Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Terror Of "Super Why!"

Anyone with small children, and those who are small children at heart, will be familiar with the absurdities of most television programing geared toward kids.  There are often inconsistencies, or rules in a given universe, that defy logic or sometimes decency.  MLM(IL) and The Fixer are fond of complaining about the "stupidity" of these shows, and I'm just as fond of reminding them that they're not meant for middle-aged curmudgeons; they're intended for the enjoyment of small human beings who haven't lost the ability to find humor in absurd situations or magic in the mundane. 

Pictured:  Future shitty adults.
When I first came across Super Why!, my first reaction was to be kind of excited about it.  It had a fun premise:  storybook characters, or their children, solved spelling and grammar problems using other storybooks.  I thought it was cute that the main character shared a name with my son (different spelling, obviously). I liked that there was an even ratio of boy and girl characters.  The songs are memorable, and my son loves it when I sing them to him out of context.  The jury is out on whether that's a good thing.

Everything seemed great.  Annoying, but great.  And then I made a mistake I make frequently; I thought about it.  At the beginning of every episode, the title character introduces himself to the viewing audience ("Hi! It's me, Whyatt!") and reveals the entrance to Storybook Village.  Then his, I dunno, pager(?) goes off to alert him that one of his friends is having an issue.  Maybe he got a text?  It's easy to brush it off, that maybe Princess Pea or whoever texted him to kvetch about whatever pissy issue she's having.  But then there are episodes where people who aren't directly related to the show are having problems that have nothing to do with Whyatt.  Or, he'll receive a message that a family member is having an issue that NO ONE EVER would text a little boy about.  Big brother Jack (of Jack And The Beanstalk) is pissed about something.  Whyatt is instantly notified.  Mom and Dad are a-sneaking around (planning a surprise party for Whyatt), and he knows.  

At some point it hits you:  Whyatt knows everything that is going on in Storybook Village.  Every move everyone makes, he'll be watching you.

And then, and THEN, everyone drops everything so that he can have an adventure to solve mundane issues.  His family literally sits at a dinner table, waiting for him to decide what he wants to eat, for 20 minutes while he summons his friends - presumably from their own dinners - to solve his "problem".  And that's 20 minutes in t.v. time.  In real life, these adventures probably take about 3-4 hours. 

In Three Billy Goats Gruff, Red Riding Hood wants a piece of cake, but her grandmother won't let her in the kitchen.  Rather than explaining why she can't come in, Grandma just keeps yelling at her to get back outside.  Ok, sometimes adults seem irrational to kids, but name one fucking kid who doesn't question every goddamn thing that an adult wants you to do, or not do.  Red never does.  The solution to her "problem" isn't asking Grandma "why?" or "may I have some cake?".  It's to wait patiently for Whyatt to show up, as he inevitably always does, have an adventure, and "solve" the problem.

What the fuck is going on?  In Bedtime For Bear, Whyatt's mother needs him to come home to put his baby sister Joy down for a nap.  Or does she?  She never asks him, he just knows, via his "Super Duper Computer", and shows up.  And she waits for him to do so.  So she knows too.  She knows that her son has some sort of preternatural knowledge of everything that is happening at any given moment.  She knows his "secret identity" as Super Why.  Everyone knows, because it's not a secret.  Everyone lives their lives, knowing that Whyatt will not only know their problems, but solve them.  But no one has any real problems, so they make a polite fuss over minor inconveniences, and then wait patiently for him to appear.

I've come to two possible conclusions.  The first works in two scenarios, that it's all a fantasy in Whyatt's mind.  Either his real life is so stressful and god-awful that he exists, in his imagination, in a fairytale land where he has the power to solve every problem ever.  Everyone loves him, everyone is patient with him while he's out adventuring, and he has total control over this world.  Basically what I'm saying is Whyatt isn't just "Super Why," he's super abused too.  That's horrific.  The second scenario for this all being a fantasy is that Whyatt is in a coma or is dreaming.  If this is the case, all I want to know is if the final episode will end with Whyatt waking up at the Great Northern Hotel, laughing maniacally while staring at a snow globe.

Holy shit.

The second possibility is probably just as disturbing.  In this setup, Super Why! takes place in the real world, but in some sort of pocket of supernatural phenomena controlled by Whyatt.  Everyone is trapped in this endless story being made up by a little boy.  Hell, his family might not even be his family - just some shmucks that wandered into the wrong town.  He constructs and destroys at will, creating his ideal life with perfect friends and a perfect family.  In doing so, he keeps everyone in a never ending nightmare.

What the fuck, PBS?

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