‘PAW Pa­trol’ re­search has fur fly­ing

Truro Daily News - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in Saltwire publi­ca­tions across At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: @wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky

I’m sure that by now, scores of par­ents have told their chil­dren that there’s go­ing to be no more “PAW Pa­trol” in the house, and that’s that.

King’s Univer­sity Col­lege pro­fes­sor Liam Kennedy told the CBC that his two-year-old son has “now in­ter­nal­ized my feel­ings about the se­ries and knows that we don’t in fact watch ‘PAW Pa­trol’ in our house.”

Be pre­pared for an earth­quake in the kid world.

“PAW Pa­trol,” in case you aren’t fa­mil­iar, is a chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion se­ries where a 10-year-old boy leads a se­ries of com­puter-gen­er­ated pup­pies on im­prob­a­ble res­cue mis­sions. It is, among a cer­tain age set, wildly pop­u­lar – its spinoffs in­clude every­thing from wall­pa­per to gift wrap to stuffed an­i­mals.

And, ap­par­ently, “com­plic­ity in a global cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.”

That’s what Pro­fes­sor Kennedy ar­gues in a new study pub­lished in the jour­nal Crime, Me­dia, Cul­ture.

Here’s the ab­stract, be­cause, wow: “Un­der­tak­ing the case study of the pop­u­lar an­i­mated chil­dren’s se­ries ‘PAW Pa­trol,’ I find that crime is com­mit­ted pre­dom­i­nantly by lit­eral out­siders and that wrong­do­ers are tem­po­rar­ily ware­housed or forced to en­gage in hard labour. In this world, politi­cians are pre­sented as in­com­pe­tent or un­eth­i­cal and the state, ei­ther in­ca­pable of de­liv­er­ing or un­will­ing to pro­vide ba­sic so­cial ser­vices to cit­i­zens, re­lies on the PAW Pa­trol cor­po­ra­tion to in­ves­ti­gate crime, res­cue non-hu­man an­i­mals in states of dis­tress, and re­cy­cle. I ar­gue that the se­ries sug­gests to au­di­ences that we can and should rely on cor­po­ra­tions and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments to com­bat crime and con­serve, with re­spon­si­bi­lized in­di­vid­u­als as­sist­ing in this en­deav­our.”

OK then.

His con­clu­sion? “Ul­ti­mately, PAW Pa­trol echoes core tenets of ne­olib­er­al­ism and en­cour­ages com­plic­ity in a global cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem that (re)pro­duces in­equal­i­ties and causes environmen­tal harms.”

Now, I am “Tele­tub­bies”-year­sold (heck, I’m “Friendly Gi­ant”years-old), so I can tell you that I re­mem­ber when the fact that one of the Tele­tub­bies was pur­ple and had a triangle on his head was sup­pos­edly proof of in­sid­i­ous ho­mo­sex­ual in­cur­sion into chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion.

I also re­mem­ber when a set of au­thors de­lib­er­ately set out to see how eas­ily they could place hoax stud­ies in some schol­arly jour­nals and were suc­cess­ful be­yond any pos­si­ble ex­pec­ta­tion – lead­ing me to al­ways have a nig­gling sense of doubt about the sci­en­tific pub­li­ca­tion process.

But I re­ally won­der if we haven’t reached a point of su­per-anal­y­sis that beg­gars credulity.

Kennedy is a crim­i­nol­ogy pro­fes­sor, and he watched plenty of episodes to form his be­lief that the show is putting for­ward an ar­gu­ment that cor­po­ra­tions are more ef­fec­tive than gov­ern­ments.

That be­ing said, Kennedy is not four years old; hav­ing watched a fair amount of “PAW Pa­trol” my­self, I won­der if four-year-olds would even stop to con­sider that the pup­pies are part of a global cor­po­ra­tion. The dogs don’t ap­pear to be paid, re­spond without cor­po­rate struc­ture, and show lit­tle signs of top-down man­age­ment. As part of a glob­ally con­trolled multi­na­tional, they are re­mark­ably without or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­ven­to­ried as­sets or any­thing re­motely close to a profit-mak­ing method­ol­ogy. They prob­lem-solve on their own and don’t con­sult com­pany man­u­als or re­quest per­mis­sion from fur­ther up the chain.

View­ing the show through an­other lens, you might ar­gue that their at­ti­tude of “to each ac­cord­ing to their needs, and from each ac­cord­ing to their abil­i­ties” is fos­ter­ing a neo-com­mu­nist col­lec­tive as much as any­thing else.

To tell you the truth, I’m more con­cerned about “PAW Pa­trol’s” re­lent­less cheer­i­ness than its pos­si­ble role as a tool in a neo-con brain­wash­ing plot for chil­dren.

When it comes to real threats to chil­dren and their de­vel­op­ment, I’d look far more closely at the at­ten­tion-de­stroy­ing abil­i­ties of us­ing cell­phones and tablets as dis­trac­tion for grow­ing minds than I would be with the lat­est tele­vi­sion of­fer­ing.

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