Oh boy, I’m about to piss a lot of people off. I know Thomas is beloved among children. Beloved! This I know because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. In my own house. In my sister’s house. My BFFs house. Kids LOVE Thomas.
But I cannot stand him. Seriously. I can’t. He, and Gordon, Percy, Cranky, Emily – the whole lot of them make me cringe. Well, I could be more generous and say that I think the writers have an opportunity for improvement, like incorporating more compassion among Thomas and his friends.
The way those trains talk to each other, the way they treat each other. If my child either talked like that, or was talked to like that I’d be so disturbed. I am so disturbed! But, wait. I know there is a “moral” at the end. I know that they all are happy, make up, are friends, learn right from wrong blah blah blah at the end of each episode. Same for the books. But that’s 5%. The other 95% is filled with fear, jealousy, shame, snide comments, ridicule.
Not being a TV producer, I could be wrong here, but I think that those engines could work harder at being Good Little Engines with themselves and their friends. Good as in compassionate and kind. Why couldn’t Gordon be gracious and grateful that Edward helped out instead of being a braggart and self-centered?
Instead of James being ridiculed and then feeling embarrassed for turning pink, why couldn’t his friends be kind and help him?
I can’t go into all of the plot twists, character development and dialog that turns my stomach because, after umpteen thousand episodes on the air, who can keep track. It’s my gut that tells me though, every time I hear or read Thomas the Train, that something just isn’t right about it. Not to mention the facial expressions on those trains. It’s heartbreaking.
Children – and yes, I’m generalizing but I’m also specifically talking about the children I know – start watching Thomas before they can even talk. So what do they hear as their first snippets of conversation? How to not be a good friend.
I read – I think it was in Nurture Shock, but I’ll flip though all my books till I find the exact source for you – that children model their behavior on what they see and hear. No news there, right? BUT. If what they see and hear is 95% bad and 5% good, how can those growing minds understand that the majority of what they just saw was how NOT to act and not how to act?
You see my point? Thomas is teaching children shame, fear, jealousy, ridicule. The list goes on. Yes, at the very end Thomas learns his lesson. And I know as a parent that’s supposed to be my teachable moment. That’s what I’m supposed to talk about with my child. And I do. But when I hear my older daughter ridicule her sister with exact same words that the train James was ridiculed with, I have no doubt where she learned them. No doubt.
Now, I’m not trying to shield my daughters from those emotions. They will learn them. It’s part of life. But do I want to teach my child how to be hideous to her family and friends only to have to un-teacher her? No. I don’t.
I could keep my protest to myself and quietly not invite Thomas into our house. But I bring it up because I think it is important for parents to actively teach their children how to behave with grace and kindness. With compassion. With character.
Children can be intensely cruel to one another without understanding that they are even doing it. It’s honestly something that all children will encounter – they will be the doer and the receiver. It will happen.
I only wonder what difference it would make if the consistent message, the 95%, was about being kind to one another. If compassion was the default emotion instead of all the other crapola. What a difference that might make.
photo credit: a4gpa