Monday, 23 January 2017

A theory about Paw Patrol, from a parent who has been subjected to it a few too many times

My 3 1/2 year old son and I frequently enjoy a bit of bonding time, and our recent trip to Australia provided us with the perfect opportunity when we both came down with gastroenteritis within hours of each other. As my wife and the 20 month old left for some mother-daughter time at the swimming pool, we lay on our respective couches, bowls and water bottles close at hand, and watched hours upon hours of the Nickelodeon Kids Channel. From this experience, I can report many things:

1. Parenting a sick child is harder when you're struggling to keep down your own stomach contents.
2. Sam the temporary Yellow Wiggle has found meaningful employment since his cruel axing when Greg briefly returned to the band in 2013.
3. Hi-5 are more multi-talented than I had previously given them credit for in my opinion of them as a knock-off Wiggles.
4. Despite 20+ years of practice, Alvin and the Chipmunks still have horrible singing voices.
5. Preschoolers have little understanding of what 'just take small sips so it doesn't come straight back up' actually means.

I also learned a helluva lot more about the Paw Patrol than I had previously known. Chief amongst my learnings was that local nautical enthusiast Captain Turbot is almost certainly the absent father of Fireman Sam's Norman Price: the absent minded disaster-prone nature, the myopia, it all adds up. I know some feel Sam himself must be Norman's dad, but would a responsible pillar of society who's personal motto is 'safety first' really have accidentally begat such a little shit?

Such an open-shut paternity case it doesn't even need a Jeremy Kyle episode

Except, in all likelihood, Captain Turbot probably isn't Norman Price's long lost father, because my second realisation was that none of the happenings in Paw Patrol are likely to be real. A clue to this is that the show centres around a group of six talking, driving puppies. We know that it is possible to teach dogs to drive: there's televisual evidence that John Campbell managed that in the first of his miracles on the path to Twitter Sainthood. (His second miracle, of course, was uniting the Internet in mild dislike of Guy Williams, after Guy stole his 7pm weekday TV3 time slot, #ThanksALotGuy). But to teach them to talk as well? I'm not sure even JC could manage that.

No, instead, the goings on that Paw Patrol depict are the creation of the fevered imagination of lonely Adventure Bay adolescent Ryder. It's not just the talking dogs that give this away, either... In what reality would the mayor of a humming city not only rely on a youthful tween and his six canine pals to keep the town from falling into chaos, but also carry around a pet chicken in her purse everywhere she goes? Indeed, Mayor Goodway is so disorganised, so prone to comical gaffes, it is a wonder she got elected in the first place. Though to be fair, Invercargill do keep electing Tim Shadbolt.

How else, but through the power of imagination, would a 11,12 at most year old be able to afford a fully pimped out tower base, with high tech vehicles, and a spiral slide around the outside? A slide! Not a standard emergency exit or chute, but a fairground attraction! And where is the operating budget coming from when the type of emergencies dealt with include helping baby turtles cross the road, or assisting geese on their migration? Sure, occasionally the squad may perform a lucrative out-of-hours plumbing job if the local swimming pool has maintenance issues, though these are few and far between. And even when an emergency like a potential train derailment is on the cards, the adolescent mind can think  of stakes no higher than the possibility of the latest Pup Pup Boogie not being delivered on time.

But is Ryder's over-active imagination really a bad thing? He's clearly lonely, without any other children his age. Sure, there's Alex Porter, the apparently parentless impressionable young lad under the care of his grandfather. Alex is half Ryder's age, and would surely be easily convinced to play along with the older boy's make believe games involving a linguistically advanced crew of rescue dogs if it helps him fit in with the older child. And there is Katie, a girl of a similar age who Ryder is clearly sooo desperate to impress. So with no obvious parental guidance of his own, it's not surprising that Ryder will disappear into an imaginary world of his own, where he's on equal footing with adults in positions of power, where there is no greater civic honour than winning a hot air balloon race or a game of football against the next town over (which of course has an immaturely rude name in Foggy Bottom), where he gets to ride his very own quad bike that turns into a hovercraft at the press of a switch, and of course where he controls a team of hyper-intelligent pups who will obey his every command.

It's clearly a developed coping mechanism. And really, who are we to judge Ryder so harshly, when he's ignored by his parents and has so few peers to associate with that he has to create this make believe world? Maybe we should just sit back and enjoy it with him, as he controls Chase, Zuma, Marshall, Rocky, Rubble and Skye through various imagined scenarios, in his quest to become Katie's true Adventure Bae.