Thursday, February 21, 2013

Teddy Ruxpin & Divorced Dads

I have two sons. One is 20 the other is 5. When my first son was around 5 he ended up with a second-hand book from Teddy Ruxpin adventures. Teddy Ruxpin had been some cheesy toy from the mid-1980s. A battery-operated talking bear. Ronald Reagan's deregulation of advertising had allowed toy companies to create products and essentially market them with accompanying cartoon series (see: "Consuming Kids" for more information.)

When I was in college, some of the other lads in my class came up with putting a pornographic cassette tape inside a Teddy Ruxpin doll, giving him a cavalcade of filthy and erotic phrases to say. I still remember Chad coming up with the closer for the commercial:

"Teddy Ruxpin; he'll take you to your limits, and then he'll take you beyond ...." (And then there was to be a close-up shot of Ruxpin's face with his eyes rolling back inside his head.)

Ahem. Anyway, ... so my first son had this book and then it was still sitting on the shelf when my newest came around. So we read it. (He thinks the scribbles on one page that were there when we got it were done by him!) Then, YouTube comes along and, knowing that Teddy Ruxpin (the toy) isn't a threat anymore, I decide to look for the Teddy Ruxpin cartoon for him to watch. The cartoons were made in the late-1980s to accompany the marketing campaign for the toy.

They're actually okay, if you're not hoping for much. The story lines are coherent, the writing has a few jokes for the parents, enh, there are worse ways to entertain the 3 to 4 year old crowd.

But one thing I noticed is that someone involved in the plotting and writing has a lot of issues with the sufferings of absent fathers. It turns out that old Teddy Ruxpin himself was raised by his mother (and a wonderful job she did!) because his father was an explorer who disappeared when he was a toddler. It turns out his father's memory had been erased after he was captured by the bad guys. He escaped from the Ying Zoo and fled to an island in the middle of Leekee Lake where he's referred to by the locals as a mysterious hermit. (He hides from other creatures and they only see him occasionally.) Him and Teddy end up together and develop a friendship before either of them figure out their real relationship to each other.

Eventually, he gets his memory back. The family is reunited and there are celebratory songs sung about "Teddy and his dad."

That storyline on its own wouldn't have made me think about the subtext of divorced dads who miss their kids. But, combined with the story of Jack W. Tweeg (Teddy's more bumbling nemesis) it's kinda hard to miss.

Jack W. Tweeg is a half-Troll half-Grunge who lives in a tower with his monstrous henchmen (Bounders) and who is trying to perfect a futile recipe to turn buttermilk into gold. He is also jealous of the genuine inventor Newton Gimmik and tries to steal his plans and his discoveries. Here's the thing; Tweeg's mother is the troll side of him. She kicked out Tweeg's surf-grunge father when Tweeg was just an infant. Tweeg is pathetically devoted to trying to please his mother by being evil and rotten (as she is). It's his mother who signs him up for M.A.V.O. (the "Monsters and Villains Organization) which ends up causing him no end of trouble as they have onerous membership dues and compel their members to lie, cheat and steal in a bigger way than Tweeg is capable of doing.

When Tweeg meets his surf-Grunge (as in a surfing champion) father, he begins to feel relaxed for the first time in his life. His father teaches him to surf and Tweeg (after some initial mistakes) turns out to finally have a talent for something, and, even better, a talent for something that isn't scuzzy. But when Tweeg sees that his father has a collection of gold coins, his mother's training kicks in and he tries to steal it. He despises himself for what he's doing and then his father catches him. Tweeg ashamedly gives it back and slinks away. His father muses about how he's not mad but disappointed and how he would have simply given him the gold if he'd only been asked. He didn't care about it. There's a chance that he could call Tweeg back but he either waits a little too late or Tweeg simply can't face him anymore.

It's interesting watching this adult subtext in this show for wee tykes.

What's the point of this post? None. I blog because I'm a narcissist.


Owen Gray said...

Mothers are irreplaceable, thwap. But so are fathers. Just ask Barack Obama.

thwap said...

Obama's a piece of shit. I wouldn't ask him anything.