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TV Land Mines

It’s amazing to me how fraught family friendly television programming can be.

Case in point: Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. When I was a kid, if my fuzzy memory serves me, this show was usually about Jim nearly getting his face eaten by a lion while Marlin sat in the Land Rover providing color commentary. Everyone was always OK in the end, and my family gathered around pretty regularly for the nature safari. I don’t ever remember going to bed in tears.

Have you seen the new version? An episode four years ago focused on elephants in Namibia. A baby starved to death after its mother died, and the cameras captured the whole thing in agonizing real time. I wasn’t entertained; I cried and had nightmares that night and for a while after. The image of that poor baby elephant with its sunken head still haunts me. But at least Simon didn’t see it.

Whereas last week we tuned in for an ostensibly “cute” show about sea otters. Sea otters!—cute, smart, frolicking sea otters. Except this show decided to focus on the plight of a mother-baby pair threatened by an aggressive male newcomer. Right about the time the music shifted to the minor key and amped up the bass, I turned off the TV and badly lied to Simon that the show was over. Good thing, too. According to the Discovery Channel website, the mother otter was critically wounded in a fight, after which the baby was never seen again. Matt tells me that yesterday’s Discovery Network fodder was a show about dolphins threatened by sharks.

Does Disney own Discovery now? It’s the only explanation I have for the unhealthy obsession with parental demise. I have no explanation at all for the kid-jep stuff.

Then there are the harmless Super Friends video Simon so loves. In one of the lost episodes, Superman travels in space in time to Krypton just before the planet is about to blow up. He somehow keeps the Krypton sun from exploding, thereby saving his home planet. All is well and good until he returns to Earth, which is under the thumb of the League of Doom. There never was a Superman in this alternative reality, and Earth is a terrible place. (Really, any Star Trek fan could tell him what would happen if he violated the Prime Directive and messed with a timeline.)

So, without even a thought or detectible waffle, Superman zips back in time and space to reverse his deeds and watches with no emotion as Krypton is destroyed. When I first saw this episode, I thought the writers glossed over a moral dilemma too simply. After several viewings (but no comment from me), Simon drew the same conclusion. He asked Matt about Krypton’s sun. Then he asked why little Kal-El was sent off in space. Then, with moist eyes and a quivering chin, he asked what would happen to everyone on Krypton.

Add another TV land mine to the long and growing list of family programming not suitable for the sensitive child. Thank goodness for Winnie the Pooh, Scooby Doo,  and the programming on PBS!

3 Responses to “TV Land Mines”

  1. Amanda says:

    I quit watching nature shows years ago–I can’t take it. Even if I’m flipping channels I always see the part where some baby dies or a mom gets killed. Then I cry and feel bad for a week. Not worth it.

  2. blg says:

    Lying to Simon…badly or baldly or both?

  3. Jessica says:

    blg–both! I originally meant to say “baldly”, then say the typo and thought, “yeah, that too.”

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