helping themselves to your devices and annoying your pets
October 10, 2019 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Twenty years ago, a viral and long-lived PSA used the adorable menace of the Canadian house hippo [previously] to teach children not to believe that everything on television is real. Today, the house hippos return for an Internet age. This time, they're armed with resources, games, and basic strategies to teach critical thinking to people of all ages--and all nations.
posted by sciatrix (31 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
This time, they're armed

😳

with resources, games, and basic strategies to teach critical thinking

Phew.
posted by zamboni at 12:08 PM on October 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


The house hippo is such an unlikely Canadian touchstone. It is funny how beloved this PSA is and how you can strike up a conversation with just about any Canadian aged 25-35 simply by mentioning it.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 12:15 PM on October 10, 2019 [20 favorites]


It's really a brilliant teaching aid, too. It's easy to get very excited about no matter who you are, and then go "oh. Oh." and then not forget.

And also, it's a helpful way to remind folks to be just that little bit more thoughtful about the media they consume, because everyone likes to look at a house hippo and go "aw!!" now and again. Honestly? For my money, the Canadian house hippo is one of the most effective pieces of public information dissemination I've ever seen, and I really and truly hope it spreads like wildfire. There are worse cultural touchstones than "be careful what you believe uncritically, because those bastards might get you all excited about house hippos and then take them away right as you start wondering where you might acquire one as a pet."
posted by sciatrix at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2019 [17 favorites]


The worst cats.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2019 [8 favorites]


The worst part of having house hippos is remembering to keep the toilet seats down so they don't wallow where they shouldn't.
posted by bonehead at 12:30 PM on October 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


We came to Canada just after the first House Hippo thing, so we didn't see it but I remember a few folks mentioning "house hippos" and I thought they must just've been really high. I mean, this being Canada, there's a fair chance they were really high, but …
posted by scruss at 12:47 PM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


House hippos!
posted by readinghippo at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2019 [8 favorites]


While I have a good idea what my brain on drugs is like, I don't recall any US campaign to encourage critical thinking about things presented in the media.

Explains a lot about where we are, actually.
posted by MrGuilt at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2019 [10 favorites]


All out of 'house hippos' but my brother happened to stumble upon an old estate sale. What do you know about the buying and maintenance of bridges? Because, I have a deal for you....
posted by Fizz at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2019


I was successfulły resisting them until that one bubbled air out its nostrils as it disappeared beneath the surface in the coffee cup
posted by jamjam at 2:16 PM on October 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


The house hippo is such an unlikely Canadian touchstone. It is funny how beloved this PSA is and how you can strike up a conversation with just about any Canadian aged 25-35 simply by mentioning it.

I always preferred this one.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:17 PM on October 10, 2019 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile in Melbourne, rhinoceri on skateboards are used as an educational device to warn pedestrians to look out for trams.
posted by acb at 2:34 PM on October 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


I have so many questions about my brain on drugs. First: "drugs"? What drugs? All of them? Why is my brain an egg? Why are drugs a frying pan? Sure, the egg is "on" the frying pan, but what has that got to do with drugs and my brain? If it's saying that drugs will fry my brain, well, I know lots of people who have done drugs, and they're fine. Why is this man lecturing me?

My favorite PSA from that time is this one about a nice young man with a good work ethic.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:56 PM on October 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


There is a (NSFW?) song based on that anti cocaine ad
posted by poe at 3:22 PM on October 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


I dated a Canadian woman here in Japan in the early 2000s who had a bunch of vhs tapes from back home that people had sent here (it was a different time, VHS still existed, people recorded tv on physical media!), and the house hippo commercial was on one of them, and I fell in love with Canadian public awareness ads.

And then I found the workplace accident ads. Definitely not for the squeamish, but utterly effective. Maybe don’t click on the link, they’re all pretty graphic. Effective, but graphic.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:37 PM on October 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


Wow, I did not do as well on their fake news quiz as I expected. Thank goodness I don’t share things unless I’ve vetted them, or else say I don’t know whether they are true.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2019


Aw! The house hippo! It really is funny how it's a cultural touchstone.

I'm currently looking for online activities/games to help my adult education students learn about media/online awareness, and it can be hard to find ones that are at a literacy level appropriate for them but ALSO not totally childish. I think this nails that sweet spot, so thank you for posting it!

Also, I immediately revealed my cynicism and suspicious nature by labeling one of the animals as fake when it is real. It was pretty cool to find out that THAT animal is real!! It's so pretty.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


how you can strike up a conversation with just about any Canadian aged 25-35 simply by mentioning it.

For slightly older Canadians, mention you smell toast burning.
posted by GuyZero at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


That led to a vid called People Watch Canadian PSAs.

"People" in this context is 20-ish year old Americans.... who seem to hate the psa because it got their hopes up about house hippos.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:14 PM on October 10, 2019


how you can strike up a conversation with just about any Canadian aged 25-35 simply by mentioning it.

For slightly older Canadians, mention you smell toast burning.


Or start singing the theme song to The Littlest Hobo.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:24 PM on October 10, 2019 [8 favorites]



how you can strike up a conversation with just about any Canadian aged 25-35 simply by mentioning it.

For slightly older Canadians, mention you smell toast burning.

Or start singing the theme song to The Littlest Hobo


Or if they are even older...
"Band of brothers marching together,
Heads held high in all kinds of weather.
With fiery blasts our roaring rockets rise!
Beyond the Earth! Beyond the skies!"

posted by Zedcaster at 9:38 PM on October 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


or play that haunting flute refrain

Mrs. Sauce, born in Colorado and exclusively a USA person, made a Hinterland Who's Who joke the other day and I was smitten again for the millionth time in 20 years
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:55 AM on October 11, 2019 [5 favorites]


Rocket Robin Hood was still on TV at least until the early 80s. And often it was the only thing on Sunday mornings that wasn't a televised church service.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:01 AM on October 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


I don't recall any US campaign to encourage critical thinking about things presented in the media.

I'm blanking on who wrote this article, but there was a lit/policy review in media literacy, from before 2007, that found that the US has lagged behind other English-speaking countries in media literacy policy for decades. Even South Africa before the end of apartheid had included media literacy in educational requirements at the federal level.

Why were they ahead of that curve? People saw their countries importing American media and wanted to inculcate in their kids that "that's not the way we do things, here." And why is America behind? Congresspeople pooh-poohing the idea that kids need to be "taught to watch TV." Foundation and government funding has always been scarce.

It's only in the past few years that there's been serious, nationwide funding commitment to and public discussion of media literacy in the US. Go figure.
posted by gusandrews at 10:03 AM on October 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm currently looking for online activities/games to help my adult education students learn about media/online awareness, and it can be hard to find ones that are at a literacy level appropriate for them but ALSO not totally childish.

Hurdy Gurdy Girl, I am writing a book specifically for your students! And also for librarians looking to fulfill the ACRL information literacy requirements.
posted by gusandrews at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


"Band of brothers marching together,

Yeah, Rocket Robin Hood, The Littlest Hobo and the historical moments are all of roughly the same early-80's vintage in my mind although I guess they're not. It's weird to think RRH is actually 10+ years older than that, but it was still in regular early-morning rotation somewhere on Canadian TV in the early 80's.

Also now I'm singing that damn theme song, thanks for nothing.
posted by GuyZero at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


gusandrews, that looks like a fab book. I am subscribing to your newsletter!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:32 AM on October 11, 2019


Also now I'm singing that damn theme song, thanks for nothing.

Here, I'll help you get it out of your head:

Hercules! Only the evil fear him!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:10 PM on October 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


there was that show with the magic railroad, Mr. Passenger with his stove hat, and the star-haired .... princess? It has an earwormy theme, as all those shows did. It had a Canadian feel though I don't know where it came from.

I have never rediscovered what its name was and I will not be returning to this thread to learn it.
posted by Sauce Trough at 6:03 PM on October 11, 2019


Oh my. I haven't thought of Hercules in ages. I loathed that cartoon cause it meant it was Sunday and a bad cartoon day. House hippos are always in my heart and am a tad sad the rest of the world is aware of them now. It was supposed to be just for us.

For my generation it is burnt toast (my username is from another one of those and I always regret I didn't choose burnt toast) and of course anything Mr. Dressup and Casey and Finnegan. I would have killed to live in that treehouse. And Friendly Giant. Littlest Hobo is just a given. And then Degrassi . Canadian TV classics.
posted by kanata at 7:19 AM on October 12, 2019


@Sauce Trough: That was "The Secret Railroad." A favourite of mine as well.

Thanks to everyone else for the comments -- I worked on this and it was very hard not to do an OP about it when we launched!
posted by MatthewJohnson at 12:54 PM on October 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


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