CNN called Thomas the Tank Engine and Paw Patrol “fascist cartoons” in an article on Friday, days before children around the globe will find toys from the popular shows under the Christmas tree.
In the article, titled “Why kids love ‘fascist’ cartoons like ‘Paw Patrol’ and ‘Thomas,'” CNN contributor Elissa Strauss claimed children are “drawn to worlds in which identities are fixed, order trumps imagination and transgressions are met with routine punishment.”
“This clash between what parents desire for their children and what children desire for themselves is most easily observable in cartoon preferences. So often, the more parents dislike a show, the more their children love it,” Strauss claimed. “‘Thomas,’ the long-running television franchise about a group of working trains chugging away on the Island of Sodor, has been called a ‘premodern corporate-totalitarian dystopia’ in the New Yorker, imperialist and sinister in Slate, and classist, sexist and anti-environmentalist in the Guardian. And yet people —presumably parents — spend $1 billion on ‘Thomas’ merchandise every year.”
“‘Paw Patrol’ is equally polarizing. The show, about a group of rescue dogs led by a boy named Ryder, is a regular source of complaint among parents and of adoration among their kids,” she continued. “Buzzfeed called the show ‘terrible’ and pointed to instances of gender and social inequality that go unchecked on the show. In the Guardian, Ryder is described as a megalomaniac with an implied ‘unstoppable God complex.’ Nevertheless, ‘Paw Patrol’ is ubiquitous. Branded merchandise featuring Ryder and the gang outsells most other television shows, according to recent data from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.”
In her article, Strauss added, however, that though, “It’s tempting as a parent — especially those of us who are aghast at contemporary politics — to be disturbed by the notion of our children tuning in for a regular dose of primary-colored authoritarianism,” it is natural because “children take comfort in the idea that someone is in charge.”
“To them, Ryder isn’t a megalomaniac, and Sir Topham Hatt of ‘Thomas’ isn’t a neocolonial autocrat. They’re just the guys delegating responsibilities to their eager inferiors,” she proclaimed. “And the fact that these leaders, both white males, look like most figures in a position of authority in the real world is not lost on children.”