It's Good Enough for Me

By Nussbaum, Emily | The New Yorker, February 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

It's Good Enough for Me


Nussbaum, Emily, The New Yorker


When children's television comes up in conversation, everyone knows the drill. Begin with the sinister idiom "screen time." To show you're no prig, make a warm remark about "Sesame Street." Name your favorite Muppet. (I suggest Beaker or the Swedish chef.) Then begin the lament, and lay it on thick, with comparisons to candy and drugs. Decry the trend of marketing to newborns, the co-branded toys, the childhood obesity, the dwindling attention spans, the fate of the picture book, the wasted hours the American child spends in front of the tube (three a day, on average!), and all those selfish, shower-taking parents who use TV as a babysitter.

For six decades, people have been wringing their hands with worry, echoing panics about the corrupting influence of comic books and rock music. Not to mention radio: in 1936, the educator Azriel Eisenberg warned that parents "cannot lock out this intruder because it has gained an invincible hold of their children." Over the years, such rhetoric has shifted from the moral to the neural, with spiritual anxieties now expressed in the fear that young kids will grow addicted to dopamine squirts, their brains ruined rather than their souls.

I'm hardly immune to such concerns; like many parents, I limit my children's Tivo time. (Except for weekend mornings. I'm not a saint.) But, as a critic, I'd argue that it's time to recognize what this exhausting, rancorous debate has obscured: a quiet renaissance among children's shows, many of them innovative in ways that parallel the simultaneous rise of great scripted television for adults. The best of these shows are as visually thrilling as they are well constructed. And, like the top dramas for adults, they harness to bold new ends the genre most deeply associated with episodic television's strengthsthe formulaic procedural, familiar to viewers from series like "Law & Order."

Until 2005, I had no idea that such shows existed: if you don't have young children, it's easy to condescend to the form. Then, as a new parent, I dutifully followed the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelinesno TV until two. I did so in the manner of other parents I knew, which is to say with my first child. By 2007, when I was juggling a two-year-old and a newborn, a little TV watching in the pre-early morning seemed pretty appealing. And it was then, rattled by sleep deprivation, that I discovered Miffy.

"Miffy and Friends" is a Claymation series based on the children's books by the Dutch artist Dick Bruna, who created the character in 1955. The show presented a world so stunningly peaceful that I dreamed of entering it myself. It was drawn in the minimalist, mouthless style of "Hello Kitty." (The brand sued the owner of the popular Japanese character for ripping off Bruna's style; the two sides recently settled in court.) Its heroine lived with her animal friends in an idyllic Dutch town, but none of them spoke; their small dramas were narrated in voice-over. The pace was slow. The colorsred, blue, and yellowwere brilliant. It was like a shelter magazine for toddlers. The mood was so lulling that when, in one sequence, Miffy gave her broken toy a small, frustrated kick, my husband was startled. Yet, meditative as the show was, Miffy was a jolt to my expectations. This was children's TV? Why was it so beautiful?

Like most parents of my generation, I watched plenty of television as a child, although my choices were comparatively narrow: there were just three networks, plus PBS. This was the seventies, the heyday of "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company," shows created by Joan Ganz Cooney and her team of progressive researchers at the Children's Television Workshop, whose goal, according to "Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street," by Michael Davis, was to "master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them." (Almost everyone behind breakthrough children's shows had a do-gooder's passion to redeem the dirty medium. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

It's Good Enough for Me
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.