I I I I I I I  

MOM AND POP
CULTURE:
In Search of Kiddie Stoners

 

by Marrit Ingman

I’m all about teaching our children to reverse the destruction of Earth, but does it have to involve this animal, whose shrieking voice is like a shiv to the kidney? I hear it and fall down, staggering.

Memo to PBS: We want to help, but please give us more big, lovable stoners. Gentle, friendly stoners that help children calm down.

I grew up with Easy Reader, who was surely a stoner. The way he’s always delighted with everything, the way he buys a soda at Vi’s Diner so he can read the label. “Groovy, baby!” It looks like the height of freedom: imagine traipsing around a late-70s New York City in a fringed vest, just reading stuff, slapping people five. And you’re Morgan Freeman. That has to be awesome.

Like me at age five, my son also responds well to soothing stoner figures. He’s a Pisces and will absorb any mood nearby. He is emotional tofu. He covers his eyes whenever there’s a race on The Saddle Club because he can’t stand the suspense. He doesn’t seek frantic entertainment, and it’s all the same to me since I’m a little jumpy myself. We need slow-moving shit with no explosions.

I was initially skeptical of It’s a Big Big World, a preschool nature show which combines puppetry and CGI in a happily artificial-looking and apparently expensive process underwritten by Sony—but then I realized it has a wonderful kids’ TV stoner: Snook the Sloth. I took to that guy immediately. I wanted to tweak his succulent, felted pink nose and sleep on him as if he were a hammock.

“Heeeeeyyyyy,” said Snook. “You’re baaaaaaaack.”

“Dude, you are the greatest sloth ever,” I replied.

Overall the show isn’t great. One of the animals gets some crazy idea easily explained by Madge the turtle, and there are some songs. It’s okay. We learn that fish have slimy bodies and mammals are live-born, stuff like that.

But Snook? That guy’s awesome.

When Bob the anteater is afraid of his echo, Snook stays calm. When Smooch the marmoset wants to move to a new habitat, Snook stays calm. When Burdette decides she wants to be the queen of the tree, Snook stays calm. Snook stays calm, takes naps, and eats chocolate-covered eucalyptus leaves. Snook is a great big furry lovable stoner. He needs to share some of what he’s having with that EekoCreature--as long as it’s organic and fair trade. A defender of the Earth, Snook rolls like that.

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Other possible stoners: Charlie’s dad on Clifford, most likely. Martin Kratt but not Chris. The creators of Franny’s Feet. Buster’s dad but not his mom. Abuela Elena bakes it. Bob Keeshan probably woke up with the Captain, if you know what I mean. The Teletubbies were not stoners; they were babies, part baby and part television, which I can’t quite figure out because the British just do drugs differently. Earlier I thought of another really obvious one, but then I forgot. So far it’s not coming back.

Far too obvious is Dragon Tales, a traditionally animated show not unlike Tommy for preschoolers. Dragon Tales is what happens when you take it too far beyond prosocial values—bilingual songs about cleaning your room and taking turns—and into a running story about children whose special wallpaper, which appears to be dragon-shaped blotter, transports them into a magical otherworld full of talking flowers and unicorns and Jugglebugs and shit. I was not surprised to discover that a place called Mushroom Meadows exists in Dragon Land. To get there, the children grasp a glowing rock and chant, which is not entirely wholesome, and then they escape reality for what appears to be several consecutive hours without even telling their parents they’re leaving. Generally it transpires as such:

ONE KID: Yay! We’re home from school. Want to play blocks?

OTHER KID: Nah. My tower fell down last time.

ONE KID: Want to go to Dragon Land?

OTHER KID: Sure!

Sometimes Emmy and her brother Max (who is three years old, people) tune in and drop out shortly after waking.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental. I’d probably be licking the wallpaper and grasping rocks to get to Dragon Land if I were a fictional character and all I had ever to do was play in my room until dinner was ready. But I think things are a little out of control for Max and Emmy and their new bilingual neighbor Enrique, who was introduced to the show amidst PBS-sized controversy and picked up the dragon habit right away. They should all play outside on Earth for a while.

Meanwhile, Buster isn’t even allowed to visit lesbian farmers in Vermont. We’re so busy fighting the culture wars that we may be too late to help Max and Emmy. Oh, yeah. Enrique, too.

I would discourage Dragon Tales in the house but for one mitigating factor, my weakness: the show has a delightful TV stoner, a beacon of herbal tranquility penetrating the show’s air of meth-addled hypercuteness.

I love Ord.

I love his eyes. I love his little toofers, his rusty-gate voice, his tiny wings and his big belly, as puffy and corrugated as a catcher’s chest protector. “All these arts and crafts made me hungry!” he wails, despondent before remembering that he has a “hoard” in his abdomen—and it’s always packed with dragonberries he can pull out and eat! Awesome!

He’s not the quickest thinker, and he’s a little paranoid about stuff—like thunder and losing his blanket—but he wants so much to be brave, and he’s basically good and kind. That’s the kind of magical imaginary stoner guy I want in my kid’s village.
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 About the Author:
 
Marrit Ingman
is a freelance writer, film critic, occasional educator, and constant mother. She is a frequent contributor to the Austin Chronicle, and her writing on popular culture has also appeared in Brain, Child, Fertile Ground, Alternet.org, Clamor, and Venus. Her first book, Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health out with the Diapers, describes her experience with postpartum depression and was published in 2005 by Seal Press.

 

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