The Olivia Pope of Children's Television
October 13, 2015 6:43 AM   Subscribe

From W. Kamau Bell: "First of all, Doc McStuffins is about a seven-year-old black girl. That basically makes the title character the Diahann Carroll of children’s TV. How many other children’s TV shows have a black female lead character? Hint: The answer is “not nearly enough.” Second of all, Doc McStuffins is a doctor for her stuffed animals and toys. And that may sound merely adorable to you, but I’m raising a pair of black girls who will one day be powerful black women. And Doc McStuffins is the reason that my four year old could say the words “stethoscope,” “otoscope,” and “sphygmomanometer” when she was two years old."
posted by ChuraChura (25 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Doc McStuffins is such a great show, though I think it may have reached the point where Disney is starting to taper off in creating new episodes.
posted by drezdn at 6:48 AM on October 13, 2015

Doc McStuffins is a great show, for all of the reasons mentioned in the article. The only(?) downside as a parent is since it's by Disney, it's full-press merchandise, toys, games, and everything. They've also cycled through a couple of product lines by now some some exact toys are very hard to get.

Although, it does lend itself to very interesting play situations since the three main toy characters have distinct enough roles it's easy for kids to roll-play themselves into the universe.
posted by skynxnex at 7:04 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've done a ton of pre-school TV work over the years, some of it for Disney. Nearly all the storylines center on cooperation, fairness, or caring about others. It doesn't give me much creative fulfillment but it's nice to imagine uncle Walt spinning in his grave.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:28 AM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

My daughters were Doc and Lambie for Halloween last year. My four year old daughter saved up her allowance money to buy the Doc McStuffins Mobile Clinic toy. We've watched every episode approximately one million times, and the "It's time to take a nap now" song from the episode where Susie Sunshine's eyes won't shut was their lullaby for a little while.

Their interest is starting to shift to the much more annoying Mickey Mouse Clubhouse now (mostly because they haven't seen those a million times, I think), and I deeply regret it. Sure, Mickey Mouse sneaks some clever math and problem solving lessons in there, but the character development is really lacking, compared to Doc, which makes it a lot harder for me to enjoy as an adult.

My favorite episode is Big Head Hallie. Doc's stuffed hippo Hallie finds out that there is in fact a cartoon about Hallie the Hippo on TV and becomes enamored of her own fame. Comedy gold.
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

My daughter has never been into Doc McStuffin but based upon the number of backpacks worn by her African-American classmates I'd say that the impact of having a African-American main character with a focus on a high prestige career is pretty massive. When most of the other potential role models for young African-American females on TV shows tend towards the street-wise urban sidekick having a main character that looks and sounds like you and presents a world view of quiet suburbia and professional achievement can be inspirational I suspect.

I anticipate a huge number of young female African American doctors flooding out of the nation's medical school in the next decade or so.
posted by vuron at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2015 [10 favorites]

We love Doc McStuffins at our house. My 3 yo daughter loves taking on roles, and it's either her being a parent, her being a teacher, or her being Doc McStuffins.
posted by Theta States at 7:40 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bell says the songs "may be the greatest thing about a show packed like a seven-layer bean dip with greatness." I agree with his premise that they're better than many other kid's shows songs and certainly kids love them. But the briefness of them and their repeated use can still wear on a grown-up to the point of exasperation. 20 seconds of extreme catchiness repeated multiple times a day, several days a week can mess with your head.

Don't believe me? I can ruin someone's day just like this: "I feel better ! So much better! Thank you Doc for taking all the ouchies away!"

This is a petty complaint given all of Doc McStuffins' other fine qualities, though, granted. I'm glad my kid watches this show.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:15 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I feel better" and "Tell me what's wrong" get repeated, but every episode also seems to feature all new original compositions, at least one or two new songs written and produced especially for that storyline. That's got to be expensive, I would think. Daniel Tiger is the only other show that I have watched that can say that.

I also want to say that it's thanks to Disney's and PBS's deliberate efforts to diversify their cartoons that my (white) kids have a much more multiracial toy collection than I ever did (dolls and action figures of Doc, Miss Elaina, Princess Tianna... Plus Miles from Tomorrowland, who has a Chinese mom and a white American dad.) I kind of think it may be as important to society for white kids to grow up idealizing black and other minority characters and playing with racially diverse dolls as it is for black and minority kids to have those role models.

I am hoping that the conscious efforts of these writers, producers, casting directors, and networks to diversify their characters will have an effect on the unconscious biases of the next generation. Those are so hard to change, but growing up playing with (eg) Doc McStuffins dolls seems like a great way to prevent some of those unconscious biases from forming.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:32 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I missed most of the Doc McStuffins phase, my daughter is 9 so it was pretty brief. I DID however learn every single one of the Dora the Explorer songs. That shit really stays in your head.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 8:41 AM on October 13, 2015

Don't believe me? I can ruin someone's day just like this: "I feel better ! So much better! Thank you Doc for taking all the ouchies away!"

Mine. Today it was mine.
posted by purpleclover at 8:44 AM on October 13, 2015 [16 favorites]

My 3 year old has a love of cuddles matched only by Lambie (or, as she pronounces it, Wamie). She also has a super soft stuffed Wamie to whom she bestows frequent cuddle beneficence.

They're so cute I could die.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

While we're at it, she's got the cutest little round face, giant eyes, and straight brown hair with bangs, which means I've basically got a tiny lil' Clara Oswald running around my house making mischief.

Which is the best.

If the Doctor does decide to show up in 15 years or so, that cavalier son-of-a-bitch is going to have to come through me.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:56 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

My friend's daughter called it "Doc McStuffskins" for awhile, which brings to mind a tiny preschooler taxidermist.
posted by sutel at 9:18 AM on October 13, 2015 [12 favorites]

I feel deader, so much deader! Thank you Doc for taking all my innards away!
posted by leotrotsky at 9:26 AM on October 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

My nieces have some serious Doc McStuffins fever, though the oldest is just on the cusp of aging out. At first, I was prepared to be super snarky and critical of my sister's indulgence in their obsession (because apparently I am one of those horrible childless people who judges other people's parenting decisions), but after I watched the show I was fully on board the Doc train. Not only is Doc herself a great role model, the family structure presented as "normal" in the show (professional working Mom, stay-at-home Dad) is also a refreshing change.

Also, that "Stars, stars, planets and stars" song is damn catchy.....
posted by Dorinda at 9:43 AM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

For every awesome grown-up friendly Backyardigans jam there seems to be 100 kids’ songs like Dora The Explorer’s map song. A song that literally disintegrates at the end into, “I’m a map. I’m a map. I’m a map. I’m a map. I’m a maaaaaaaaaaap!”

posted by gottabefunky at 9:45 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am shamelessly in love with most kids shows and Doc sits high upon my list of favorites. I keep telling my girlfriends to please have children asap so I can buy them all Doc merchandise. It's just a solid, sweet show and I'm glad it exists.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:49 AM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

We try to avoid TV so my daughter knows very little about Doc McStuffins beyond the fact that she appears on Pull-ups. But at the Disney store I noticed she's pretty much the only female character in the store who has what I'd consider an actual job.
posted by town of cats at 10:06 AM on October 13, 2015

My daughter, when she first saw Doc McStuffins called her "Doctor Anna", thinking it was the story of when Doctor Anna from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood was a child. Which I thought was a great idea for a story as well.
posted by skynxnex at 10:34 AM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Dora is an abomination. There are things I could probably speak well of about the show, but they all get washed away by the characters breaking the fourth wall to ask my child to shout as loud as he can. Clearly, not a show written by someone who actually has kids and understands that sometimes we only let them watch kids shows to get 22 minutes of peace and fucking quiet.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:30 AM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

My 4 year old son adores Doc McStuffins. He dislocated his elbow yesterday playing on the slide, and while we were at the Urgent Care waiting for the X-ray to rule out a radial head fracture, he was cuddling his stuffed dragon and whimpering "I feel better, so much better. . ." in an apparent attempt to use sympathetic magic to fix his arm.

When they turned his arm palm up for the x-ray, he screamed and then started to gigglesob with relief, because that maneuver had reduced the dislocation. He was fine after that. Unfortunately now he believes that the x-ray machine cures ouchies.
posted by KathrynT at 12:08 PM on October 13, 2015 [14 favorites]

Yes, I'm also a huge fan, as is my almost 4-year-old son. We started watching it after he had a late-night ER trip for croup when he had just turned 2 and he was super freaked out by the medical stuff. After watching just a few episodes of the show, we went to his pediatrician for something routine, and he was amazingly compliant about being weighed, examined with an otoscope, etc. (I mean, not having croup also helped, I'm sure.)

I do wish they would make some Doc T-shirts with fewer ruffles and puffed sleeves, because he loved his now-outgrown pale purple Doc T-shirt, and while I'd love him to wear clothes with a girl of color on them, the puffed-sleeve Dora shirt I bought him (I didn't notice the puffed sleeves) was just a little too much. (As an aside: What's up with the little-kid superhero stuff? My kid is way too young to know what Batman is. More Doc! Less Star Wars! He is 3.)

We watched the Michelle Obama episode the day it aired, before school, and I was pretty psyched about it. He's at the age where he's memorizing things and watching them over and over again, and I'd much rather it be stuff from Doc than learning the names of all the 60,000 trains on the island of Sodor. (That said, he's learned a lot about the ocean from Octonauts.)
posted by purpleclover at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

AND! she has her own bandaids.
posted by maryr at 2:31 PM on October 13, 2015

AND! Kay Hanley of Letters To Cleo fame writes the show's music.
posted by maryr at 2:32 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My twins are 7 and don't watch Doc McStuffins anymore. But last week at their annual physicals, you'd better believe we were all singing the "Time for a check-up!" song. We never purposefully sought women out instead of men, but all of their medical professionals (pediatricians, dentists, optometrist, ophthalmologist) are women, and because we have deliberately chosen to live in a diverse area, most of them are African American or Asian. Doc McStuffins helped reinforce for them what they saw in their own lives.
posted by candyland at 6:36 PM on October 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

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