Earlier this week I watched an episode of “Teletubbies” for the first time. I had heard that they were annoying what with all the repetitive dancing and squeaking and insane maniacal giggling, but I think that the people who told me they were annoying were the same people who have never had to deal with a baby who doesn’t like to be picked up or put down or held or not held or fed or not fed AND THEY DON’T KNOW ANNOYING. Leta sat MESMERIZED for the entire half hour of the show, an entire thirty minutes of no screaming or fussing or raucous squawking, her new way of letting me know that she is furious about this terrible life I have given her, a life of eating and sleeping and having to breathe air all the time.
I sat with her and watched the entire episode because I am the type of mother who wants to know what They are teaching my child. I’m not so much concerned with naughty words or nudity, necessarily, as I plan to park my daughter in front of late night Cinemax and hope for the best. Sex and boobs and bad words don’t really scare me. Some penises scare me, especially the ones that sort of lean to one side or the ones that look more like a scampering desert omnivore than a sexual organ, but scary penises aren’t going to try to fill my daughter’s head with fundamentalist manifestos.
[We only let her watch Cinemax on the weekends, so please close that gaping mouth of yours.]
I am much more scared of agendas than I am four-letter words. Fucks and shits and damns aren’t going to brainwash my daughter, although they might make her unpopular with the other mothers at playgroup. It will be much easier to undo the fucks and shits (“How about we say something else in front of Grandmommie?”), but much harder to undo ideas. Agendas will teach her that her only shot at happiness is God or a large set of tits. Agendas will teach her that women are only supposed to fulfill certain roles, or that men are doomed to be aloof, fumbling idiots. Agendas will teach her that violence is somehow okay.
I didn’t think that the Teletubbies were going to open fire on each other with machine guns, although I would definitely pay money to see that episode. I just didn’t know if there was an underlying message lurking somewhere in their globular oversized bellies, and I want to know what I’m up against. Fortunately the Teletubbies are Godless, soulless, messageless monstrosities who happen to come in a variety of interesting and vibrant colors, and right now that’s exactly what my three month old baby needs.
I know that it is my job as a mother to help my daughter interpret and deal with the messages she’ll confront through all sorts of media, and I don’t plan to do that by shielding her from everything I think will hurt her. Yes, there will be some filtering, but I think it’s more important to teach her how to make her own decisions about things and to provide a framework for why some things are good and why some things are bad. Obviously, the Teletubbies are good because they make babies stop screaming. However, the Teletubbies are not good if she plans to use it as entertainment when she and her college roommate decide to smoke a big doobie they scored off a grad student she met in her philosophy class, and DIDN’T I TEACH YOU RIGHT FROM WRONG, YOUNG LADY? NO TELETUBBIES FOR YOU.