This post has a small amount of strong language. I feel like I’ve earned it.
If you’re not already familiar with Disney’s Little Einsteins series, that’s no reason for you to come here and rub it in…
As I’ve established previously for readers, I have the privilege to care for an awesome little boy as I run a software development business from my home. To say I have help from my wife, a nighttime hospitalist, and Nana (her mother) is an understatement, but you’ll see what I mean when I tell you I’m deeply invested in my son’s interests, as well as his development during these first two years.
Despite a setup you might rightly call unconventional, we’ve hit a certain stride that we’re very pleased with. Will is still well under two years of age and knows nearly the entire alphabet (both reciting and identifying a good 22 of the letters accurately) and can also just about count to ten–closer to 12 now that Nana brought him his first toy clock. There’s been no shortage of trial and error from us first-time parents, but our little family is making it work.
All except for the rocket-shaped Trojan horse full of bullcrap known as Disney’s Little Einsteins. That’s harsh, I know, but let’s really break it down for a few minutes.
Like so many witless parents before me, I looked to Netflix to aid me in comforting a new baby with any manner of brightly colored children’s entertainment it saw fit. Little Einsteins was a no-brainer because it was the first thing in the list that wasn’t SpongeBob SquarePants. I congratulated myself for identifying such a wholesome learning aid for my child and accepted approving nods from all who entered the home.
The Little Einsteins, as I gradually learned, are a group of animated children ranging from ages three to six, so named, as they put it, “because we’re smart. Like Einstein.” Over the course of some 60 “missions” over two seasons, they attempt to introduce real kids to classical music and art, as well as some degree of problem solving. On the surface, it appears to have clever stories, creative use of the arts, and some kind of unrivaled soothing effect on children. But as the days wore on, we found ourselves in a prison of our own design.
Let’s start with what makes Little Einsteins obnoxious. You can’t go wrong with classical music, right? You can if someone adds crappy lyrics to four measures of one of your favorite pieces and sings it about 20 times in half an hour. That person is Annie, youngest of the Einsteins and vocalist extraordinaire. Destroyer of masterpieces. Oh, and we realized at some point they’re using most of the songs in multiple episodes.
“Hey I thought this one was about being best friends.”
“No. In this episode it’s the same song but it’s about smiling.”
Meanwhile on the show:
Annie:Look-look-look! The friendship song is making the shark be friendly!
Me: Nope! Everyone ignore that! Ineffective. Do not commit to memory.
That makes a decent segue into what actually makes the show ridiculous.
There’s an actual Little Einsteins video game that you can still find at eBay if you have no respect for yourself
Where to start…a good majority of the “problems” on the show are about a rocket ship that has trouble getting over obstacles 1.) even though it can fly, and 2.) it could also veer around. Fine. One episode comes to mind in which real footage of a mother duck swam in front of her eight ducklings. The kids said there were seven ducklings because one accidentally followed the Einsteins. They used the exact same footage later in the episode, celebrating that now all eight were following their mommy. That’s awesome for kids that are learning how to count. Super helpful.
Rocket can’t fly without all the kids on screen plus my child at home carrying out a series of ridiculous gestures which all seem to contribute power to the main engines. It seems odd that this contraption was engineered to run using stored energy generated by a full crew plus one apparently. Unless one child has to fly Rocket alone, in which case Rocket skips the BS and takes to the sky immediately.
How about Leo’s line “What can I tell you? I have a great baton.” It struck me as a bizarre attempt to reward the parents with a nudge-nudge joke for watching along, but it was just weird and off-putting in execution. In fact a few things on the show get a little awkward when you factor in that the kids all communicate like reasonably intelligent adults. When June dances with Rocket and plants a kiss on him in the glass slipper episode my skin crawled. I can’t entirely explain it.
I could go on, but let’s talk about the effect that just watching the show has on my son. My poor wife comes home from working all night excited to see her boy and if this show is on–and it’s the only one he watches, ever–she gets nothing out of him. It’s not just her, of course, Daddy becomes a piece of furniture at best when the cartoon kids are on. After every three episodes, Nana either becomes the greatest hero or the most deplorable villain of our time.
Yes, I know as a parent I can prevent all this. It’s just that we had no idea he would still have an interest in this garbage when he was old enough to want things that aren’t strictly keeping him alive.
My most recent attempt at freedom was a gradual phase-out plan in which I’d transition my son to the less potent drug, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, another Disney series using almost an identical formula but with an all-star cast I won’t learn to hate for at least another year. Thomas and Friends have become acquaintances at best. Sesame Street apparently isn’t a nice enough neighborhood. We will blast off with the Einsteins for all of our days until they pat and clap on our graves.