Readers — This look at cartoon culture comes to us from Dressler Parsons, a content writer at the Arizona-based SAT prep outfit,Â Â Student-Tutor.Â I haven’t seen this cartoon but it does sound great! – L
Phineas & Ferb & Fighting the Urge to Helicopter, by Dressler Parsons
It seems like the cartoons and kids’ shows that seep into societyÂ shoot downÂ Free-Range Parenting. Â I mean, stereotypically, unsupervised Â kids run wild and wreak havoc. As far parents, if they’re evenÂ introduced,Â they’re usually bumbling, incompetent dodos.
But a show has popped up that challenges the status quo–“Phineas and Ferb,” a Disney Channel cartoon.
Quick and clever, this show could start to change the way we think about the “dangers” of letting kids loose and the equally misguided belief that Free-Range Parenting isÂ the same as neglect.
â€œI Know What Weâ€™re Gonna Do Todayâ€â€”A Cartoonish Case for Free Range Parenting
Okay, okay. Â Advice from a cartoon?Â Arenâ€™t these the same shows where people/animals/sponges frequently (read:Â always) survive explosions or falls from skyscrapers?
Hush. Â Phineas and Â Ferb are worth a look because they celebrate innovation, imagination and independence. How?
1)Â For once, the parents arenâ€™t stupid or neglectful.
The show covers Phineas and Ferbâ€™s (ridiculously long!) 104-day summer vacation, wherein their parents frequently leave them to their own devicesâ€”the â€œhave fun, be safeâ€ implied. And hereâ€™s a noveltyâ€”theyâ€™re smart, level-headed, andÂ have first names.
Lawrence (the dad) leaves daily for his antique-dealing job, and Linda (the mom) often expands her world via cooking classes, or playing keyboard with her free-form jazz band.
Whenever the parents return, Linda makes snacks for the boys and their friends. Which, okay, is a little 1950â€™s-esque, but thatâ€™s for another conversation.Â The point is that even though she’s Free-Range, sheÂ cares. It’s not either/or!
2)Â Other adults in the show treat Phineas and Ferb like capable human beings.
Hereâ€™s the format:Â Phineas and Ferb wake up.Â Something inspires them.Â Phineas turns to the oft-mute Ferb.Â He says, â€œFerb, I know what weâ€™re gonna do today.â€
Cue the building of crazy contraptionsâ€”or accomplishing seemingly impossible feats, like brilliantly marketing a new toy that does â€œnothingâ€ (and encourages creativity).
And they invariably come in contact with adults who say things like, â€œArenâ€™t you a littleÂ youngÂ to be building the worldâ€™s largest funhouse?â€
Phineas answers, â€œYes.Â Yes I am.â€
Thatâ€™s that. Â Theyâ€™re left to do their thing, and they succeed wildly.Â (â€œThatâ€™s because itâ€™s a cartoon!â€Â Shh.)
3)Â In fact, the only person whoâ€™s unnerved by their freedom is their high-strung older sister Candace.
And the show rails against her reaction.
In the episode â€œPhineas and Ferb Get Busted!â€, Candace intercepts her mom at the store and drags her to a Phineas-and-Ferb-built rollercoaster.Â LindaÂ flips out.Â
In a fit of worry, she ships the boys to a boot camp that aims to destroy their â€œunacceptable levels of creativity, imagination, and unbridled enthusiasm.â€Â Theyâ€™re brainwashed into safety-centered robots. They wonâ€™t even break out of the boot camp when Candace comes to rescue them, because itâ€™s â€œagainst the rules.â€
Of course, it turns out to be Candaceâ€™s bad dream, and she wakes up to the error of her overprotective ways.
And viewers just may, too! – D.P.