I tend to screen what my kids are allowed to watch fairly seriously. I disallowed Spongebob after I witnessed Mr. Krabs instructing Spongbob and Patrick about "panty raids". I also don't have cable, satellite, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or anything of the like in their rooms. We have these things in our living room (where they can be monitored), but in the kids' room they only have DVD/VHS players. (Yes, we still have some old VHS tapes. Don't judge.)
So... tonight my six year old daughter, who went to bed watching "Strawberry Shortcake: Let's Dance", just came out of her bed room dragging her teddy bear... she was very upset.
|It looks harmless enough.|
Her: "Daddy. Strawberry Shortcake said life is crappy. That makes me sad."
Me: "What? I don't think she said that."
Her: (almost in tears) "She did. She said that. I don't think life is crappy."
I picked her up and hugged her and continued to tell her that I didn't think that Strawberry Shortcake would say that 'life is crappy'. I mean, Strawberry Shortcake is always happy... and solves problems... and does sweet things for her friends... and wants everyone to get along. Strawberry wouldn't say that life was crappy. My daughter vehemently insisted that she had said just that.
This had to be resolved. I tucked her back into bed and I rewound the movie to find out what Strawberry Shortcake had actually said. Once my daughter had seen what Strawberry had actually seen then all would be well again... right?
So... what did I hear Strawberry say?
Strawberry Shortcake singing: "Let's Dance, 'cause life is crappy."
I had to try to explain that it was a matter of context in the story of the song... that it was discussing tricky steps and not giving up when you make mistakes... that even if thing were crappy you could still "do it" and that dancing was their metaphor... all that story that was going on in the song on the cartoon... that things might be going bad right then but they would dance and it make Strawberry and her friends feel better... and that Strawberry wasn't telling her that life is crappy over all....
This was not a conversation that I ever thought I'd have in reference to Strawberry Shortcake... to my six year old who was crying because "Life is crappy... Strawberry Shortcake told me so."
Does my child just pick up on things that other kids don't? Does she not shrug things off due to context as she "should"? I remember some rather adult themes in cartoons when I was a child. Watching some of those late '70s and 80's cartoons with my kids has left me a little red faced once or twice.
I don't know if I should count this as a win - as it did allow me to explain the meaning to my child, eventually getting her to feel better about it, and we did share a very tender and sweet moment - or if I should feel upset with what society thinks it's okay to expose kids to.
I know that children of earlier generations were exposed to far more, in some ways, than kids today. I also know that kids today tend to be far more desensitized to things that would have been shocking in ages before. I ultimately think I'll chalk tonight up in the win column... but I'll count it as an uneasy win.
***By way of an update: Thanks to a friend (Melly) listening to the song, and suggesting that I look up the lyrics (which I had tried to Google a LOT, and failed) which were available on the DVD... if you put on the closed captioning... Strawberry actually said (as she was snapping in her dance number) "Life is SNAPPY"... not crappy. I pointed that out to my daughter... I had her read it. What was her response?
I can now file this moment under "the night my daughter first joined the ranks for those who 'mishear' lyrics... See also: Slow Motion Walter, The Fire Engine Guy -and- There's A Bathroom On The Right.
Strawberry has been exonerated. My daughter is happy. I got to have an awkward conversation with a six year old, with tears in her eyes, way too late at night... for no reason... other than I'm her Daddy, and I love her... and I don't want her to think life is crappy (at least not until she's out of college and trying to find meaningful employment in a career that holds real importance to her... then, she'll figure it out on her own... Nothing I can do about it.)***