Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Watching Nick Jr. with my toddler is loads of fun. It's commercial-free, some of the shows are funny for adults (like "Jack's Big Music Show"), and my son Jack enjoys the programming and learning.

But a few shows, I find, are neighbor-unfriendly. Even Jack's Big Music Show has a grumpy squirrel for a neighbor, who complains about the noise from their music. Miss Spider (starring Kristen Davis) did actually take on a noisy neighbor problem and resolved in a way similar to how I would have, so I'm not bashing all the programming there.

One show, however, depicts the "bad guy," Robbie Rotten, as a bad neighbor who's always playing tricks on the puppets and popular pink-haired human character Stephanie. Why?

Usually, it's because Stephanie and friends are making a lot of noise for Robbie, who just wants to live in peace and be lazy in his underground home (yes, he's the equivalent of the little-old-lady-neighbor-character always associated with banging the broomstick on her ceiling to get the upstairs neighbors to pipe down).

Stephanie and the others are good-natured, and they don't torture Robbie, who ultimately loses every battle he takes on with them. But does the show, and do the media in general, consistently have to portray neighbors who want peace as tricksters and lunatics? This is what I complain about most in the book and on talk shows I do (I'm doing one Wed., July 28 on Minnesota Public Radio if you feel like tuning in via the live stream and calling in) -- we're not the bad guys. A few decades ago, QUIET neighbors were the GOOD guys. Today, you get ridiculed if you complain about neighbor noise, and typically get little support from authorities.

I don't want Jack to think that people raising an issue are the bad guys. Part of breaking the cycle of deteriorating neighbor relations among humankind is teaching kids to respect their neighbors. Mister Rogers always did. Why can't Nick Jr.?

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