Want to hear me go off on a little rant? You DO? Well good, because something I saw this morning really hit a nerve, and…*deep sigh*… I have to share my feelings.
So here’s the thing. I’m not against letting my kids, 6.5 and almost 3, watch TV. I do, however, try to be careful about what I let them watch. Maybe I’m a little too careful sometimes, but I know my kids and the kinds of things they will imitate, and yeah…they’re little mimics. Generally, I find the early morning animated shows on The Disney Channel to be fine. Most of them are pretty good about teaching social skills: how to be a good friend, how to be polite, how not to be a sore loser, etc. Good stuff to know! I have a tendency to zone out during these shows while I drink my coffee and try to wake my groggy self up for the day. Besides, I’ve seen most of them many times, and come on! They’re Disney! Not much to worry about there, right?
Henry Hugglemonster is a newer show. It’s cute and centers around a town full of colorful monsters who are nice to each other and get along, and there’s harmony, and fun, and roaring – but cute roaring – and blah, blah, blah, you get it. Pretty innocuous. But I’m glad I was paying closer attention this morning, because today’s episode basically said this:
“Hey everybody! Don’t worry about it when someone copies your work, because copying is totally fine.”
So here’s how it all goes down:
Henry Hugglemonster builds a race car out of spare parts for his scouting group’s race so he can earn his racing badge. Another monster scout watches him, and you know what he does? He makes his own car exactly like Henry’s. He even gives it the same name. Understandably, Henry gets angry. He goes storming off. But then he thinks about it for a minute. He realizes that the other monster did what he did because he really likes Henry’s car.
Now at this point in the story, the writers have the perfect opportunity to teach the audience that, despite the saying “imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery” (Charles Caleb Colton), it’s 1) wrong to copy, and 2) we are all creative individuals, and it’s much more satisfying to come up with your own work.
Unfortunately, the writers of the show went a different direction. Henry tells himself that he is a nice monster, and he should therefore be nice to the monster that copied him (ok yes, true, we should always strive to be nice). So he tells Monsieur Copycat that, you know what? It’s ok, and it actually makes him feel really good and, hey! They should both paint the same color stripes on their cars as well so they can still look exactly the same! I’ll give it to the writers of the show that they did, at least, have the other monster decide to use a different color than Henry for his stripes… but still.
Then they all cheerfully take their cars on the race and (spoilers!) Henry wins. Woohoo!
So why did I find this episode so irritating? Is it really a big deal? Yes. Yes it is. Because it’s basically dismissing plagiarism. It’s saying that a person who is plagiarized should be flattered, because it means their work is really good. I’ve also heard this argument used in defense of pirating: “Why you mad, bro? I stole your stuff because I LIKE it! This should make you HAPPY!”
The other part about this episode that really gets to me is how it’s also sending the message that, by being angry about his work being copied, Henry Hugglemonster isn’t being nice. He shouldn’t be angry, even when he’s been wronged, because that would mean he’s not a nice kid …er, monster.
It’s not wrong to get angry, kids. It’s wrong when you express your anger inappropriately. Big difference.
Am I reading too much into a children’s program? I don’t think so. I mean, I’m sure the delivered message was not the one intended. I’m sure the show wasn’t written with the purpose of teaching kids that plagiarism is ok. But that’s the message that comes through. Kids pick up on these things so easily.
And that’s why mine will no longer be watching this show.