demanded its return to T.V.

Summary: How can we expect bullying to end when we encourage it in the very young through shows like Chowder?

#1: The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

showposter

This one is by far the worst, and that really is too bad. The artistry is bar-none, especially in the puppeteer scenes. The animation can be absolutely stunning. But that’s sadly the only good thing I can say about Flapjack.

Right out the gate I knew there was something wrong with this show, but I always try to be openminded and understanding to new ideas and concepts. Maybe it was the pretty imagery that made me want to like it so badly, or maybe I just didn’t want to be a judgmental fuddy-duddy. Whatever the reason, it took me a while to understand why I was just not comfortable watching Flapjack… and really really not comfortable with my children watching it. I’m not sure when I realized what bothered me so much; I’m sure it wasn’t any particular scene or comment. Still, after a while I began to see a disturbing pattern in the storyline of each episode, and the relationship Flapjack has with… well… almost everyone. However Knuckles, an adult pirate captain who is always promising Flapjack candy in exchange for his companionship, really drives it home. On top of that, almost every other character is disgusting in their own way — with the very notable exception of  Flapjack — and each and every of them has creepy way of leering at the innocent blond-haired, blue eyed, kid…

All. The. Time.

I’d go into it more (and did actually; this has been edited), but I have young readers to protect. Besides, I’m pretty sure the adults who are reading this already know what I’m talking about. (Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with minors.)

Kids may not see what I (and many others I have spoken to) see when they watch the show, but that doesn’t mean it should be encouraged in any way.

Strongest Offence: Extremely inappropriate themes throughout.

Kid-Friendly AlternativeFlapjack has some good ideas for a kid’s show, notably encouraging boys to have relationships with male mentors. However as I have stated, Flapjack does this just about as wrong as anyone possibly can, and Flapjack’s relationship with Knuckles is anything but healthy. In that vein, Dragons: Riders of Berk does it as right as Flapjack does it wrong. Hiccough has a loving, respectful, healthy relationship with his father Stoic, which is clinched beautifully in the original film, How to Train Your Dragon by Dreamworks. If any cartoon shows the best of what a male mentor relationship should be, Dragons does. And it has dragons to boot! Win -win!

Summary:  Just. No.

What about you? What cartoons are banned in your home and why?

The Twilight of My Career

Posted in Book review, Books, Writing with tags , , , , on September 15, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

Sigh.

Okay, so I just have to come out with it.

I’m reading Twilight.

Yeah. The one with the sparkly vampires that that one chick wrote overnight which started the zombie apocalypse by turning its fans into mindless, shrieking drones. THAT Twilight. I, like the overwhelming majority of my professional peers, have hated that book and the series it spawned almost since it was first introduced to the public. My reasons have been varied and — I have felt — highly justified. They have included:

  1. Stephanie Meyer isn’t even a writer. She herself admitted that she just decided to write a book one day after having a dream. This alone drives dedicated, hardworking writers batguano nuts. Now, add to the fact that she became an overnight billionaire and superstar from it, and, well, she’s not my favorite person in the world. Call it jealously. I don’t really care. There it is.
  2. Vampires don’t sparkle. They just… they don’t. They’re evil, demonic creatures of the undead who literally suck human beings dry and don’t care that we have feelings. Or boobs, for that matter. The fact that they have not been proven to exist does not mean we can just go stomping all over their lore. Lore that has existed in numerous cultures all over the world for centuries, by the way. It’s the same to me as saying that Tinkerbell is a faerie (the Disney version; Barrie’s original is MUCH closer to the lore of the fae), or that Jesus was a dancing clown that did magic tricks. Just… no.
  3. From what I have been told by numerous people, Bella is the epitome of the very WORST role model a girl should EVER have. That whole “I can’t survive without a man” thing? Not that men are bad — I happen to be entirely and completely taken by my own wonderful husband — but to base your entire reason for living on ANY other human being is just asinine. Bella has no identity of her own past what Edward thinks, and it just gets worse from there, until, when she finally becomes a vampire, what is left of her already negligible personality is gone. Just… gone. Sucked (heh) up by a man who is now, almost literally, her entire Self. Now, it’s true that teenagers are VERY insecure — especially girls — but that only means that it’s MORE important that they don’t have a role model who bases EVERYTHING SHE IS AND CARES ABOUT solely on the opinions of another person. A person who, by the way, is ALWAYS putting her down — the perfect image of an emotional abuser. Just… no.
  4. The writing style, again I have been told, is awful. The reason? I assume #1 on this list. It makes sense, after all. And if there’s one thing I can’t read, it’s awful writing. It gives me a headache.
  5. I hate anything that’s that popular. Sorry. I just do.
  6. Edward is a stalker. That’s not romantic. That’s creepy. He’s also dead. And WAY older than Bella, who is a minor. Why is none of this creepy to any of the series crazy fans? Oh yes. Because they’re crazy.
  7. The movies remind me of the worst teeny-bopper idea of horror ever conceived  They’re like a cheerleader and a football player decided to write a soap opera about vampires.

Now you might have noticed a theme in all of these points. In case you didn’t, I’ll spell it out: none of them come from my own reading of the material. They are opinions based on the opinions of others: things that I have read or seen or heard second-hand. And no matter how justified they are or how real they feel to me, they aren’t educated — and they aren’t professional.

A couple of weeks ago two of my friends called me on that, and I had no choice but to answer.

They came to me with the words “we love you” (which worried me right away; you had to be there), and proceeded to handed me a stack of Meyers’ work. These are very brave friends, I’ll tell you that. But also caring and kind and wonderful. They are both fans of Twilight, who respect me as a writer and a friend and asked me the question I had hoped nobody would ever ask: “how can you say you hate it if you have never read it?”

Ugh. Dagger to the ego.

See, I call myself a professional. I take pride in both my own writing and my knowledge of the profession as a whole. But a professional does not hold opinions that aren’t their own. A professional does not jeer at another’s work just because they don’t like how it “smells”. And above all, a professional does not take the words of rumor — nor the opinions of others — as undeniable fact.

And dammit, I don’t just call myself a professional. I am a professional. So I have begun to read Twilight of my own accord and thus form my own, educated, professional opinion.

I have also decided to document this adventure in my blog, chapter-by-chapter. I will try to be as unbiased as possible, though I am human and therefore fallible. That said, to try and counteract this inescapable fallacy, I will  give a list of bad AND good thoughts as I go through each chapter. I will also give a tally of points between these, in the end comparing the two in order to make a final judgement that is as unbiased as possible.

And so begins my newest adventure…

My thoughts on Twilight Chapter 1:  First Sight

The Good:

  • Meyers’ writing style is easy to read. I found myself breezing through the first chapter like a hot knife through butter. As a children’s writer especially, I know that it is far easier to write wordy, flowery prose than it is to truly engage a reader who might have an entirely different thought processes than you. One point for positive.
  • The narrative voice of Bella is convincing as an uncomfortable, awkward teenager who is trying to find her way in the world. I bought her as a high-school girl hook, line and sinker. Another point for positive.
  • Bella is relatable. I can see why so many teenage girls fell instantly in love with these books, seeing themselves in Bella’s shoes as easily as trough a mirror. Point three.
  • The storyline begins interestingly, and the cliffhanger at the end of chapter 1 is one I can respect as a fellow writer. If I didn’t already know from its huge commercialism that Edward was a vampire, I’d be very curious to know why he reacted like he did to Bella. Meyers fulfilled a very important writers’ mantra here: keep the reader turning pages. Another point for positive.
  • I feel the need to point out a particular passage I enjoyed: “Inside the truck, it was nice and dry. Either Billy or Charlie had obviously cleaned it up, but the tan upholstered seats still smelled faintly of tobacco, gasoline and peppermint.” (Meyers 12) I liked this description because it brought to mind the exact smell of so many old trucks I grew up riding in here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll admit: it made me smile. One more point for positive.

The Bad:

  • As a denizine of Washington, I wasn’t thrilled by Bella’s hatred of my beloved state. It not only painted her as someone I personally could not connect with, but also as a whiny, superficial brat. One point against.
  • Meyer describes everything. I’m all for description. Heck, I love Anne Rice and J.R.R. Tolkien, the King and Queen of description! But Meyers’ descriptions border on (and sometimes completely pass), redundancy. Here is one great example of what I mean: “Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino.” (Meyers 18) Okay, so they’re pale. That’s enough with the use of the word — “… I glanced sideways at the beautiful boy, who was looking at his tray now and picking apart a bagel with long, pale fingers.” (Meyers 20) … pale. Ugh. Something tells me this word in particular will haunt the rest of my reading of this book, but Meyers seems to have a thing for redundant description overall, “pale” notwithstanding. And speaking of redundancy…
  • Meyers doesn’t seem to understand the reason thesauri exist. The repetition of same words within a few sentences drives me entirely nuts, and she does this often. Example: “In the Olympic Peninsula of Northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains in this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old.” (Meyers 3) Okay. We now thoroughly and without a doubt know that Forks is a town. Use the word one more time and I’m going to go entirely bonkers! Also, it’s depressing. We get that. Move on. This is not the only time Meyers does this, by the way. It’s consistent. One more point against.

The Conclusion:

Five points positive, three points negative. Meyers is off to a good start! Of course we haven’t started on the whole “vampire” thing just yet, so we’ll see…

Works Cited

Meyers, Stephanie. Twilight. New York: Little Brown & Company, 2005. Print.

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