Having a child, one watches a lot of kids’ TV. You make promises to yourself that you won’t watch it; “I’ll raise my kids without that crap,” you say, probably to yourself in the bathroom mirror, but you’re just lying to yourself. You will succumb to the world of math lessons and puppets teaching you not to lie to your parents and what not.
Now, this is not an invective against kids’ TV in general. We find a lot of the genre at least palatable, if not enjoyable sometimes. “Yo Gabba Gabba” is our drug of choice, but “Blue’s Clues,” “Ni Hao Kai-lan,” and “Pocoyo” are all fine and good. It’s all goofy and simplistic, but that’s par for the course. But, once in a while, you see something that goes beyond the simplistic, and into the land of sheer idiocy.
Such is the domain of “Dora the Explorer.”
You cannot underestimate the raw hatred I have for this show. Every criticism of kids’ TV, every joke made at its expense, is embodied in this fucking program. It takes every strategy utilized by modern children’s programming and overextends it into oblivion. Stupid songs? Check. Annoying characters? Double check. Batshit craziness? The Kroffts at their LSD-soaked prime can’t hold a candle to the insanity that lies within a typical episode of “Dora.”
Now, one of the big problems with this show is that everything talks. I know the foundation of kids’ TV is the anthropomorphizing of animals and other objects, but please understand when I tell you: EVERYTHING HAS A FACE AND TALKS. There was an episode where Dora was transported to Magicland (which was basically like the real world, but there were playing cards floating around, and dice that grew like flowers, so OK), and she had to get through the Magic Cup Forest. Therein lie three giant plastic cups, with three little foam balls underneath them (like the magic trick). Here’s the thing: the balls had faces and spoke. Why? I don’t know; all they said was “Yay!” or whatever the hell when they were discovered. Another episode had them finding rainbows, and the goddamn rainbows spoke. Not everything has to speak, guys. Sometimes a tree can just sit there and shed leaves.
And the characters are ridiculous as well. Let’s run them down (not with a car, but maybe… no, not with a car):
- Dora – You know what, we won’t worry about her. She’s fine. She’s not the problem.
- Boots – Her monkey pal who wears red boots. He’s been in every episode, and I still don’t know why the fuck he’s there. He seems to be there only to be amazed that they found the Candy Castle, or whatever.
- Backpack – Shown above, Dora’s talking luggage. It’s not weird enough that he talks, though. When asked for an item, he’ll produce a number of them (so kids can pick out the right one), and when the correct item is chosen, the others go back inside him, and he acts like he’s EATING THEM. And not through his mouth. Through his head hole. Did Cronenberg do a pass on the show bible? “Delicioso!” No, no es delicioso, Mochila.
- Map – He’s needed to tell Dora and Boots where to go, which would be all well and good if he didn’t speak like a 49-year-old pedophile trying to lure kids into his van. I don’t know what process led to his voice, but someone needed to intervene. I don’t need my heart to skip a beat when he tells my son he needs to go into the Foggy Forest.
- Swiper the Fox – A career felon, he pops up every so often to try to swipe something important to Dora and Shoes. And like all felons, he’s easily deterred by yelling “SWIPER NO SWIPING” a couple of times at the TV. The one time I saw him succeed at theft, he took a star (anthropomorphized, of course) from Dora and hucked it into a fucking tree. So, he’s the jewel thief Alfred was talking about in Dark Knight?
And I’m not even on about Troll, who is a naked yellow midget with a beard covering the front of his body. Ugh….
One episode, they helped a sentient robot get back to his grandfather’s house. They get to Grandpa’s, and he’s an elderly HUMAN. I never thought I’d be in a situation where I’d feel a grandpa robot would be the best choice, but a grandpa robot would have been the best choice.
Long story short, the show is just crazy, and not the enjoyable crazy of “Gabba.” What I think ultimately sinks the show, though, is the absolute lack of irony. I’m not asking for the full Seinfeld, but I think a modern kids’ show needs a level of stepping back to acknowledge the goofiness. “Gabba” is good at this, with its occasional references to adult pop culture, and even Steve on “Blues Clues” has little asides and moments. But “Dora” is dead fucking serious about itself. Not Chris Nolan serious; Swiper’s not threatening to blow up both boats unless one blows up the other. But it commits a little too hard to the insanity, and it’s just so bothersome. Couple that with the interminable amount of time that passes when Dora asks the audience a question, and you wanna chuck a brick at your TV.
And Nick Jr’s recent decision to do away with a variety of programming on weekday mornings in favor of a shitload of “Dora” has not helped things, especially given that Lucas now seems to like the show. I know you shouldn’t hold grudges against 18 month olds, but he’s not making it easy.
But, if a ray of light can show through the cloud of crap that is “Dora,” it is this amazing TV Funhouse segment from SNL, which succeeds at simultaneously being an outrageous parody of “Dora” and dead-on accurate. I leave you with this as a palate-cleanser.