Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto: neglect-o-vision and me

Aside: Does everyone have the flu? I can’t believe that no one commented on my child’s uncanny resemblance to Ricky Martin (or has commented on much else recently). Am I boring you? Has the novelty worn off already? Fickleness thy name is my peeps.

Back to today’s post – the joys of neglect-o-vision (I wish could claim the coinage of this term, but I actually heard it on TV a few months ago).

First let me say this - I blame Shannon (of the boy variety). He and his lovely wife purchased a big box of bath toys for Daniel (for Christmas I believe). Inside the tub o’ toys was a free DVD. The DVD is of an animated children’s series called “Rolie Polie Olie.” When Daniel was about 7 months old we noticed that he had started noticing the TV. He would watch it for a minute or two if something simple was on (it had to be something of high contrast like hockey or certain commercials) and then he would move on. On a lark one day shortly after this, I thought I would pop in the Rolie Polie Olie DVD and see what happened. I knew there were all kinds of TV shows and DVDs (Baby Einstein for example) aimed at babies and although I hadn’t tried any of them, I had heard from other parents that they were a godsend. The children’s librarian in me, though, had no interest in purposely starting Daniel on TV this young. He loved his board books and toys and was easily entertained. I didn’t really care if the TV was on in the background while he was doing his other things because he didn’t really get involved – he hardly noticed it. Remember, I initially popped the Rolie Polie Olie DVD in as a lark – an experiment of sorts to see how he would react. OK – it was an afternoon where Daniel was being quite grumpy and irritable, but I really wasn’t expecting what happened. I just wasn’t prepared for what would happen. . . .


My little 71/2 month old (at that time) loved the DVD. He’s over 10 months old now and loves it just as much, if not more, than those first times. He has an attention span for it that he is just not supposed to be capable of having. He can watch half an hour, easily . . . and he is really watching it. He’s engrossed by it. He laughs at parts. He jumps up and down when he is excited. He knows what’s coming when I pop the DVD in and natters and whines until it starts playing.


He loves it so much that we have to use it sparingly. It is a godsend, but I am limiting him to about 45 minutes a day. Now that he is so mobile it is great to be able to pop him in his saucer with Rolie and be able to do dishes or laundry or eat a meal or whatever while he is ecstatic over being allowed to watch his program. But it is more than a little disturbing. The pictures of Daniel in this post were taken while he was recently watching what we now call his “crack.”

The weird thing is that this program is aimed at a much older age group - definitely upper preschool and early elementary. I console myself with the fact that it’s based on a book and that the creator, William Joyce, is a well-known children’s author. I presume the appeal is the high contrast colours, simple animation and fairly slow movement, but it’s so hard to tell. I actually tried some Baby Einsteins recently and D Jr. has no interest in them whatsoever. The only thing he has this kind of attention span for is Rolie Polie Olie.

For the most part the show is cute and innocent enough. The show takes place on another planet inhabited entirely by robots. The inhabitants of this planet are humanoid robots, but everything on the planet is robotic and alive (i.e. the house is called “Housey” and has a face, the couch is called - wait for it - “Couchy” and has a face). The humanoid robots speak in a manner that is a combination of beatnik and Ned Flanders (rhyming, sing-song and annoying). The Polies are the main characters - they are a robot family and the son, Olie Polie, is the show's title character. The other characters in the family are Olie’s parents, Pappy Polie (grandpa), Zowie Polie (sister), Spot the dog, and Uncle Gizmo. The Polies and most of the robots on this planet are made up of curves, circles, and spheres.

Dustin and I have taken to deconstructing RPO lately because it is normally the soundtrack of our meals together. We think that the whole show is actually a period piece taking place circa 1964. The Polies are a traditional “Leave it to Beaver” type of family. Mom is clearly about to snap and is stifled by her domestic routine. All Mom does is bake and clean and her speech is limited to exclamations of shock and giggles (I’m not so happy about this message!!). Dad spends a lot of time in the garage. Grandpa Pappy is a feeb. Uncle Gizmo is the most disturbing character – he looks and speaks like Elvis. He has a robot pompadour and – I find this especially creepy – has robot chest hair. Once we even saw his ass crack. I think Olie’s mom and Uncle Gizmo are knocking robo-boots. I sense their sexual tension all the time – let’s just say Olie’s dad does not have chest hair.

Olie’s best friend is Billy Bevel. The Bevels are newcomers to the planet – they’re composed of angles, rectangles and squares. Therefore, they don’t quite fit in to the spherical world. A recurring message of the show is that “different is the same” “different is good” “square is just as good as round” etc. For example, one song goes like this, “if you’re round, you’re round/if you’re’ square, you’re square/ just put your feet right up in the air” (they’re singing about dancing, you perverts!)

The Bevels are definitely beatniks. They are tres cool in their dress and speech. Mrs. Bevel appears to be a working mom – as such her baby, Binky Bevel (do you want to kill yourself, yet?), seems to spend an awful lot of time at the Polies.

Yup – we get to watch this same program over and over again. As you can see, it can drive you crazy. I have started borrowing other Rolie Polie Olie DVDs from the library because I just can’t stand hearing the same DVD over and over again. I even bought 2 for Daniel’s upcoming birthday – we need the variety. The additional DVDs, though, have kind of made things worse because now that we now know even more about the Polies and their crew, we can deconstruct on a whole new level.

I never thought that I would be the kind of parent who plops her child in front of neglect-o-vision once or twice a day. But a highly mobile baby with slightly maniacal tendencies and no concept of danger is a recipe for injury (Daniel’s) and insanity (mine). Yes, I never thought I would use a crutch like this, but hot damn it makes life so much easier it’s just hard to feel guilty.

Images come from the book, Rolie Polie Olie by William Joyce (ISBN: 0060271639 , Harper Collins Canada)


At 2:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

#1 - I HAVE been sick for the past few days.

#2 - I am not a fan of Ricky Martin and hopefully never will be, but he is a handsome man and if Daniel grows up to look like him you can't complain. Ricky Martin is far better looking than De Niro ever was or will be.

#3 - On there is the following comment from Rolie Polie Olie watcher " My son is 2 years old, and this is his favorite show. I know that when I sit him down in his chair to watch this, he will not move and I can get chores done during this half hour. He wakes up asking for Olie, Olie! I almost wish it was on all day! "

Sounds an awful lot like Daniel. I have seen Daniel watch the show and he is certainly enthralled - the other day at our place he tried to reach into the TV to play with/grab Rolie.

#4 - I enjoyed the deconstruction - although when we were watching the show with Daniel I found Uncle Elvis guy to be more creepy and the kind of man that shouldn't be alone with Rolie and his pals. I don't think he is interested in Mum is all I am saying.

At 2:53 PM , Blogger Momily said...

First, De Niro was and is a handsome man - no ifs, ands or buts. Yes, Ricky Martin is more "traditionally" handsome, but give me De Niro any day of the week over RM (and not just because he's straight and RM, well, not so much!)

Second, you should be aware of the fact that our mother also recently picked up a rocker - however hers was more of the Motley Crue than Elvis variety.

At 5:12 AM , Blogger Luke said...

At the tender age of three months, Quinn is Baby Einsteins number one fan. She will fuss and cry and prevent us from doing anything EXCEPT if Baby Einstein is one. She is completely mesmerized by it, but hasn't reached the stage yet where she howls if we turn it off. She is watching this as I type this. Baby Einstein is the reason I am able to go on the computer, eat breakfast, etc.

My 14 year old son is visiting from Edmonton this week, and he put it well when he said "Well, at least Baby Einstein will make Quinn smart. Most TV will make her stupid." This was just the kind of validation we needed. How could puppet dancing around to classical music do anything but build a genius?

Carla and I were thinking of making Baby Einstein knockoffs called Baby Zappa and Baby Hendrix. They would feature similar images, but the music would be Zappa and Hendrix instead of Beethoven and Mozart. We would target them the children of acid heads. The acid heads could spend hours of quality time with their children.


PS - I have started a blog with pictures of Quinn and my own ramblings

At 8:59 AM , Blogger Momily said...

I love this line "How could a puppet dancing around to classical music do anything but build genius?"

Can we please assume that the same applies to robots?

I think you're onto something with Baby Zappa, etc. I see a whole line - Baby Pixies, Baby Sex Pistols and for those that are more politically minded Baby Castro, Baby Chavez, and Baby People's Republic


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