My two-year-old's current Favorite Thing is the PBS television show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is a latter-day spinoff of the excellent Mister Roger's Neighborhood. It's a cartoon about the eponymous Daniel Tiger (who was a puppet on Mister Roger's Neighborhood) and his family, where various small children/animals learn important lessons about sharing and whatnot; standard fare for TV aimed at a two-year-olds.
My son has been home sick1 for the last week or so, so I've watched a lot of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and there are some things that annoy and/or confuse me:
- Why do Daniel and his father2 never wear pants? Everyone else in this universe wears pants. The Tiger men clearly understand pants, because when they go to the sleep-over at school, Daniel brings special pajama bottoms for the occasion. Mom Tiger always wears pants, so it's not a species thing. What's going on here?
- Speaking of Dad Tiger: he's a clockmaker, but none of his clocks or watches have hands. Is this a deep statement about how childhood is free of deadlines, or is it just that it would be too much work to animate hands?
- The magical land of this show is populated by a mix of humans and anthropomorphic animals; however, there are also some animals that are kept as pets.3 Are the pets also sentient, and this is some kind of slavery situation, or are there some animals that are sentient and some that are not? If so — where's the boundary? I notice that all the sentient animal characters are obligate carnivores, so is this a universe where all carnivores are sentient and all herbivores aren't?
- Does anyone other than Prince Tuesday actually have a paying job in this town? He's the waiter, the grocer, the crossing guard, the lifeguard at the pool, and probably some other jobs. Plus he's also next in line for the hereditary monarchy and lives in a literal castle. Some of the other adults have vocations (such as Dad Tiger making useless clocks, and Stan the Music Man… playing music?) but none of them seem to have actual jobs. I guess Teacher Harriet has a job.
- Speaking of the pool: where does this show take place? It snows regularly, but also has a seaside beach with palm trees.
I know, I know, it's just a kids' show, and I'm reading too much into it. It just… bugs me!
Anyhow, my kid isn't sick any more, so he's going back to school and maybe I can watch less of this nonsense.