I am the parent of a two year old, darling little boy named Felix. Like many two year old boys he is obsessed with cars, trucks, trains and any other vehicle. As we have netflix streaming as our only source of television he gets to watch a lot of specials and series that aren't regularly shown on network television. And it gives us the ability to become familiar with the theme of each episode of each show that he watches. Recently we came across a series of shorts from the 'Cars' franchise labeled "Mater's Tall Tales". When I sat down with him to watch it for the first time I was horrified and disgusted by what I found. Follow me below the fold to find out why.
The basic premise of the show is fairly simple. Mater and Lightning McQueen are hanging out somewhere, and Mater makes an outlandish claim that leads into a story of a time when he was "A Firefighter, A Matador, A Pro Wrestler, etc." The content of these tales made me extremely uncomfortable and I can assure you it's something he's never watching again.
In each and every story that Mater tells there are a few key elements.
1. Mater does something heroic and or really cool, and winds up saving Lightning McQueen and or making a fool of him
2. Mater as the epitome of cool in these stories has a gaggle of 'groupie' cars that swoon over him. None of these groupies are given lines and simply serve as objects that showcase just how cool Mater is
3. Despite the fact that the tales are completely outlandish each and every one ends with proof that Mater is in fact telling the truth.
I will give you my least favorite of the shorts as an example.
In the beginning "Rescue Squad Mater", Mater and McQueen are hanging out when a fire engine races by. Mater tells McQueen that he used to be a fire engine, which segues into the story.
As we see Mater all shined up and with a fire-hose nozzle in place of his tow hook the alarm goes off and he is told that the old gasoline and match factory is aflame. He rushes to the scene and begins to expertly put out the fire. There is then a quick cut to two coupe cars with female features, they are spotted like dalmatians and each wears a hat that declares "Fire Squad Mater: Official Groupies". The only line they are given is a giggle "Bow Wow" as Mater shows his firefighting prowess. The story continues to show that Lightning McQueen is trapped in the building. Mater rescues him and rushes him to the hospital. Once there Mater shows up in the operating room dressed as a doctor. He says "Hello Ladies" to two female cars done up in scrub blue and masks, they giggle and make eyes at him. McQueen says disbelievingly "You're a doctor too?" To which Mater replies. "Yep, got my Phd (cut to a diploma on the wall), My MD (cut to another diploma) My STP (cut to some toilet paper on a hanger) and My GTO (cut to a 'female' car who says in a seductive voice "Hello... Doctor!"
As the story ends with Mater claiming he saved McQueens life, McQueen starts arguing that no he didn't. Cutting off the argument, the afore seen GTO rolls by again stating "Heloooo doctor" at which point Mater smugly states "did so" and rolls after her, presumably for some vehicular sexy-times.
Every single story runs like this. The only lines female characters get is to ooh and aah over how manly and sexy this tow truck is (with one exception being the film noir parody where two female cars get a couple lines each and names, of course the only purpose of said lines is to hit on Mater and/or beg for his help).
Now this cartoon is of course, rated E. Apparently the people at Pixar saw no problem with a show that our children both male and female will watch that tells them women are only good for two things: Decoration, and praising or servicing the heroic men around them.
Now you could say that this is just one cartoon program. That it's an isolated thing easily avoided. But I'm really just using this as an example of the sort of programming (in both senses of the word) that our kids are subjected to. Is it any wonder that when little boys are raised to believe women are only there for them and have no wants, needs, or feeling of their own that they then grow up into men who believe the same thing?
It's enough to make you wonder.