I admit that as a child I didn’t always watch age-appropriate programming. Like when I was in fifth grade I would tune in to “20/20” on Friday nights with my mom. In fact, I think this early exposure to news journalism is what caused me to eventually pursue a degree in communications. I wanted to be Diane Sawyer and marry John Stossel. I also watched “90210” in middle school (when it was still “Beverly Hills: 90210”) and had pictures of “Brandon Walsh” (Jason Priestly) plastered all over my bedroom walls. Yet my innocence was maintained by the wild antics of the gang on “Saved By the Bell“.
However, I can say that in preschool, my main television viewing consisted of “He-Man“, “She-Ra“, “Thundercats“, and my favorite…wait for it…”Rainbow Brite“!!!! “Rainbow Brite” was the coolest cartoon in the world, and she was such a colorful dresser, too! I liked her friend, Color Kid Patty, who had green hair that so brilliantly matched her green outfit, too. Plus, Rainbow Brite not only had a cute guy pal (I think they may have been more than friends), but she had a white horse, too. That’s pretty much everything a girl needs in life, right? It is if you’re a cartoon character.
While I was attending Rainbrow Brite and He-Man themed birthday parties during my formative years, three year-olds today have moved on in the world; they’re going to “High School Musical” birthday parties. A good friend of mine who’s a daycare director told me that she was sick of hearing “High School Musical 2” music in the Pre-K classroom. I was confused wondering how the little tykes even know about the movie. She replied that she didn’t know how they knew about it, but they kept bringing the DVD in to watch on “Friday Movie Days”. I believe she issued a note to parents banning the movie from the center.
What I thought was an isolated problem is, in fact, a widespread disease wiping out the hearts and minds of three and four year-olds across the nation. They are not only listening to the music; they are obsessed with the movie. “High School Musical” is fairly amusing, but it’s not for little kids. It’s not like they even have the mental development to process the storyline. It’s all flashy clothes, jazzy music, and good-looking high school kids (who are actually too old to be in high school, but that’s another story).
Of course, the parents simply don’t know what to do to prevent their children from being exposed to the evils of “High School Musical”. According this CNN article, one mom accidentally bought her daughter a “Sharpay” doll at Target, not realizing the doll sang songs from the show. Umm, how about reading the packaging before buying your child a toy? And then not indulging her taste by throwing her a HSM birthday party? It seems like common sense in parenting just flew right out the window.
The funniest part of the story is that many little girls seem to be fans of fashionista Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale), the snobby rich girl who wants to date basketball hot shot and amateur singer, Troy Evans (Zac Efron). This is a great quote from the story, “Like 3-year-old Talya, Duplessis’ daughter Valencia is a Sharpay fan. ‘I say she seems kind of mean, and she says, `Oh, but she’s so pretty, and I really like that song “Fabulous,’ Duplessis said.”‘ here do you even start with a comment like this?” Tayla, incidentally, likes Sharpay because she “hangs out with Ryan” (Lucas Grabeel). I have a certain fondness for Ryan and his massive hat collection myself. Good call, Tayla.
Duplessis’ quote continues, “‘It’s the focus on clothes, appearance. That’s what bothers me the most. It’s good clean fun with Jimmy Choo flip flops, perfect hair and makeup. I would just rather her focus on being a kid and having fun and getting dirty.'” Personally, I’d just throw my princess out in the backyard and say get playing. Can’t you just imagine her using the stick as a microphone and practicing all the HSM dance moves instead of digging in the dirt for worms?
Yes, the Disney empire has all us all sucked into its programming, characters, and products, but unless we’re all planning on building an anti-Disney commune, it’s something with which we’re just going to have to live. It’s time for not parents (and others) to take responsibility in actually supervising the things their children are taking in. Children will never be safeguarded against all harmful influences, but parents can make intelligent choices when it comes to entertainment and toys.
Incidentally, Disney execs are quick to point out that they have eight hours of great programming for preschoolers called “Playhouse Disney” (let’s hear it for “Johnny and the Sprites“). We can always hope for a resurgence of “Rainbow Brite”, right? Better yet, let’s turn off the T.V. and teach kids how to think while exploring the outside world, instead of just watching it (or its fabrication) on the Disney Channel.
If you can’t get enough of musical movies for tweens, then you won’t want to miss out on “Camp Rock” starring the Jonas Brothers (read more).