Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hannah and Dora: An Overview

I’ve got three daughters: Ulcer, Migraine and Stress. Those aren’t their real names, of course, but close enough.

Anyway, my daughters are all fairly young, and like most kids they spend fifteen or sixteen hours in front of the television every day. This means that I get to experience a wide variety of kids’ shows that I normally wouldn’t if I were just watching TV by myself.

Sometimes I’ll wander into the living room and find myself actually watching these shows, if for no other reason than bored curiosity. For instance, I’ve seen just about every episode of “Hannah Montana” and I can honestly say that I’ve never found a schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder to be more engaging. If you’ve never seen the show, allow me to explain:

On “Hannah Montana,” Miley Cyrus plays a normal teenage girl who has a normal teenage life, and in her spare time just happens to be Hannah Montana, America’s biggest pop star.
There’s a catch, though—and this is the basic hook of the show: No one outside of her family knows that she is Hannah Montana. It’s a big secret. They all think that Miley and Hannah are two separate people, even though the only differentiating factor between them is a blonde wig.

Just a freaking wig? That’s it?

Yep. Just a freaking wig. And noooobody can detect the slightest resemblance. I guess it’s like the whole Superman/Clark Kent thing. Fictional people are so distracted by cranial accessories that one can easily live a double life without fear of discovery.

Of course there are also some obvious logistical impossibilities presented by a teenage girl somehow being able to juggle school, friends and extra-curricular functions along with her secret life as a relevant pop star, but hey—it’s Disney. This is the corporation that gave the world an androgynous talking mouse and a verbally incoherent duck who never wears pants. You’ve got to suspend disbelief.*

My middle daughter is only two years old; too young to have developed the discerning palette necessary to become a regular viewer of “Hannah Montana.” She’s still into the animated stuff, and her favorite show is “Dora the Explorer.”

The basic premise of “Dora the Explorer” is fairly simple. A girl named Dora (who doesn’t appear to be any older than eight) spends half an hour walking somewhere. She always has some zany adventures along the way, of course, but the concept of every show is pretty much the same. This leads me to believe that Dora’s parents—whom you almost never see on the show—don’t really like Dora that much, since they allow her to go on these dangerous expeditions all the time. Dora probably has a huge life insurance policy that they want to cash in.

Dora is aided in her daily quest by an unusual cast of characters who are only slightly less boring than she is. Here are short descriptions of a few:

Boots — Boots is a monkey, and also Dora’s best friend. His name is Boots because—wait for it—he wears boots. I’m guessing that Boots considers himself fortunate that he chose not to wear his favorite pair of stiletto heels on the day he met Dora.

Backpack — Backpack is an actual backpack, and another good friend of Dora’s. Every time Dora and Boots find themselves in an unsolvable predicament, Backpack makes some awesome suggestion that fixes everything.
I know that a living, breathing backpack sounds creepy—and it is—but Dora never has any qualms about wearing a sentient being on her shoulder every day. Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to be any limit to the amount of room inside Backpack. I’ve seen Dora pull stuff out of Backpack that has no business being able to fit in there, and I’m talking big stuff, like Chevy Impalas and lumber.

Map — Much like Backpack is an actual backpack, Map is an actual Map. The creativity displayed by the writers on this show astounds me.

Writer 1: “Hey, what should we name the map?”
Writer 2: “How about ‘Map’?”
Writer 1: “Works for me. Let’s go to lunch.”

Swiper — Lastly, we have Swiper, the “antagonist” of the show. Swiper is a weasel who wears a Lone-Ranger-style mask over his eyes, just so there’s absolutely no question that he’s a villain.
Swiper is always trying to ambush Dora and steal stuff from her. When he jumps out, Dora and the gang thwart him by saying, “Swiper, no swiping!” This causes Swiper to immediately give up and walk away. Persistency is not Swiper‘s strong suit.

Normally, Swiper is unsuccessful at taking Dora‘s stuff. Every once in a while, though, he manages to get his hands on something from inside of Backpack. You would think that Swiper would run away and buy heroin at this point, but you’d be wrong. He usually just tosses whatever he stole into the woods.

I’m not sure if there’s a point in stealing something if you’re just going to chuck it into some trees as soon as you get it, but I guess that’s why I’m not a career criminal. After Swiper throws away his ill-gotten bounty, he just stands there while Dora finds it again (which takes all of three seconds).

I fail to see the lesson here, but whatever. I don’t have time to think about it anyway, because “iCarly” is coming on.
Oh, crap. Did I say “iCarly”?
Uh…I meant “CSI.”

* Notice how I made it through that entire section without making a Billy Ray Cyrus/“Achy Breaky Heart” joke. Looks like I’ve finally graduated to “Second-to-Lowest Common Denominator Humor.” Woo-hoo!

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