TRAINSPOTTING

Thursday, December 10th, 2009 | Uncategorized

A Canadian academic named Shauna Wilton alerts parents to a grave danger threatening the well-being of their children:

Children’s favourite Thomas the Tank Engine has been attacked by a Canadian academic for its “conservative political ideology” and failure to adequately represent women.

A show with animated locomotives has an ideology?  Who knew?

The criticism, by Shauna Wilton, a professor of political sciences at the University of Alberta, is likely to anger fans of the original books by Rev W. V. Awdry first published in the 1940s which were turned into an animated TV series now shown in 130 countries.

I don’t think fans will be angry about this.  I think that they’ll be astounded that an alleged academic actually thinks this is a serious idea.

“It also represents a conservative political ideology that punishes individual initiative, opposes critique and change, and relegates females to supportive roles,” she said. “Any change is seen as disrupting the natural order of things.”

Lady?  We’re talking about animated trains here.

Her study shows programmes for children are not as harmless as many parents think if they look more closely, she concluded, and she called for tighter controls of what is broadcast to them.

Trains, lady.  TRAINS!!  TRAINS!!  TRAINS!!  TRAINS!!  TRAINS!!

“Eventually these children will attain full political citizenship, and the opinions and world outlook they develop now, partially influenced by shows like Thomas, are part of that process.”

Because everybody gets their political idealogy from cartoons.  Canada?  You must be so proud.

Props to Bloves.

52 Comments to TRAINSPOTTING

Katherine
December 10, 2009

“It also represents a conservative political ideology that punishes individual initiative, opposes critique and change…” Conservatives oppose individual initiative? What planet is she living on? Political conservatives favor individual initiative instead of government control.

Sibyl
December 10, 2009

The woman is culturally illiterate and poetically deficient because she obviously cannot read symbolism and metaphor correctly.

Thomas starts with ‘T’ that stands for ‘transgender’ so he/she represents BOTH sexes.

Didn’t she ever see the ‘Music Man’ for Pete’s sake???? (‘T’ that rhymes with ‘P’ that stands for Pool?)

It’s disgusting what they don’t teach people about United States cultural norms in Canada.

Dale Matson
December 10, 2009

Hey! Is this “local content” or something imported from the U S of A? That is the real question.

LA Episcopal Priest
December 10, 2009

Well, she does have a point. Awdry was from the Isle of MAN!

Paula Loughlin
December 10, 2009

Hey, I wants to be a Canadian Academic too!! Hows can I tooreach this Holy Grail of logic and common sense?

Michael D
December 10, 2009

Paula: I heartily encourage you to be a Canadian academic. First step is to use grammar more formal than “Hows can I tooreach this Holy Grail…”

;->

Hahaha I crack myself up.

Ed the Roman
December 10, 2009

Correction: Thomas the Tank Engine uses stop-action animation of the locomotives and cars faces, but is basically a live movie of model trains.

This ain’t no cartoon.

Michael D
December 10, 2009

For those of you who haven’t read Thomas the Tank Engine, the plot almost invariably revolves around one of the engines daring to try something new. By the end of each story, the engine has either had a great adventure or a mishap, and resolves to just be normal from now on.

The copyright was bought by HIT entertainment a few years ago and has been lobotomized for the perceived low standards of the North American market.

Smurf Breath
December 10, 2009

What I always find bone chilling about these sorts of stories is the insight they give into the thought processes of the hard left. To her, children are not human beings to be raised, but automata that need to be programmed by the right person.

I’ve never read the books or saw the show, but I’d guess that the author did it primarily to entertain children, and perhaps encourage the little monsters to behave themselves as well. But the prof doesn’t ‘get’ this. She can only see things in terms of competing ideologies that need to appropriate children in order to brainwash them for their own purposes. I’d wager the left’s attempts at children’s literature would radiate this, which is why children are still reading the classics.

What a dehumanizing, depressing world these people inhabit, and that would be fine if they kept it to themselves, but these are the types of people who become educators of other peoples’ children. Scary thought.

Betsy McCall
December 10, 2009

Don’t trains pretty much have to “stay on track”? I mean, if I were looking for an iconoclastic main character, I’d have to go with a kite or an amoeba or something. Trains are strong, dependable types. Frankly, the world could use more strong, dependable types who are happy in their work.

If any Canadian academics want to step up and watch a real horror show, I suggest TeleTubbies. In that show, babies are conditioned to respond to instructions from unseen masters speaking through public address speakers disguised as flowers. Orwellian.

Paula Loughlin
December 10, 2009

MichaelD, Yous is right. I gots to pay me more mind to the grammar I is writting. It will be hard, but the goal of being a Canadian Academic will make it worth my wiles.

Stephen
December 10, 2009

I don’t agree with the assertion that kids’ shows can’t instill a political ideology subtly. But, even if the message she attributes to the show is really there, it’s not conservative. The status quo for the sake of tghe status quo isn’t “conservative.” Neither is subjugation of women (nice to see her beliefs aren’t slanted in any way). And it’s conservatives, not liberals, encouraging individuality over group-think.

And what about her assertion that a “conservative” cartoon should be censored from television? I guess someone like Mark Steyn would’t be at all surprised to hear this from a Canadian academic. What if a conservative academic had called for Captain Planet to be censored? There would be howls heard from coast to coast.

FW Ken
December 10, 2009

People get upset about kiddie lit and TV all the time.

Some Christians throw fits about the Harry Potter stories and some even go after The Lord of the Rings or The Wizard of Oz. Do you really want your kids reading Pullman’s Dark Materials perhaps under the tutelage of a public school teacher?

The problem with this woman is that her ideology is screwed up and extreme. She is on the wrong road and too far down it to boot.

Amy P.
December 10, 2009

“Eventually these children will attain full political citizenship, and the opinions and world outlook they develop now, partially influenced by shows like Thomas, are part of that process.”

So she acknowledges that what children are exposed to in their younger years may influence them later? How does this explain the fact that more and more on the left are pushing for sex ed starting in kindergarten?

The hypocrisy is astounding. Never mind that it’s trains.

What if a conservative academic had called for Captain Planet to be censored? There would be howls heard from coast to coast.

Howls of joy, perhaps. That was the most insipid cartoon ever broadcast. I want back the time I wasted as a child watching that drivel.

Steve L.
December 10, 2009

Folks! You have to understand Canadian academics. They stand outside in -30 Celcius weather, without a touque on and bemoan how Global Warming is ruining the winter. The outermost brain cells freeze first and well there you see what happens next.

Smurf Breath
December 10, 2009

It would be funny if idiots like this weren’t getting published and taken seriously. Or if HRCs didn’t exist, but they do.

Miss Sippi
December 10, 2009

Now I understand how I grew up to be conservative! My favorite Saturday morning show was “Robin Hood” starring Richard Greene. My younger sister’s was “The Roy Rogers Show” — both involved a fair amount of damsel-rescuing by strong male heroes. And a lot of relegating of Marian and Dale to “supportive roles.” Oddly enough, we both turned out to be quite independent (and in her case, internationally known in a male-dominated business), as well as conservative. You never can tell.

Jeffersonian
December 10, 2009

Somehow I just bet that Ms. Wilton was one that pilloried Dan Quayle’s criticism of Murphy Brown on the grounds that the title character was a fictional character.

I bet the citizens of Alberta are tickled pink that their tax dollars are being spent on such important work.

Dale Matson
December 10, 2009

I had mixed feelings about the passing of Dale Evans.
As a male it was quite a tease to call me Dale Evans.
Dale Matson

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
December 10, 2009

I try to keep an open mind towards liberals and I frequently remind myself that conservatives – most certainly including myself – are not perfect. But then I am confronted by articles like this and I am forced to conclude that liberals is jus’ damn eejots.

Mike
December 10, 2009

From the BBC, re: the books’ author:
“Wilbert Vere Awdry was born in Hampshire in 1911, himself the son of an Anglican clergyman. From his earliest days, Wilbert was fascinated by steam railways, having been introduced to the world of the railway by his father’s parishioners, many of whom worked on the lines. Wilbert was to follow in his father’s footsteps, and in 1936 he was ordained into the Anglican Priesthood. He was married in 1938, to Margaret Wale. In 1942, his three-year-old son, Christopher, came down with the measles, and Wilbert started making up tales of an imaginary railway and its talking engines, just to keep the little boy amused during his convalescence.”

No wonder these books are so sinister and twisted.

Barney
December 10, 2009

I have tried my best to find a polite method to express my distaste for this learned academic.

Didn’t work

Bite Me!

ccinnova
December 10, 2009

Who’d have ever thought that a show which once featured the late George Carlin as a performer would be accused of promoting a “conservative political ideology?”

Ed the Roman
December 10, 2009

Don’t forget Ringo Starr (the real Mr. Conductor, and don’t you forget it).

FW Ken
December 10, 2009

Netflix seems to have 10 DVDs of Thomas available. Several are available for viewing online. So even us old southern types can get corrupted.

Which I plan to do.

LA Episcopal Priest
December 11, 2009

FW Ken,

Don’t do it. Thomas, God bless him, is deadly boring. I will recommend “Kipper the Dog” and “Ni Hao, Kai Lan” though as some great preschool viewing. Kai Lan does have that patriarchal YeYe, though, who dispenses repression in the guise of grandfatherly love. Watch out!

SouthCoast
December 11, 2009

What drab, pathetic childhoods such academics must have had!

Marcey Guthrie
December 11, 2009

I completely disagree with this professor’s take on these videos. I read each of the original stories and watched ALL of the videos based on those original stories with my son from the time he was one until he was five. I liked them because the moral of each story was the actions (and attitudes) have consequences. Whether the underlying theme was laziness, greed, pride, envy or lack of respect for authority, the engine always received an appropriate correction. I never got the impression that the Fat Controller was oppresive but rather a strong but fair businessman. And, the stories and videos were rich in vocabulary. I’ll never forget the day my then 1 1/2 year old walked to the end of block, looked at me and said, “That was a very long journey and I am exhausted”, which is a line out of one of the videos. Much more beneficial than the Teletubbies show, which were popular at the same time.

For those of you who are going to check out these stories(the books or the videos or the TV episodes), avoid any of them that are NOT part of the original stories by Awdry. The videos which are narrated by one of the Baldwin brothers have been dumbed-down and are too PC.

LaVallette
December 11, 2009

“The female characters weren’t necessarily portrayed any more negatively than the male characters or the male trains, but they did tend to play more secondary roles and they’re often portrayed as being bossy or know-it-alls,”.

Is this not describing Shauna Wilton herself in the leftist belfry scheme of things!!!!

Ed the Roman
December 11, 2009

The series could be boring to people who think trains are busses with invariant paths.

But if you like trains in any sense past “greater use of rail will relieve urban congestion and save fuel compared to roadborne motor transport” you will not be bored.

Alexander Scott
December 11, 2009

I would definitely recommend Thomas the Tank Engine to all parents of young children (although the current CGI incarnation is not so great…) The trains move slowly, the narrator speaks slowly, everything is calm and relaxing. It’s very much like listening to a book being read while watching a model train set. As an old codger, I prefer my kids’ TV to be settling, not to spoon-feed them crack through their eyes.

Be warned, though, that you will wind up with an amazing number of small metal trains in your house. This may be a bug or a feature, depending on how you feel about trains.

Fuinseoig
December 11, 2009

People, you are all gravely underestimating the dangers of the Cult of Thomas. It is indeed a sect aimed at the under-fives, in a cynically exploitative marketing frenzy of consumerism and advocacy of the return to functioning train routes.

I speak from experience of two nephews who were brainwashed devotees at an early age; you would not believe the amount of die-cast toy trains I have purchased as birthday/Christmas presents. Their toy room was a veritable shrine to Thomas. Every time they visited, I had to go online to the Thomas the Tank Engine website for games and printouts of colouring sheets.

This woman is taking a brave stance, and I fear for her safety – I hope someone warns her to stay far away from train stations, railway tracks, and toy stores everywhere ;-)

dwstroudmd
December 11, 2009

Well, there is always “The Little Engine That Could” as an alternative. And its subsequent titles, too. Of course, since I am a caucasian, male, college-educated, graduate-school educated, doctoral-school educated, entitled without thinking about lesser person on that account, I may not be competent to detect the errors inherent in trains (I mean, if sports cars are Freudian equivalents for male genitalia, WHAT are trains?!)

You decide:
http://www.amazon.com/s/qid=1260541553/ref=a9_sc_1?ie=UTF8&search-alias=aps&field-keywords=the%20little%20engine%20that%20could

O course, I was subjected to this as a child and I subjected my children to it, all in the name of reading-aloud-and-with-your-children, an alleged maternal behaviour, so you have to take that into consideration. Just as you would take the ideological (idiotological) claptrap of this quack.

Dr. Mabuse
December 11, 2009

I’ve listened to a lot of academic claptrap in my time, Canadian and otherwise, but as Daffy Duck said in that cartoon you posted a few weeks ago Chris, This means WAR!

My two sons love Thomas the Tank Engine. My house is papered in printed-out still pictures from the Thomas stories. They watch Thomas the Tank Engine on YouTube EVERY DAY. They’ve worn out Thomas books, and I have bought and rebought every kind of Thomas publication.

For those who don’t know, my sons Thomas and James (no, we DIDN’T name them after the characters, it’s just a coincidence!) are autistic. They’re 18 and 15 respectively, and Thomas the Tank Engine is going to be a part of our lives forever. Furthermore, I know that Thomas the Tank Engine is very big in the autistic community – autistic kids in general love the series.

I have a few theories why: as Alexander Scott says, the narration is quiet and soothing, so the kids aren’t overloaded with audio stimulus. The music is gentle and cheerful, not loud and violent. The faces of the trains are easy to read, and fixed; unlike live characters, they don’t change every moment, which is relaxing for autistic kids because they have trouble reading facial expressions. The only parts of the faces that move are the eyes; when it’s time to change expression, the film cuts away and back, to show a new face. This gives the kids time to absorb the new face without being distracted and confused by movement.

And maybe best of all, a train is a line of rectangular shapes all joined together – autistic kids are CRAZY about lining up things, especially things of the same size and shape. It’s one of the most typical symptoms of autism, and doctors use this tendency when they’re diagnosing autism: do they line up blocks in a row? Thomas still lines things up in an orderly train-like row; just yesterday I discovered that he’d taken out all the pudding cups from a box of 12 and lined them up like a train!

So this lady better watch her back; parents of autistic kids will not sit still when one of the most reliable sources of entertainment, distraction and relaxation for their kids is under attack!

Minuteman
December 11, 2009

And MY favorite from my youth was “Tootle” who was told to that his job was to stay on the tracks. Instead he frolicked in the daisy fields. I think that the milk in the dining car got curdled with all the jostling around. He did learn to stay on the tracks and was praised for it as he passed into the adult and responsible world of the big trains. And what, I ask you, is wrong with THAT ???

CS Baillie
December 11, 2009

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft…

J.M. Heinrichs
December 11, 2009
Smurf Breath
December 11, 2009

Thanks JM that’s more or less what I was thinking about.

Go Doug Wilson! This is my “Women’s Ordination”.

The Little Myrmidon
December 11, 2009

Stay tuned for next week’s thrilling installment: “Shauna Wilton Critiques The Velveteen Rabbit.

Christopher Hathaway
December 11, 2009

This is nothing but another manifestation of the war we face as a completely alien and inhuman philosophy tries to eradicate all vestiges of its enemy, Christianity. We shouldn’t be surprised at these things. They take their imperitve to eradicate us most seriously, just as seriously as Christiand used to take their mission to eradicate or transform paganism.

There can be no compromise. There is only surrender or victory. We can laugh at this lunacy, but they laughed at Hitler and Stalin too, until the sobering reality kicked in.

Dale Matson
December 11, 2009

dwstroudmd,
“Of course, since I am a caucasian, male, college-educated, graduate-school educated, doctoral-school educated,” We know you are educated. That’s why it took so long for you (somewhat akin to the ABC) to tell us that you are educated. The problem is that you inhaled too much ozone from your Lionel 078 gauge train transformer when you were a kid.

[...] Hattip to the ever vigilant Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.  My kids loved Thomas the Tank Engine videos when they were little back in the nineties.  Memories of those times still brings a smile to my face when I see some Thomas the Tank Engine trinket for sale in a store.  Now I learn that I was not only entertaining them, I was also indoctrinating them in my political views. [...]

Whitestone
December 12, 2009

Yeah, Christopher Hathaway, but where are Stalin, Lenin, and other ruthless powers, both political and religious, now? The made a name for themselves and caused pain, embarrassment, scandal, evil …for a time.

Now they are merely examples of evildoers for those who will, to learn by and to avoid emulating. They ended up as vines lopped off and cast into the fire, becoming scraps of vine charcoal used to draw illustrations of evil by the Hand of God.

Smurf Breath
December 12, 2009

Hitler and Stalin were like Gargamel. Liberals are more like an infestation of purple smurfs. Not quite the same thing.

Which reminds me… does this woman also think that Our Glorious Leader is a communist? Did she start that meme?

Fuinseoig
December 12, 2009

Has she investigated the phenomenon of Bob the Builder? Surely he must be the second menace on her list.

:-)

Jeffersonian
December 12, 2009

This blinkered analysis reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Steyn satire pieces on the Reverend Harold Pinter’s Christmas sermon:

Youngsters at a Christmas carol service were devastated this week after the vicar told them Santa Claus was dead and his reindeer had been vaporised shortly after take-off.

Preaching at the church of St George of the Galloways, the Reverend Harold Pinter informed his young flock that the real Santa had been assassinated on Christmas Eve 1977 by the Shah’s secret police, using Washington-supplied cruise missiles and that the present “Santa” was a CIA stooge with an obvious false beard.

Children as young as two covered their ears and ran screaming from the church as the vicar explained at length how the “holidays” were now just a front for US foreign policy.

“George W Bush says he’s dreaming of a white Christmas,” sneered Mr Pinter. “But for the rest of us it’s a nightmare. I wake up feeling like a man trapped in a snowy knick-knack with his face pressed up against the glass howling, ‘Let me out of here’, only to be buried under another ton of artificial flakes.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3585243/A-very-shiny-nose-Pinter-continued.-Why-Depleted-uranium.html

[...] First Tweet: 1 day ago conservathink Damian G. http://themcj.com/?p=8404 – People. Are. Idiots. #TCOT #TLOT retweet [...]

J.M. Heinrichs
December 12, 2009
Dr. Mabuse
December 13, 2009

Fuinseoig: I know Bob the Builder is on the list – why, he’s not even a male TRAIN – he’s a human male! (Of the toy variety, of course, but that’s just a minor detail.) I think the only reason she didnt go after Theodore Tugboat is that it was made in Canada, probably with a bunch of government grant money.

The Little Myrmidon
December 14, 2009

I would hate to think what this woman would say about Transformers™

Smurf Breath
December 14, 2009

But they had female transformers. Complete with breasts, IIRC. Battle of the Planets, Voltron all had female pilots, although the leaders were men.

[...] of political science at the University of Alberta, also highlighted the class divide which sees Thomas and his friends at the bottom of the social ladder and the wealthy Fat Controller at the top”.. Thomas the talking train, that is; and [...]

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