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Arthur takes on the autism spectrum
March 15, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Marc Brown's Arthur series about a curious aardvark started with the bedtime stories he made up for his own children. Each one of the Arthur books contains Easter Eggs in the form of the author's children's names.

Hugely popular, the series of books spawned an animated show on PBS. In the 13th season of the show (beginning April 5th), Arthur and his pals will make a new friend, Carl. Carl has Asperger's. Still not sure what that is? That's okay, let Brain explain it for you.
posted by misha (155 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brain says nothing about why it's considered a pathology, unless it's because Carl didn't really come from another planet. But then, where did we all come from?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a parent, I always found Arthur cloying and sanctimonious, even by the standards of PBS animated childrens' programming.

This won't help.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:40 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I enjoyed the "A Perfect Day For Banana Fish" reference in the clip.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:42 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a parent, I always found Arthur cloying and sanctimonious, even by the standards of PBS animated childrens' programming.

Whaaaaat??? As a parent, I consider Arthur some of the finest television out there for kids. It's hilarious and education for both parents and kids in the same way Sesame Street used to be.

(Maybe you are thinking of Caillou. What a whiny brat that kid is.)

I liked Brain's explanation if only because it puts the viewer on the inside trying to figure out the world rather than outside in the world trying to figure out "that weirdo".
posted by DU at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


So Arther is an aardvark? I always thought he was supposed to some kind of dog.

I'm usually working when its on and my daughter is watching it in the background so I can't say if its cloying or sanctimonious. I just know I can't stand the theme song and I wonder why that one kid has a scrotum-face.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 10:01 AM on March 15, 2010


I thought he was a damned mouse.
posted by jonmc at 10:03 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is a good thing. I love Arthur, have enjoyed watching him even as an adult.

However, I am continuously disappointed they don't produce an episode around the fact that he has a pet puppy, but he also has dogs as classmates, like Binky and Fern. Perhaps Binky could get militant and vandalize Arthur's house for "enslaving my people?"
posted by mreleganza at 10:08 AM on March 15, 2010 [25 favorites]


I am continuously disappointed they don't produce an episode around the fact that he has a pet puppy, but he also has dogs as classmates, like Binky and Fern.

I never thought of that. However, I am frequently disturbed the implied racism of every family being the same animal species. Why can't a dog marry an aardvark or a giraffe a chimp?
posted by DU at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I keep hoping Caillou's grandparents accidentally back their car over him, but it never happens.

My daughter is too young for Arthur, but I have some exposure to it from work. Some of my friends with kids old enough for it find it as distasteful as fourcheesemac does and won't allow it to be on purely because it's irritating.

But it is not the worst atrocity that PBS has foisted upon children and their parents. That's Dragon Tales.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


Whaaaaat??? As a parent, I consider Arthur some of the finest television out there for kids. It's hilarious and education for both parents and kids in the same way Sesame Street used to be.

I agree. I like Arthur.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:11 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like mreleganza's idea. You and I should talk about my WonderPets spec script, "Ming-Ming Smashes the Bourgeoisie Oppressors."
posted by Mister_A at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


I like Binky. He has a funny name.
posted by ameliajayne at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2010


It's always interesting at the Aardvark family reunion, when the cousin from Iest shows up with a sword and an unslakeable thirst. Once he claimed to be living in a hotel room with an invisible elf, and another time he claimed to be Prime Minister, or Pope, or married, he was really drunk that year and it was hard to follow along.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


But it is not the worst atrocity that PBS has foisted upon children and their parents. That's Dragon Tales.

Obviously you've never seen Sid the Science Kid. I would rather have Dragon Tales on a continuous loop for the rest of my life than endure a single episode of that gratingly stupid, dead-eyed homunculus.

(Oh and a really unexpectedly great show is Curious George. A rare example of the show being much better than the books. Actually...Arthur is like that too. (Sorry Marc.))
posted by DU at 10:14 AM on March 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh and Word Girl. I would non-ironically watch Word Girl as an adult show if I could. Hilarious.
posted by DU at 10:16 AM on March 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


But it is not the worst atrocity that PBS has foisted upon children and their parents. That's Dragon Tales.

This is totally true. It is quite literally extreme political correctness gone amok. Although I have no idea which demographic the two-headed dragon is supposed to represent. People with bipolar personality disorder?
posted by norm at 10:16 AM on March 15, 2010


And what's up with Franklin? He's got a proper name, but everyone else on that show is Bear or Rabbit or Beaver. How come only the turtle gets a name, huh?

Also, stop taking shit about Caillou. It's not easy being bald at age 4.
posted by Paid In Full at 10:18 AM on March 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Huh, I thought it was an anteater.

My trouble is I can't decide whether or not to be irritated by the Backyardigans. On one hand, piercing tonal usage in the musical bits, on the other, mad and clever scenarios. Heh, pie ninjas.

I wonder if introducing children during their formative years to the 'mechanics' of aberrant mental patterns might increase the occurrence of the patterns/symptoms incidentally. Sort of similarly to Jung and his Red Book.
posted by LD Feral at 10:19 AM on March 15, 2010


I met Marc Brown several years ago, at a Library of Congress National Book Festival event. I wouldn't be surprised if he has Asperger's, too--he was obviously very uncomfortable with the rush for autographs after his bit.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2010


He could just be shy, MoonPie. But then again, one wonders if he doesn't have a personal connection to Asperger's (assuming he is consulting somehow on development of the TV show).
posted by Mister_A at 10:26 AM on March 15, 2010


I'm with DU on all accounts. The only thing good that came out of Sid the Science Kid was my 4yr old stating that she has a BIG IDEA! And sometimes her ideas aren't half bad.
Word Girl is fantastic. But there's one show that's on PBS Saturday mornings that needs more air time and that's Peep and The Big Wide World. Awesome show!

I look forward to the new character in Arthur. That aardvark ain't half bad. Not like that annoying Calliou.. ugh, I could kick that kid.
posted by czechmate at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You want bad? Friends with kids too young to talk once made me watch an ep of Dora with creepy socialist/Utopian society overtones. She freed all the caged dogs and the dogcatcher ended up becoming a mailman... Oh it was WEIRD.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:37 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a parent, I always found Arthur cloying and sanctimonious

I gotta go with this. My kids can't stand it either. They'd rather watch home renovations shows with me than watch Arthur.
posted by GuyZero at 10:37 AM on March 15, 2010


I wanted to give props (preeps?) to Peep too, but didn't want to dominate the thread with alsome shows.

Also Pocoyo.
posted by DU at 10:38 AM on March 15, 2010


The absolute worst in the history of children's programming on public television would have to be the Big Comfy Couch. When he was younger, we would not allow our son to watch it.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:40 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


We always liked Arthur; I especially liked the episode where D.W. and Binky think they're going to die and forge a friendship in adversity. But my kids are no longer watching kids' shows (and we don't have a TV capable of receiving external signals any more anyway) so I have no opinion on the newer stuff on PBS. I didn't even know Curious George had a show; I think I'd like that.

Although I never liked Dragon Tales. Such a cool premise, such a lame execution.
posted by Michael Roberts at 10:45 AM on March 15, 2010


Thirding DU.

Word-girl is awesome and I have watched it even when my daughter wasn't around.
Sid the Science kid is an abomination. I swear that one kid with the little sprout of hair on top of his head is going to kill someone one day.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Yeah, Dragon Tales is an abomination. It's like a spoof of a kids' show.
posted by brundlefly at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hah! Double use of abomination!
posted by Nyarlathotep at 10:48 AM on March 15, 2010


I am frequently disturbed the implied racism of every family being the same animal species.

DU, I'm on the same page as you when it comes to what PBS kids shows to watch, but here I think you're expecting too much.

The species-as-race analoge does a good job for most practical representations of race relations as they pertain to children, that is: we are all different, but all the same.

Why can't a dog marry an aardvark or a giraffe a chimp?

Because what would it look like? We don't know, because it's not physically possible to breed between species. That's where the metaphor breaks down; you're pushing it too far. Instead you could have parents of the same species but different colors, and—if I'm not mistaken—there are.

I think what's great about Arthur (and Sesame Street) is that the show deals with not only the issue du jour in a format of "it's a problem, but we can handle it," but also makes a quiet non-issue of many serious topics. Dogs, aardvarks, cats, and bunnies all getting along, divorced parents, diverse religions and customs, are all taken in stride.

Dealing with so many topics on multiple levels not only makes "fun for all ages" TV, but also shows some serious devotion to the craft.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 10:50 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ooohhh, Asperger's! Coolest disease ever! Everyone's lining up to get diagnosed. It's a badge of geek cred.
posted by Ratio at 10:55 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Presumably the action of Dragon Tales takes place in the kids' imagination. If this is true, then the little brother's imaginary play includes watching his sister play basketball with the dragons. If that's how he uses his imagination time, he needs therapy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:55 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ugh, second the thumbs down on the Comfy Couch. Although, for Worst Ever, I'd have to go with the Boo Bahs or however it's spelled; that was like Teletubbies but worse. I caught that one once with my son when he was about four and while it was difficult for him to articulate the concept that "That was a psychedelic nightmare, Dad," he managed in the end.

On a marginally related topic, I cracked my daughter up entirely with some worldbuilding when she was about eight. I asked her about the freaky ecology of the Teletubby world - how many species have you got? Tubbies, grass, flowers, and bunnies. Grass feeds the bunnies, flowers become tubby toast, and ... that leaves bunnies as the chief ingredient of tubby custard.

While she was giggling over that, I realized that clearly the predator of Tubbies is Barney. There's a reason he doesn't have teeth, just cartilage in his mouth - cartilage is all you need to chew up fluffy, fluffy Tubbies, and teeth would be an ecological waste. "I love Teletubbies very much!"

That cracked her up. The idea of a madly grinning Barney on the rampage with screaming Teletubbies scattering in all directions appealed to her inner love of mayhem.

I did lose her when I started going on about how the Tubbies we see are only the elite of their society, and all the machinery is run by lower-caste Tubbies living underground, with names like "Wrenchy-Benchy" and "Multitester". So obviously, ecological thinking was clear to her, while social criticism was lost on her tender eight-year-old sensitivities. You win some, you lose some.
posted by Michael Roberts at 10:56 AM on March 15, 2010 [26 favorites]


Hah! Double use of abomination!

I guess I owe you a Coke! An evil Coke.
posted by brundlefly at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always found Arthur cloying and sanctimonious
Caillou. What a whiny brat that kid is
the worst atrocity that PBS has foisted upon children and their parents. That's Dragon Tales
Obviously you've never seen Sid the Science Kid....that gratingly stupid, dead-eyed homunculus
You want bad?...Dora
The absolute worst in the history of children's programming on public television would have to be the Big Comfy Couch


How soon we forget Barney & Friends, and how much he loves us and our happy family.
posted by sallybrown at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I really would like to find out if there are couples of different colors in the Arthur universe, can anyone confirm?

Some very peculiar google searches are not helping.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 10:58 AM on March 15, 2010


Some very peculiar google searches are not helping.

Rule 34: say hello to the Arthur slash.
posted by GuyZero at 10:59 AM on March 15, 2010


Because what would it look like? We don't know, because it's not physically possible to breed between species.

Yeah, I was joking. The show would be about the weird hybrid animal children. Although a childless, interspecies couple would be an interesting addition. They could do non-traditional-marriage type themes without having to explicitly Go There.

Come to think of it, the kids on Arthur already have interspecies romances (or as much as 3rd graders normally would anyway).
posted by DU at 11:05 AM on March 15, 2010


Wow, I can't believe I'm the only one on Metafilter, of call places, who enjoys watching Sid the Science Kid with his child and thinks it's an awesome show.

I mean, come on: it's got a bi-racial star (I think -- a lot of characters are ambiguously brownish), and it teaches kids that wondering about the world and how it works should lead to science and knowledge rather than magical thinking. How can y'all front on that?

I do agree with the sentiment that Dragon Tales is truly wretched though.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:06 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really would like to find out if there are couples of different colors in the Arthur universe, can anyone confirm?

From Wikipedia's list of Arthur characters:

Emily's Father: Emily's father who is only seen during "Emily Swallows a Horse"...In a later episode, it is revealed that unlike his daughter and wife who are rabbits, he is a monkey.
posted by sallybrown at 11:07 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


The species-as-race analog does a good job for most practical representations of race relations as they pertain to children, that is: we are all different, but all the same.

posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 1:50 PM on March 15 [+] [!]


Eponyscholarly.
posted by The Bellman at 11:07 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Big Comfy Couch? I'ma gonna say Barney over that. Besides, the lead human (?) has a bizarre and amazing background of different voice acting jobs.
posted by LD Feral at 11:10 AM on March 15, 2010


What about Buster's dad? Buster is a full rabbit but in the Arthur spin-off series Postcards From Buster, his dad looks like a human with fake rabbit ears on. It's like there was one illicit rabbit-human coupling somewhere in the family's past and every once in a while the recessive gene kicks in and you get someone that looks more human than rabbit.

His dad is divorced, no doubt from the stress of his "otherness" even within his own family. His job as a pilot symbolizes his attempt to run away from it all and seek out somewhere he can belong.
posted by mikepop at 11:17 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Emily's father who is only seen during "Emily Swallows a Horse"

OH come on, that's not really the title, is it?
posted by Think_Long at 11:22 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


However, I am continuously disappointed they don't produce an episode around the fact that he has a pet puppy, but he also has dogs as classmates, like Binky and Fern. Perhaps Binky could get militant and vandalize Arthur's house for "enslaving my people?"

This is a recurring phenomenon in kids' books and shows. My daughter has a book that involves Minnie Mouse's dog running away. First off, what's up with a mouse owning a dog? Mice are smart and dogs are dumb? Why is that? Then Minnie's friends come over to help. First is Daisy Duck. OK, now ducks are smarter than dogs too. Then comes Minnie's friend Penny. Penny is a dog -- in a dress. So this intelligent, verbal dog who wears dresses helps track down another dog who broke away off her leash. Finally the group turns on the television and sees a news broadcast about the dog show (the anchor is, of course, a dog) and there's a shot of Minnie's dog doing tricks. The friends rush to the dog show and find Minnie's dog getting a blue ribbon placed on her by the judge -- who is, of course, a dog, wearing a suit and glasses.

This was one of the sickest stories I have ever read.
posted by brain_drain at 11:25 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Buster is a full rabbit but in the Arthur spin-off series Postcards From Buster, his dad looks like a human with fake rabbit ears on.

I found this image of the man-bunny from this book review:

It's obvious from this picture that Buster's father himself is living a lie. That's right, he's clearly a normal human who's grafted novelty bunny ears to his scalp in an ill-advised effort to postpone a crushing realization for the freakishly enormous talking rabbit he's been raising as a son.

Let it go, Buster's "dad"... we've all got to cross that old bridge someday, and you'd better let Buster cross his in his own time without any more of your creepy interference. Or, failing that, at least buy yourself a goddamn bunny nose... you look ridiculous.


People who like to overthink plates of beans could have a field day with this. Recessive gene? Or physical manifestation of the growing difference between a son and his divorced father? What does it all mean?!
posted by sallybrown at 11:29 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooohhh, Asperger's! Coolest disease ever! Everyone's lining up to get diagnosed.

I know the "fixed that for you" thing is irritating, but I think what you meant to say is "Oooooh, Asperger's! Coolest disease ever! Everyone's reading the Wikipedia page on it and diagnosing themselves with it to explain their social inadequacy!"
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:30 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I did lose her when I started going on about how the Tubbies we see are only the elite of their society, and all the machinery is run by lower-caste Tubbies living underground, with names like "Wrenchy-Benchy" and "Multitester".

If H.G. Welles worked in children's programming.

(A side project while not trying to teach the kiddies about the horrors of warfare in palatable game form.)
posted by JHarris at 11:31 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]



Ooohhh, Asperger's! Coolest disease ever! Everyone's lining up to get diagnosed. It's a badge of geek cred.

Seriously ?

Yeah, I get that AS is probably to a certain extent over-diagnosed, and certainly not well understood in either cause or effects which does not help. I also get that anti-social dipshits use a self-diagnosis as validation for not working on their own interpersonal issues.

Neither of those facts diminishes the suffering of people who actually do have it. This comment is both off-topic and, really, really offensive.

That's the extent of your addition to this thread - a drive by one liner that isn't accurate, on topic, insightful, or even, funny.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:32 AM on March 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Remember, Mickey had Pluto so it's an old precedent.

And I will always love ARTHUR for the Bleep Episode which featured a spoof of the cast of THE SPRANOS cussing their heads off. (starts at 0:35)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:33 AM on March 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Great, another playground taunt for kids to hurl at each other --

"CHUCKIE'S GOT ASS-BOOGERS!!!!"
posted by tspae at 11:35 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH come on, that's not really the title, is it?

Clearly Emily reads "A Modest Proposal" in school and decides to eat her neighbor's child--or foal, rather.

More about Emily, again from here:
Emily: is one of D.W.'s classmates and friends. She first met D.W. in a gymnastics class, and later became a regular character in the series. She outshines D.W. in many activities, and D.W. often tries to outperform her, but with mixed results. She possibly has a French heritage because she is closely associated with French culture, and even has a French nanny. Emily was at first seen as a rabbit with tall ears, short blonde hair, and a red floral dress. In the sixth season, her design changed to much longer hair, and a blue dress. Emily is half rabbit and half monkey, and is the only trans-species character in the series so far.
posted by sallybrown at 11:36 AM on March 15, 2010


Emily is a cheese-eating rabbit-monkey?
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Everyone's reading the Wikipedia page on it and diagnosing themselves with it because sometimes the fact of the matter couldn't be clearer if Simon Baron-Cohen himself came down from Mount Sinai Cambridge and inscribed "YOU GOT ASPERGER'S, KID" in thousand-foot-high letters of fire on Mount Rushmore.

Fixed that for...well, okay, not you, but for a friend of mine. *cough*
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:37 AM on March 15, 2010


I found this image of the man-bunny from this book review

This image from the series shows a bit more rabbit-ness in the coloring and the facial features. I'd have to agree the book image you found would more support a grafted-on ears theory.
posted by mikepop at 11:38 AM on March 15, 2010


In fact, I kind of find the idea of Asperger's offensive. I don't think it's any kind of real disorder. I think it's an attempt to take the set of behaviors which we used to call "geeks" or "nerds" and turn it into a pathology to be treated. Fuck that, I find that offensive. Stop trying to turn everything slightly out of the ordinary into something to be "treated". This is the same reason why smart kids who get bored and restless in school get fed pills for their "disease". It's bullshit.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:40 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a recurring phenomenon in kids' books and shows. My daughter has a book that involves Minnie Mouse's dog running away.

Obviously, the social dynamics of the Disney World are focused more on sentience than form. Some dogs are intelligent, and some are not. The ones who aren't are not eligible to vote or hold employment, but are still cared for and looked after. (If they're lucky enough to be owned as pets, that is.) Instead of viewing unintelligent animals as being merely qualitatively different, they see an unbridgeable gulf between them. But their figuring this out would have happened centuries ago for them, probably in prehistory in fact, and they would consider it to be just the nature of their world. Really, it probably isn't that different from how we consider gorilla and chimpanzees.

There probably are scientists, in their world, trying to figure out why there is a difference between them. Geneticists are probably just now isolating the essential difference between the two species, referred to by them as the "Don't drink from the toilet" gene.
posted by JHarris at 11:42 AM on March 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


I thought Arthur was one of the better programs on PBS when my kids were watching ten or so years ago. The stories and characters were done in a way to hold the adult's interest in addition to the child's.

Of course, there were some other shows that were just unwatchable of you were over about 8 years old. Some have been mentioned, Big Comfy Couch, and of course Barney. There was a really noxious show featuring an ethnically diverse group of Muppet-like puppets called Puzzle Place in which each episode featured a character getting his/her feelings hurt over something someone did or said by another, and the resolution involving a round of sensitivity training. The show was aching for a D.W.-like character to spice up the stories and offer some entertainment value. Makes me laugh about folks concerned about the race issue in Arthur. Careful what you wish for... you may get Puzzle Place.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:45 AM on March 15, 2010


This image from the series shows a bit more rabbit-ness in the coloring and the facial features. I'd have to agree the book image you found would more support a grafted-on ears theory.

It's possible that the Buster clan has some sort of humanoid pigmentation in their fur. We know Buster's dad spends a lot of time on the road, exposing his furskin to unfiltered ultraviolet light through the windshield and passenger window - I presume the picture Sallybrown linked to is simply Mr. Buster with a tan.
posted by Think_Long at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some dogs are intelligent, and some are not.

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
posted by sallybrown at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is just awesome. My 7-year-old Aspie only watches Arthur once in a while (he's more of a Fetch! fan) but I'm sure he will get a kick out of this. And maybe when his friends are grown up and using the Internet they'll have a little more insight into Asperger's than "hurf durf fake geek diagnosis."
posted by Daily Alice at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Emily was at first seen as a rabbit with tall ears, short blonde hair, and a red floral dress. In the sixth season, her design changed to much longer hair, and a blue dress. Emily is half rabbit and half monkey, and is the only trans-species character in the series so far.

I had to laugh at this.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


1. Anyone remember a few years back when Arthur character "Buster" was slated to receive a postcard from a lesbian couple? Bush era Education Secretary Margaret Spellings threw a hissy fit and the episode was canceled? Link

2. The Pluto vs. Goofy schism is an interesting one, I read recently that Pluto was likely a holdover from when Mickey was actually a bit of an asshole and Pluto was a guard dog in opposition to mickey (prior to the introduction of Goofy)

3. Pogo_Fuzzybutt: I know what you are saying. But, there has been an almost fetishism about AS in recent years. It seems that anytime a public figure is bright but a little socially awkward the AS gets publicly attributed, and so in a twisted way AS is seen as something desirable to have, because a) it means you're smart, and b) it explains away any social failings. Is this just, right or even remotely reasonable? No. Does it happen? Yes. I don't know implicitly, but I suspect this is what Ratio was referring to.
posted by edgeways at 11:48 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


AND WHY ISN'T DONALD DUCK WEARING PANTS?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:51 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enough with the "HURR THE ASPIES ARE FAKER THAN ADHD!" talk. What about the real issue?

What kind of animal is Carl? Please don't have it be a nerdy or weird one. If he's a platypus, I might have to write a strongly worded letter.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:55 AM on March 15, 2010


This thread is the best conversation on Metafilter in a long time.

This is a recurring phenomenon in kids' books and shows. My daughter has a book that involves Minnie Mouse's dog running away.

Gordie: Alright, alright, Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog. What's Goofy?

Teddy: Goofy's a dog. He's definitely a dog.

Chris: He can't be a dog. He drives a car and wears a hat.

Vern: Oh, God. That's weird. What the hell is Goofy? [1]
posted by marxchivist at 11:55 AM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, Fetch is pretty good. But a little...breathless. It's like Magic Schoolbus that way. Educational, sure, but very hyper and jump-cut to the point of near unwatchability.

The writers of Magic Schoolbus went on to make Cyberchase and corrected the underlying problem, which was too many characters that needed to fit in their catchphrases. If anything, Cyberchase now errs on the other side. They'll often spend a couple minutes laboriously spelling something out. (They probably don't err on the other side now, just that they've swung that far.)

Thinking about it in that light, I see Fetch could probably stand to drop 2-3 kids/season to be able to spend more seconds on the remaining ones without so much confusing editing.
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The original Magic Schoolbus books were great but the TV show suffered from having to fit in all those tangential margin notes into the dialogue. Magic Schoolbus is the Watchmen movie of children's TV.
posted by GuyZero at 12:00 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh! Also: you are all bad people for letting your children watch TV. My children stage their own puppet shows based on the Greek Classics to entertain each other. That Is All.
posted by GuyZero at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


That Pluto/Goofy stuff is almost as weird as Betty Boop beginning life as a doggie pal to Bimbo, and eventually morphing into the squeaky girl sex symbol we know today, while Bimbo remained... Bimbo, her little doggy friend/pet.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I checked the comments on the YouTube link to see if they were worse than this thread re: "ASPERGERS IS A FAKE DISEASE FOR LYING NERDS!" banter.

The comments there are all positive, all saying the clip is good. Congratulations guys, we've beaten YouTube at it's own game.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:02 PM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Maybe you are thinking of Caillou. What a whiny brat that kid is.

I keep hoping Caillou's grandparents accidentally back their car over him, but it never happens.

It really cracks me up how USians hate Caillou so much.

For all the haters, it may give you some grim satisfaction to learn that Caillou's original voice actor, a 17 year old from Montreal named Jaclyn Linetsky, was in fact killed in a car accident back in 2003.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Way to be a Debbie Downer for us, stinkycheese.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:09 PM on March 15, 2010


Us USians hate Caillou, because not only does he invade our public television, but he's also played on those stupid TVs in the checkout line. We're adults buying grown up stuff, like flour and distilled water. We don't need to watch clips children's television.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:10 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


TVs in the checkout line?
posted by DU at 12:13 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


arthur is an aardvark? i didn't know that. did know that lance armstrong is a bunny. i always thought arthur was one, too.
posted by lester at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, DU. They play ads and clips from kids shows and Jay Leno (never Conan or anyone good). If your supermarkets don't have them yet, start fighting NOW! Once they're there, the supermarket never wants to give up the revenue.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:21 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


TVs in the checkout line?

Every new-ish/remodeled supermarket around here (So CA) has 'em. Lot's of gas pumps, too. They don't show Caillou, tho.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:22 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Maybe you are thinking of Caillou. What a whiny brat that kid is.)

French-Canadian.

And someone get his mom a makeover, STAT!
posted by mikelieman at 12:23 PM on March 15, 2010


They play ads and clips from kids shows and Jay Leno (never Conan or anyone good).

I'm pretty sure this is a violation of the Geneva Convention, the U.N. Human Rights charter and probably several inter-galactic treaties.
posted by madajb at 12:28 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


This TV in the checkout line thing sounds really awful.
posted by brundlefly at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I go to this post-ironic grocery where they show jap-scat on the checkout TVs.

/cooler than thou
posted by Mister_A at 12:32 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thomas the Tank Engine was created by an English pastor, and is basically a Calvinist morality play - the Fat Controller is the all-powerful entity who must be obeyed; the trains gauge their success in life according to their usefulness; the trains a destined to travel along predetermined courses of the train track with a known destination.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2010 [8 favorites]




So Arther is an aardvark? I always thought he was supposed to some kind of dog.


I made this mistake in person.

He got all up in my face when I said I thought he was a dog.

He said "Fuck You! I'm an Anteater"
posted by srboisvert at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fetch is great, and so is Martha Speaks and Word Girl: the weekday PBS stuff while dinner cooks is good, but the weekend lineup is terrible. The show Animalia is wretched, and so is Sagwa. And WordWorld. Yuck
posted by wenestvedt at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Emily: is one of D.W.'s classmates and friends. She first met D.W. in a gymnastics class, and later became a regular character in the series. She outshines D.W. in many activities, and D.W. often tries to outperform her, but with mixed results. She possibly has a French heritage because she is closely associated with French culture, and even has a French nanny. Emily was at first seen as a rabbit with tall ears, short blonde hair, and a red floral dress. In the sixth season, her design changed to much longer hair, and a blue dress. Emily is half rabbit and half monkey, and is the only trans-species character in the series so far.

Clearly, she is french since she eats horse meat. Duh.
posted by ameliajayne at 12:35 PM on March 15, 2010


My husband misheard the Caillou theme song "I'm just a kid who's four" as "I'm just a kid who's poor."

Then we decided on some more lyrics

I'm just a kid who's poor
Have to sleep in a drawer
My mom is a crack whore
Caillou


We are bad people.

On the upside, I like Arthur, because his little sister is diabolical and absolutely realistic. And they have a true tomboy character in Francine, who kicks everyone's ass.

Am I the only person who saw the episode where Arthur was imagining "prehistoric people" and they were aardvarks who looked a lot more like the real thing than he did? Long ears and snouts? So awesome. Lots of clever in-jokes like that in the show if you pay attention.
posted by emjaybee at 12:35 PM on March 15, 2010 [5 favorites]



This TV in the checkout line thing sounds really awful.


Sounds more awful than it is. I honestly can't remember anything they show. Leno sounds about right. I recall maybe they show some clips from a current sitcom, laugh tracks and such. It's just stuff on a small flat screen display.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:36 PM on March 15, 2010


I, too, am shocked at the Sid-hate - they actually do science experiments, much better at making me feel like a good parent when my kids watch TV than Calliou. And, it is as PC a series as you get, Sid's dad celebrates Hanukkah, his mom celebrates Christmas and Kwanzaa! And, if you want sanctimonious eduction, try the unwatchable edumacational Super Why...

Now, for me, the real winner remains Dora. I find myself singing "We did it!" after almost every minor victory in my life....
posted by blahblahblah at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I must confess that the first lie we ever told my daughter was that Caillou was canceled. When she was older and could operate the tv herself, she found out.
posted by ameliajayne at 12:39 PM on March 15, 2010 [8 favorites]




On the upside, I like Arthur, because his little sister is diabolical and absolutely realistic. And they have a true tomboy character in Francine, who kicks everyone's ass.

Am I the only person who saw the episode where Arthur was imagining "prehistoric people" and they were aardvarks who looked a lot more like the real thing than he did? Long ears and snouts? So awesome. Lots of clever in-jokes like that in the show if you pay attention.


Exactly. I thought the show was clever enough to hold an adult's attention with such details. D.W. is an Eddie Haskell-like character, often showing up her older brother and facing no consequences. They do spoof shows, little current event tie-ins. My wife chuckled when they did a South Park bit.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:42 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The absolute worst in the history of children's programming on public television would have to be the Big Comfy Couch . When he was younger, we would not allow our son to watch it.

I'm sorry, you just identified something other than Barney as the worst children's programming. Therefore, you are wrong. Q.E.D.

(I like the Arthur play rooms in the Boston Children's Museum. Seriously, they're pretty rad. Classoroom, "camping" area, kitchen, and "stage" where you can be "on TV" with Arthur. Good times.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:43 PM on March 15, 2010


Could anyone watch Muppet Babies in the 80s without wondering where their parents were? Was it the law that all mutant offspring live with Barbara Billingsly?

Aprospo of nothing, just wondering anyone else gave that too much thought back in the day, back when we were overthinking our jars of pureed beans.
posted by dr_dank at 12:46 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


>[The Checkout TV] Sounds more awful than it is.

That rationalization is how freedom dies.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:47 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think my kid's favorite was Wishbone. A nice combination of cuteness, morality tale, and literature/history. It kind of played out when Wishbone's master got old enough to get buy alcohol. Mercifully, they didn't try to continue. But the formula was sound and the execution strong.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:48 PM on March 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh man, I loved Wishbone. Good times.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:50 PM on March 15, 2010


Lots of clever in-jokes like that in the show if you pay attention.

Like the entire episode built around Allen Greenspaniel and the sock exchange, the secret operation run by pets that keeps the economy working properly? There are many references in there purely for the benefits of adults.
posted by mikepop at 12:53 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: DORA

I get completely creeped out when she turns to me and asks "What's YOUR favorite color?" or somesuch and then stares at me for interminable seconds with her head bobbing slightly while she waits for my answer. I ALWAYS crack and blurt something out so she'll JUST MOVE ON AND STOP LOOKING AT ME.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 12:55 PM on March 15, 2010 [10 favorites]




There is nothing even remotely funny about Aspergers Syndrome. Those who poke fun or use it as the butt of a joke are clueless. Same goes for those who think it doesn't really exist. Not funny, people.
posted by mnb64 at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2010


Re: DORA

I get completely creeped out when she turns to me and asks "What's YOUR favorite color?" or somesuch and then stares at me for interminable seconds with her head bobbing slightly while she waits for my answer. I ALWAYS crack and blurt something out so she'll JUST MOVE ON AND STOP LOOKING AT ME.


OH I HATE DORA PARTLY BECAUSE EVERYTHING IN THAT SHOW IS SCREAMED, HONESTLY WERE YOU TO TRANSCRIBE IT, IT WOULD ALL LOOK LIKE THIS.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:58 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thomas the Tank Engine was created by an English pastor, and is basically a Calvinist morality play - the Fat Controller is the all-powerful entity who must be obeyed; the trains gauge their success in life according to their usefulness; the trains a destined to travel along predetermined courses of the train track with a known destination.

Even prior to this knowledge it was pretty obvious that "Thomas" was all about making conformance seems like the ultimate virtue. Any book where a train is the main character always ends up turin into an on-the-tracks/off-the-tracks dichotomy.
posted by GuyZero at 1:02 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


blahblahblah - 1) That clip was spot-on, and 2) SNL still doesn't know when to end a bit, do they? Much too long.

grapefruitmoon - Shouted: "I'M THE MAP, I'M THE MAP... I'M THE MAP!"
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:04 PM on March 15, 2010


Maybe it's my Seth Green phase talking, but I'd like to see a character with a horse's head. That way, they'd represent a new species, and kids would learn that horse masks scare the crap out of people. Some Moral Crusaders may say kids should learn that from their parents, but I call that child abuse.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2010


Oddly enough, kids on the austistic spectrum love Thomas the Tank Engine. The neurologists speculate that it's because of the exaggerated facial expressions. Some parents think otherwise. Maybe being tied to the tracks has something to do with the autistic need for routine, or the love of rules.

But somehow, your moral track derail failed and looped right back to the autism and cartoon junction. Punnaciously.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh! Also: you are all bad people for letting your children watch TV. My children stage their own puppet shows based on the Greek Classics to entertain each other. That Is All.

Have you read some of those classics? Zeus was fucking everything.

So Arther is an aardvark? I always thought he was supposed to some kind of dog.

I'm an Aardvark, and I'm Proud!
posted by JHarris at 1:14 PM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Holy hell I don't know what I was expecting with that image of Buster's father but it wasn't that! I think the most disturbing thing about that character design is that the fleshy lapine ears are in addition to the abberation's human ears. Basically, if you have to put this monstrosity on the page, and you have to give it dialog, the only thing it should ever say is "I should not be."

Also, I've just spent way too long searching for a comment about "Arthur's Big Hit," a now kind-of-notorious episode where Arthur is building a model while D.W. makes it her life's work to terrorize him, eventually destroying the plane. Arthur can't take it anymore and hits her, at which point everyone in the series' world, from parents to friends, treats Arthur as a demon-seed pariah. Fuck that. I defy anyone to watch this episode and not side with Arthur.

But aside from those two quibbles, I've always had a soft spot for that show. I devoured the books as a kid, and when I babysit my nieces and nephews now it's my favorite show that they watch. It's just so mellow, and not really condescending at all, even though every episode usually comes with a message or moral. The characters are surprisingly well drawn and change over time. Plus it doesn't freak me out like Thomas the Tank Engine.

One of my nephews basically loses his shit if he's not watching Little Einsteins at all waking hours. It seems benign enough to me, but there's obviously some insidious addictive element I couldn't discern.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:15 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


OH I HATE DORA PARTLY BECAUSE EVERYTHING IN THAT SHOW IS SCREAMED

What the fuck is with that show? It hurts my ears whenever I hear it. I think they write it entirely in exclamation points.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:18 PM on March 15, 2010


Okay, I just unfavorited my favorite on JHarris' last comment. Because, damn, that song has been, like, a 25-year earworm for me.

(Now you really want to click it, don't you?)
posted by Madamina at 1:22 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't quite get the hate on Arthur, either--although, it's hard not to hate Caillou, almost purely on account of the obnoxious voice acting. My son, unfortunately, has an accepting-enough heart to overlook Caillou's grating, nasally whine (sorry, person who provides Caillou's voice; it's nothing personal). But luckily, we can only watch Caillou online or on Netflix, which makes it easier to control his access to it (since he's only three and hasn't quite figured out my password yet, much as he tries).

But Arthur? Sure, it's a little slow and plodding sometimes, but what's to hate?

Anyway, I've known a couple of people diagnosed with AS over the years. Is AS just another entry in the annals of the "let's medicalize all our hang-ups" journal? I dunno. I'm withholding judgment, because I'm not a doctor. Either way, the people I've known with the diagnosis definitely had issues functioning socially for some reason.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2010


I would rather have Dragon Tales on a continuous loop for the rest of my life than endure a single episode of that gratingly stupid, dead-eyed homunculus.

Wow.

Wow.

I mean, Dragon Tales on a continuous loop was how they got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to talk; he was begging to be waterboarded after four episodes.

I daresay Dragon Tales was worse than Barney.
posted by dw at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


About the only current kids TV I can stand right now is Martha Speaks. Curious George isn't so bad. But yeah, Dora and Diego need to STOP YELLING "LOUDER!!"
posted by dw at 1:32 PM on March 15, 2010


However, I am continuously disappointed they don't produce an episode around the fact that he has a pet puppy, but he also has dogs as classmates, like Binky and Fern. Perhaps Binky could get militant and vandalize Arthur's house for "enslaving my people?"

I liked how C.S. Lewis dealt with that issue in the Narnia books. There were Talking Animals and dumb (literally - not-speaking) ones. Talking Animals interacted with humans and each other and dumb ones were pets, food, etc. For some reason as a kid that mattered a lot to me. I guess most picture books just have the visual cues of wearing clothes + talking + walking on two legs = "People Animals".
I probably overthink these things.
posted by pointystick at 1:43 PM on March 15, 2010


I'm surprised nobody in the thread's mentioned how great Dinosaur Train is. Buddy has a hypothesis!
posted by Alt F4 at 1:43 PM on March 15, 2010


Since this thread is now just about awesome PBS shows- does anyone else dig "It's a Big Big World"? There's something about that totally blissed out sloth that comforts me.
posted by Think_Long at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2010


Re: DORA

I get completely creeped out when she turns to me and asks "What's YOUR favorite color?" or somesuch and then stares at me for interminable seconds with her head bobbing slightly while she waits for my answer. I ALWAYS crack and blurt something out so she'll JUST MOVE ON AND STOP LOOKING AT ME.


My kids used to love to shout out completely nonsensical answers to Dora, like Opus did to Mr. Rogers in Bloom County. "WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?" "Nazis!" "THAT'S MY FAVORITE, TOO!"

Oh, and one of my favorite Arthur episodes is when Mr. Rogers comes to visit Arthur. Arthur is ashamed to be seen with him because he thinks Mr. Roger's show is for babies, but all of his friends turn out to be big fans.
posted by misha at 2:01 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there needs to be WAY more love in this thread for Marth Speaks (flash w/ sound). I don't even have kids and I watch that show. Best voice acting on PBS right now, I think.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 2:07 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to think he was an anteater, because of how he looks in Arthur's Nose. I'm still not convinced otherwise.

I do wonder what a Frank Gehry-designed treehouse really would look like...
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:09 PM on March 15, 2010


How soon we forget Barney & Friends, and how much he loves us and our happy family.

And hates The Notorious B.I.G
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:14 PM on March 15, 2010


Here's a question - why have we learned nothing from the awesomeness which was Mathnet?

By which I mean, why haven't we realized that kids will be receptive to, and like, a show starring adults and written and produced in the style of the shows their parents watch? Kids are curious about the world and are capable of relating to characters who aren't, themselves, kids. Have there been any kid's shows since Square One to try something like that?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:14 PM on March 15, 2010


Have there been any kid's shows since Square One to try something like that?

I remember Ghostwriter as being sort of like this, and I know I loved it.
posted by sallybrown at 2:22 PM on March 15, 2010


Martha Speaks is good fun. Again, too much of a departure from the books for my tastes. I prefer TV shows to be TV shows first and foremost. The Flintstones. Spongebob. Between the Lions is the best learn-to-read TV show ever - a great use of the medium.
posted by GuyZero at 2:23 PM on March 15, 2010


The new Electric Company though? Yikes. I'll just take a speedball instead, thanks.
posted by GuyZero at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2010


I would non-ironically watch Word Girl as an adult show if I could. Hilarious.

Word-girl is awesome and I have watched it even when my daughter wasn't around.

Word Girl is fantastic.

Fetch is great, and so is Martha Speaks and Word Girl:

I just showed this thread to a writer for WordGirl and he was mightily pleased. I got to see the cast do a live performance/reading of an episode at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theatre in Hollywood several months ago, and it was lots of fun.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:25 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh man, yeah, another vote for Between the Lions! One of my daughter's faves, back in the day.
posted by Michael Roberts at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2010


Either way, the people I've known with the diagnosis definitely had issues functioning socially for some reason.

The "some reason" is that people with AS* generally are unable to interpret others' social signals and emotional indicators, and as a result never quite develop the same internal models of social rules that the average person does. The more unfortunate Asperger cases never quite figure it out, and are stuck emulating social interactions they see in, say, TV and movies, which works about as well as you can imagine.

The luckier, more high-functioning people are able to go a step further and use one of the more positive aspects of AS--the ability to store, recall, and cross-reference large amounts of information very quickly--to start constructing mental rule sets for social interactions by observing the interactions of the people around them.

These rule sets are usually pretty brittle, though, and are intellectual rather than being fully internalized--the usual analogy that Asperger researchers hear is running an operating system in emulation rather than natively. When you're having a conversation with a person with Asperger's, he or she is trying to match your posture, facial expression, and tone of voice to previously-encountered patterns in order to know how to react. It's an exhausting process, and gets exponentially harder as the number of people being related to increases. (Many people with AS are introverted because it's actually physically draining trying to emulate social skills for extended periods with large numbers of people.)

It's an imperfect adaptation, and breaks down if the person with AS is tired or has an attention lapse (you may see an inappropriate facial expression, or the voice tone may sound odd), but they're really trying as hard as they can to interact with you.

*I despise the term "Aspie". I'm all for being positive and self-affirming about yourself, but I draw the line at sounding like a third-string Muppet.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:32 PM on March 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Speaking of WordGirl, my six-year-old daughter and I have successfully emulated Captain Huggypants' end credits dance. That monkey can rock.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:47 PM on March 15, 2010


Dammit. I was all fired-up to hear Pinky's friend The Brain explain autism... seriously, that was a let-down.

It would have been fantastic!
posted by IAmBroom at 2:50 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


...this is not where I admit to having worked on Sid, is it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:13 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's a question - why have we learned nothing from the awesomeness which was Mathnet?

Oh, Mathnet!!! How I both loathed and loved you! The mysteries and cheesy jokes were awesome, but my six-year old self couldn't handle waiting for the next day for the next installment.
posted by Partario at 3:31 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the thing about Barney is that it came at my and my comrade's departure from idly watching whatever was put before us and starting to emulate the Big Kids, and decrying Barney any chance we got.

As for Arthur, I had some grudge against it when said comrades were watching it and reading it (and Doug), so I never partook. Even today, the weird spherical mouths kinda weird me out, but I liked this clip.
posted by rubah at 3:34 PM on March 15, 2010


*witu = with. Dratted cellphone keyboard.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:47 PM on March 15, 2010


Mathnet was the best! (except maybe Ghostwriter)

... I still remember how chagrined I was the week that the case was red-herringly solved on Thursday instead of Friday (to my great delight and total belief), only to have the final twist pop up the next day.
posted by heyforfour at 4:14 PM on March 15, 2010


When the difference between "overzealous" diagnosis and no-diagnosis is help vs. no-help. I choose "Over"-Diagnosing. And again I can only wonder why people continually feel such a need to un-diagnose people, or claim that the majority are just "faking", or "wikipedia selfdiagnosing".

The difference for the CHILD trying to combat these problems (NOT just via "pills".) and long before they can LEARN to be a "geek" or a "nerd", or any other "positive" way that a person can "use" their differently-abled brain for positive things... is that WITH a diagnosis that child can get help from the school they go to, they can get assistance at a young age, rather than going until they are much older thinking that they are just stupid and messed up, or a failure, or any of the other things EVERYBODY starts to feel when they continually "fail" at a task that everyone else seems to just "get"... and the (very much real) symptoms and problems that these children are battling evolve (as ANY untreated "malady" will) into much WORSE problems. (see eating disorders, depression, suicide, and all the other "normal" self destructive things that go with modern living.)

Having worked with parents who had children from all across this spectrum including some that had all of the symptoms, and problems in dealing with how we all "have to be" (well behaved mini versions of grown ups, never speaking out of turn, or making disruptions, or even simply "being allowed" to take five minutes out to cool down when things get too busy.)

They were at wits end trying to find help (and vehemently NOT wanting to do this whole stereotype of "put em on pills" har har, because "pills" are funny... and "anyone seeking hope is clearly just seeking more pills".

Parents of Children With Autism, and Aspergers are NOT some monolithic group who all just want their "troublemaking nerd" out of their hair... and certainly aren't some group of people who are looking to use "pills" as the first course of action... It is actually harder than easy to get help in the form of "councilors" and "individualized help". You NEED a "diagnosis" to get those things, I DON'T get why anyone would want to STOP people getting help, or further stigmatize getting help in dealing with the million and ten ways that human brains can act, and form and react differently to life and our lives realities.

What I'm saying is that the more people say "naw, too many fakers, therefore it's all just fake" is that it makes it harder for people to get assistance, and make course corrections EARLY in life (*before all the bad habits that we grow into can set in), so that a person who could go into a life of unhappiness and self-imprisonment.. could instead be an EXTREMELY valuable member of society (I am not saying "all people with Autism or Aspergers are magic, and will EASILY be super-geniuses", because that is also untrue... but the difference between "getting help" and living internally for the rest of ones life... You would be amazed at how having someone help with something that most find simple and easy, like help to practice "making the 'right' faces" can make life just that much easier to want to do "well" in life...

The issues ARE real, and they ARE life development stopping (you may not realize how naturally your "social-skills" come to you... This is not true for everyone who lives in your planet. Since we "restrict" who can get help in early education (to people with a diagnosis, and everyone else is just treated like one of the many "acting out"), it is VITAL that we diagnose early, and get help to people early, and that we help people to make the changes that they need early. By "calling out" people who you don't know, but feel justified in medically diagnosing as fakers, you are CREATING NEW STIGMA barriers to getting assistance... the "people are gonna' think me, or my child are just another one of the fakers" stigma. This does not help.
posted by infinite intimation at 4:33 PM on March 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


I just showed this thread to a writer for WordGirl and he was mightily pleased. I got to see the cast do a live performance/reading of an episode at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theatre in Hollywood several months ago, and it was lots of fun.'

OMG SO JEALOUS

Is there anything fabber than Captain Huggypants dancing? No. No there is not.
posted by emjaybee at 5:01 PM on March 15, 2010


Caillou fills me with existential dread.
posted by bicyclefish at 5:13 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Infinite Intimation. Well said.

Another issue with AS is that there is no medication to treat the condition itself. Behavioral types of therapy are the only things that work here. Meds can help with certain symptoms (my son takes them for the anxiety and for focus while in school), but nothing "cures" AS. His dad and I must repeatedly explain things to him that most other kids his age already know and take for granted. Like how to react when someone is using sarcasm or saying something mean with a sweet smile on their face. It is heartbreaking when he comes to me and asks why the other kids tell him he's weird.

Like I said before, AS is real. And it is no laughing matter.
posted by mnb64 at 5:36 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks infinite intimation and mnb64 for saying what I didn't have time or energy to say this afternoon. Seriously, do we have to do this every single time the A-word gets mentioned here? I'm starting to think that Metafilter is as good at autism as it is at religion or obesity.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:36 PM on March 15, 2010


God I loved Mathnet.
posted by ltracey at 7:17 PM on March 15, 2010


...each episode featured a character getting his/her feelings hurt over something someone did or said by another...

Sounds a lot like MetaTalk call-outs, as of late.
posted by ericb at 7:34 PM on March 15, 2010


[i]Martha Speaks is good fun. Again, too much of a departure from the books for my tastes[/i]

Yeah, Martha's mom is Hispanic in the TV show, which makes Helen's pasty whiteness very non sequitur. Other than that, it's the best thing going.

Word Girl my daughter hasn't gotten into, so I have no opinion.
posted by dw at 7:38 PM on March 15, 2010


Also, anything you've ever said about a kids' show? The creators and staff have also said it, and much worse, many times over by the time it gets to your TV.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:43 PM on March 15, 2010


unfortunately, i am familiar with many of these shows. i thought i left it all behind, but alas. i have discovered:

the (new) electric company is at first annoying but grows on you. it's almost like the old sesame street.

the new sesame street is a chaotic mess. wtf is a flying fairy school? it looks like a flying fairy nightmare.

caillou's pretty dull but the theme song's catchy. i'd probably have a convulsion if i heard it in a grocery store.

that is one smart monkey in curious george. i also think professor wiseman is hot.

sid the science kid is pretty obnoxious except that delayed opening dance sequence in the schoolyard. it makes me appreciate my repeated experimentation with illegal drugs.
posted by lester at 7:49 PM on March 15, 2010


AS kids almost universally love trains...and then they grow up to love Pokemon. At least mine did. He always, always, always hated Barney.

Dragon Tales holds a special place in our family as the one show we all hated so much that years later we can entertain ourselves for a good 20 minutes complaining about it. Why was the horrible old dragon Hispanic? Did he immigrate to Dragon Land from some other, Spanish speaking Dragon World? What on earth was going to happen to the freakish 2 headed thing later in life? Why was Max such a big headed moronic child? He apparently enjoyed spending time with Ord, the big dumb one who obsessed over berries...it's a raw wound.
posted by Biblio at 8:17 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I have a kid who has a diagnosis, and because this is such a tender issue for all of us I find it really difficult to participate in any kind of meaningful dialog about what that means. I wish that were not the case because I think the way our culture frames difference (be it physical, psychological cognitive or some combination of these) impacts everyone, and we should all have a say in where we're going as a culture with this stuff.

As infinite intimation points out above, kids must get diagnosed in order to get help from the school system, the health care system, etc, not to mention to get some compassion from people in the community. I personally find this fact quite troublesome, because I do have serious critiques about treating difference as pathological, but I have to buy into that world view to a degree in order to get services for my kid, who is indeed very different, and does indeed need some help negotiating the world - for reasons that I think are much too complex to fit into one simple diagnosis.

In any case, I've never watched Arthur, but I will now if only to see the hott chimp/rabbit interspecies action.
posted by serazin at 8:37 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


We get many of these shows here in Mexico via Discovery Kids...no Arthur though, that I know of. I wonder if the voice talent makes a big difference with Sid the Science Kid, as we enjoy the Spanish version of it. My big complaint would be with the animation (homunculus indeed!). But the actual sciency content of the show is fine and my son (who is a bit of a big spaz himself) loves Jerry. I like that the show features a character like Jerry, a very high energy boy, who isn't treated as if that makes him a bad kid. I wish my son had a teacher like Susy. Also, my son likes to shout 'a desayunar' as he runs to the breakfast table. Any show that can stop your toddler from dawdling can't be all bad.

The Backyardigans are definitely better dubbed in Spanish...better acting, better singing...just better.

I can't imagine that Martha Speaks wouldn't be the best show ever, in any language. I love how much character the dogs have just from the animation alone. I'm seriously considering naming my next dog Skits.
posted by toodles at 8:41 PM on March 15, 2010


Autism spectrum disorders are under-diagnosed in women.

If you think they are over-diagnosed, please cite.

DecemberBoy: "This is the same reason why smart kids who get bored and restless in school get fed pills for their "disease". It's bullshit."

I wish someone would have given me pills so that I could focus and get the most out of my education, as well as fit in better socially. I think that if you ask the actual children (and often, adults) involved, they will often tell you that they appreciate the intervention and medication. I assume you're talking about ADHD; another disorder that has been under-diagnosed, especially in women.

If you have some sort of ideological or ethical disagreement with the treatment of these disorders, fine, but I think that you should appreciate that your perspective is necessarily limited by your relative ignorance, and consider that you are embodying the overconfidence effect because of your limited knowledge of the disorders you are dismissing so readily.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:26 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


the (new) electric company is at first annoying but grows on you. it's almost like the old sesame street. - lester

The best thing about the New Electric Company is that there is ANTAGONISM between the characters, which is sorely lacking in kids TV lately. You know, actual CONFLICT and DISAGREEMENT, then DISCUSSION OF DIFFERENCES and perhaps a SHARED RESOLUTION.

It's crazy.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 9:53 PM on March 15, 2010


I really don't want to contradict anything said here about AS, but the way our school system here in Indiana blithely recommends drugging children as an alternative to providing even a modicum of healthy playing-and-running time is reprehensible, and I think that's where DecemberBoy may be coming from.

In our case, our 15yo is safely in high school and gets sufficient active time from track, and we can fortunately afford a private school for our 11yo where outdoor and playing time is an explicit focus for socialization and health alike - but my wife teaches at the community colleges (both of'em) in town and many of her students have children - especially boys - who the schools have recommended, and in some cases demanded, should be drugged because they can't handle a seven-hour school day with only 15 minutes break time for lunch.

That's a social ill, not "help with being different". There's a kid with some form of AS in my 11yo's class at the aforementioned private school, and our son regularly comes home with outrageous stories of social ineptness; we walk him through it all, and it eventually comes out OK, and so I feel mightily for anyone who really does need help with that - but just because your particular school is enlightened enough to help kids who are different, please don't make the mistake of thinking that there aren't others who just think the damn kids should be drugged to shut them up just because they're kids.
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:57 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


IFDS,SN9, as I tried to say above, it is possible for a rational person to have a critique of the use of psych meds in kids - even relatively mild psych meds like the stimulants used for ADHD. People don't always have the language or the sensitivity to make this critique in a useful way, but I think it is important that we dialog instead of just shutting down discussion.

There are tremendous changes in medicine and treatment theory over time, particularly for psych and cognitive disorders (for lack of a better word) which there is still relatively little understanding of when compared to many other conditions. In other words, if history can be our guide, we can predict that in 20 years, experts will likely have a starkly different set of recommendations for a kid with Aspergers or ADHD than they do now. Personally I feel that we should utilize extreme caution particularly in giving any meds to kids, and in fact, to adults, as all meds have unintended effects some of which are inevitably unknown for the first few decades of use.

Having spent some time negotiating the world of diagnosis and treatment for cognitive/developmental/psych disorders in kids, I can tell you that I experienced quite a bit of pressure to medicate right away, and relatively few suggestions for other avenues of exploration. I have heard other parents say they've had similar experiences. This is not a simple matter of undereducated bad guys who are trying to keep kids away from needed treatment, this is a really complicated issue with consequences for individual kids but also for our society as a whole.
posted by serazin at 10:08 PM on March 15, 2010


I actually agree with your comments about medication and treatment, however I disagree that this particular knee-jerk reaction to any mention of ASDs is any kind of starting point for discussion. In any given thread about ASDs, someone says essentially this, with no reference to their personal experience or any kind of objective fact:

1) Asperger's is over-diagnosed by people who just want to be cool, maybe it doesn't even exist

2) ADHD is over-diagnosed and over-medicated, maybe it doesn't even exist

It happens over and over again. I don't even know why ADHD gets brought up every single time, but it does. If your personal experience is that it is over-medicated, great. I enjoy hearing about it, especially from people with experience in schools. The anecdotes I've heard from parents vary, from "they wouldn't help my kid" to "they shoved pills at me" and everything in between. From parents and school employees, I overwhelmingly hear that they think the children in their school system are over-medicated. From adults with ADHD, I hear that they were not diagnosed, not treated, and that they wish they were. I also hear from the vast majority of them that medication was a Godsend that turned their life around. This is probably due to the huge difference in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD from 20 years ago to today.

All of these opinions interest me. One doesn't have to be a PhD to have an opinion. On the other hand, I'm sick and tired of pat dismissals of these very real disorders as "bullshit", "fad", "cool", "excuses" by people with little to no experience or knowledge. It's obnoxious, it's derailing, and it contributes little to nothing to the discussion at hand.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:33 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9:

It comes from the bizarre context of certain diagnoses suddenly becoming common at certain points in time. From one perspective, it can seem as though that diagnosis has become "hip," and there will also be a degree of lay-diagnosis, whether on oneself or on others. ASD and ADHD get linked in these discussions because they were the most notable diagnoses to stake a claim in the common knowledge in the last 15 years.

Both are real things, and the people who deal with them suffer from them in dealing with a society which isn't designed around their way of dealing with things. I was in school during the height of Ritalin-mania, and I'm still not sure whether it was over-diagnosed or not. It definitely seems possible, though.

As for ASD, there is a belief out there that anti-social geeks have been self-diagnosing in order to excuse their social ineptitude. I know a hell of a lot of nerds and I haven't seen this. Autism is awful from a social perspective, and Asperger's the same. I certainly know a couple of people who I would place as candidates for ASD diagnosis, because they are good people with seemingly no comprehension of how to handle themselves socially (and also carry other signs, but I'm not a doctor). What I've never seen in person is anyone claiming ASD who hasn't been diagnosed by a doctor.

Anyway, I think most comments about people faking ADHD or ASD are not about believing the conditions themselves to be fake, so much as bitching about those who would decide that they have those conditions for themselves, when they don't, and seeing that as disrespectful to those who actually suffer from them.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:10 PM on March 15, 2010


Navelgazer: "Anyway, I think most comments about people faking ADHD or ASD are not about believing the conditions themselves to be fake, so much as bitching about those who would decide that they have those conditions for themselves, when they don't, and seeing that as disrespectful to those who actually suffer from them."

I have never heard "disrespectful" coming from anyone who actually has ADHD or an ASD. I can't say that that perspective doesn't exist.

On a personal level, I have nothing but sympathy for someone who is in need or in pain who makes an inappropriate self-diagnosis. I find it questionable when someone white-knights for me when they have no personal knowledge of the offending person's condition, symptoms, etc. Does this happen with somewhat subjective physical disorders? Do people regularly go around accusing strawmen of making up their back pain in a way that is offensive to people with REAL back pain?

Of course ADHD doesn't get the "offended on behalf of people with the condition" as much as the "excuse for laziness".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:21 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had thought I added this, but forgot to, so, Ok, now take my previous comment, and in this sentence
The difference for the CHILD trying to combat these problems (NOT just via "pills".) and long before they can LEARN to be a "geek" or a "nerd", or any other "positive" way that a person can "use" their differently-abled brain for positive things...
-replace CHILD with Teen, or young adult, or 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, or any age of your choice, and add in beside "not just via pills", add "also via pills, sprays, and all other tested medication available to assist with Living life Well."
-then also the rest of the rest.


Also; a note for the next time this comes up.
I feel and sympathize with the fear that we are over medicating the youth... and yes, be careful medicating a youth (use judgment, don't leap into it, consult multiple doctors, don't let their principal/teacher diagnose them, schedule regular testing to monitor progress, etc,.), but certainly for older people and adults on their own... don't let people help you feel bad for seeking help. You only live once, and if you spend your whole life miserable, or not understanding why you have the trouble you have... it is a waste if you could have been out making the world your oyster, or however that saying goes. Find the best way you can to live well, and enjoy your life, and do your best to create something unique with it. It is entirely Your life.


People who "self-diagnose-on the net"... can only banter that around with that on forums... they sure aren't getting help in the situations where it would count (that would in all cases need some form of formal diagnosis...) People with clinical diagnosis can barely get assistance these days.

I think the "attack of the self-diagnosed introverted genius clones" concern () fear talk, is beyond well over blown... No one who is diagnosed via web test, nor via webdictionaries, nor any other website... is "taking" any attention from people truly suffering.

Those people self diagnosing are just in your internet... they don't translate to real world people. The anger felt against "self-diagnosers" is misdirected standard "mad at person on the internet who bothers me" anger... and ends up just harming the actual people who suffer from real conditions, it doesn't make the "internet-self-diagnoser" suddenly realize the error of their ways... it creates bad-will towards people with very real, life debilitating disabilities.

However, there is a lot of real world attitude like the ones that seek to restrict who gets the help to face whatever it is that is holding back their reaching of better success, to speak positively about certain people, and essentially, make it the fault of the group suffering these real symptoms, and blaming sufferers of real conditions, for people who "self-diagnose". We almost make like it's a chore to even think of making special exceptions for people who will fail without "special treatment"... we need to redefine for our society the term "special treatment"... this is not some super-cherry on top gift, over and above some already advantaged position... we are talking in reality bare minimum accommodation and assistance (IF you/your child are lucky.)
As far as "special treatment"... we do not come remotely close to what is needed in terms of supporting the idea of assisting people facing any disability...

I would be upset if suddenly I had to pass a purity test to "prove" that I "needed" glasses to see, to "prove" that I wasn't just wanting glasses because they are cool looking. Or if I could not use them during a test... since it clearly gives me an advantage which was not mine by the nature of the way my eyeballs developed.

...and I guess on topic, pbs does some truly great things.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:00 PM on March 22, 2010


Thanks for that comment, infinite intimation, I really appreciate it as someone with a wacky brain
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:04 PM on March 23, 2010


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