In comparing children’s programs for their use of cultural diversity I watched several segments of Rugrats, Winnie the Pooh, and Out of the Box. The animated programs, Rugrats and Winnie the Pooh, dealt with diversity in much the same way. Out of the Box, however, was put together on a different level.
The Rugrats is a delightful cartoon about a group of adventurous babies that are always getting into one thing or the other. The baby’s personalities are all quite different and ones weakness is offset by another ones strengths. Tommy, a very intelligent, articulate, courageous, and compassionate one year old is the leader of the group. His best friend Chuckie is a neurotic two-year-old who is afraid of his own shadow! Phil and Lil, the twins from next door, look alike, think alike, and would follow Tommy Pickles to the ends of the earth. They love the adventures, the messier and scarier the better! They are the lovers of mud-pies, bugs, and moldy things. Tommy’s older cousin, Angelica, rounds out the group as the spoiled rotten princess who bullies the babies and manipulates the adults. Angelica has one friend, other than the babies, a black girl her age named Susie who she is always in competition with. The adults in the show represent even more diverse groups. Tommy’s Dad, Stu, is an absent-minded toy inventor who loves his son dearly but tends to let his preoccupation with his inventions rule his world. His wife, Didi, is your classic, practical, overprotective mother that is on a quest to be the world’s most perfect mother. She, however, is completely unaware of just how much Tommy knows and understands. Tommy’s Uncle Drew is a boring investment banker that dotes on Angelica and seriously believes that she is an angel. Aunt Charlotte, on the other hand, is the professional corporate type workaholic and assuages her guilt by lavishing Angelica with undeserved gifts. Betty Deville, Didi’s best friend and the twin’s mother, is a loud, big, and friendly woman who lives for her twins. Her husband, Howard, is the quiet techno-nerd type that hangs in the background. Chuckie’s Dad, Chaz (Charles Sr.) Finster is a whiny, neurotic worrier and a single parent. After a few seconds with Chaz it’s obvious where Chuckie gets his personality. Last, but certainly not least, there’s Stu’s and Drew’s Dad and Tommy’s Grandpa. Grandpa is the cantankerous old geezer with a soft spot for his grandson. He tends to over indulge the babies and lives somewhere between the adult and Rugrat world.
The second animated show, Winnie the Pooh, also has a cast of diverse characters. There’s Pooh, a wonderful bear with a huge heart and a little brain. He has a happy and helpful nature and an innocence that makes him a very straightforward character. Pooh bear’s best friend is Piglet. He’s portrayed as a small a fearful type but is actually the most courageous creature in the 100-Acre Wood. Piglet can face anything with his friend Pooh at his side. Next there is Eeyore my personal favorite. Eeyore is a gloomy-Gus donkey that pretends not to care what anyone thinks. He’s the group’s resident pessimist who secretly loves when his friends appreciate him. Tigger is the bouncy, one of a kind Tiger that has a wonderful self-image and is brimming with enthusiasm. The last main character is Rabbit. Rabbit is the solid citizen that always has a plan for something or other, usually to teach Tigger some kind of lesson. He loves nothing more than to tend his garden and keep everyone in order, although Tigger usually is in his way!
Both Rugrats and Winnie the Pooh are geared for young children. They do, however, appeal to the older segment of children. Discriminations and prejudices about race and ethnic groups are not openly portrayed and addressed they are, however, present. In my opinion the interaction of the characters deal with different types of diversity every day. Whether it’s the way in which the characters interact with each other or the choices they make when they find themselves faced with something new and different. I don’t believe that this type of programming would confuse a child because it isn’t dealing with prejudices on a conscious level. I do think that both programs teach our children that everyone is different and being different is OK and even good. Everyone is very different but everyone is treated equally and fairly in all instances.
Out of the Box is an entirely different kind of children’s program. A black man and an oriental woman, who are taking care of a group of children daily, host the show. Together, with the children, they have built an elaborate clubhouse out of many different kinds of boxes. The children are of different races. There is Cece, Aleisha, and Dane who are black, Nicholas, who is oriental, and Brandon and Jill who are white. The show deals with different kinds of diversity every day, whether it’s directly related to race or simply the differences in the many kinds of boxes that they used to build the clubhouse. Like the animated shows the program shows all of the children and the adults interacting together in harmony.
I’m not entirely sure that I have watched enough of these programs to make a sound decision on their daily content. Although, I have watched many episodes of all three with either my daughter or granddaughter. My opinion is that all three programs have good content for children. In the animated ones the characters are almost always dealing with some kind of diversity, including the differences between each other. The situations are handled in such a way to teach our children that regardless of whether we are young or old, male or female, cheerful or sad, we all are the same inside and that any kind of problem can be solved if we all work together to resolve it. Out of the Box is one of my three-year-old granddaughter’s favorite shows and if you ask her, she doesn’t really see a difference in the children. In her opinion, being different is part of what her world is all about.