Cultural Influences

Twirl, Vivian, Twirl!

I’m starting to really appreciate how much of a sponge our children are. It’s gotten so that when I hear somebody shout a swear word in the street, I must fight off a deep urge to go over and lecture the offender on the fact that there are kids present. I take some considerable appreciation in the fact that some of the local teenagers (usually girls) subsequently notice Vivian standing there, and nudge their friend about swearing in front of children. And, for the most part, the offender does look suitably contrite.

Vivian has not picked up any swear words, yet. But I am amazed at the things she has picked up. Early on, we made the decision to cut our cable, and receive our television through downloads and from the antennae. This allowed us to keep up with Doctor Who, House and Mythbusters, while limiting Vivian’s “just watching television” time to the educational TVO Kids. And I think that this has been a very good thing. Vivian still manages to get outside to run around (especially thanks to the presence of our neighbourhood kids), and I think that Vivian is well on her way to being able to read. Certainly, she knows her alphabet and how to count — which is something not all of the neighbourhood kids her age know. She also knows the name of several species of dinosaurs, how certain machines work, and that pipes under the ground bring us water and take poop away.

Now, the only adult show that she’s been allowed to watch is Mythbusters. Indeed, it is the only adult-oriented show she’s inclined to watch because, although she loves the Doctor Who music and can identify certain themes in the sound track with “the luvvy bit” and “the bit where the Doctor saves the day”, she still doesn’t like shows with particularly serious plot. Daleks as toys are fun to play with. Daleks on screen send her screaming to the next room.

Occasionally, when we fix dinner, it’s a treat for Vivian to be able to eat downstairs in front of the television, watching Mythbusters. In her view, this is a bonding experience, since Mythbusters is the show that we watch together. And my initial thought was, “well, fine. It’s a science show. Vivian’s learning stuff while being entertained. What’s the harm in that?”

Until I realized that the Mythbusters crew — particularly Adam and Tori — are basically oversized teenagers. They goof around a lot. And while they’re not exactly potty-mouthed (and the Discovery Channel is good enough to bleep any swear word that does make it onto the screen), they do say things that you might not particularly want a four-year-old to repeat in the presence of others.

Such as, “beer and liquor, never sicker… BUSTED!”

Adam Savage, who I suspect is well loved by his two sons, is something of a mentor for Vivian, even though she really appreciates the presence of Kari on the show (and, here, I think, is the greatest contribution Mythbusters is making to the field of science: they’re proving to girls that girls can be into science and be cool at the same time; if Vivian does end up being a scientist, the thank-you letter probably goes to Kari). Vivian has recited several of Adam’s lines, including “Check it out, Hyneman! Who’s the boss now?” and “Don’t try this at home. In fact, if I find that any one of you tried this at home, I’m personally going to come over to your home and kick your butt.”

Fair enough. The fact that our kid is spouting catchphrases from Mythbusters and is contemplating how to put dimples on our car to improve our gas milelage, is our fault. Not much we can do about that but control the fallout. But what about the things that Vivian is learning that hasn’t come from our home?

The other day, I bought a baseball play set for Vivian, as Erin had somehow managed to break the hollow plastic toy bat that Vivian had previously used. Coming home and showing this to her, she asks for the bat and I hand it to her. She asks me to throw the ball to her, and I move over to get ready to pitch.

And my little girl, who hasn’t seen a baseball game in her entire life, taps the imaginary home plate, and waves the bat through the strike zone. I was surprised that she didn’t try to spit tobacco; it was that good of an impersonation.

Where did that come from? Come to that, where did the other catchphrases come from that I know are from shows that we don’t pick up on our cable-less television, and that we don’t download. Well, I have a few theories.

So… my kid quotes Mythbusters. Mea culpa. But in case anybody wants to throw stones at me for it, I’d just like to know how your kid ended up quoting Jack Bauer. Thoughts?

Now, Don’t Forget…

Don’t forget that the eleventh Doctor era premieres in Canada and the United States tonight at 9 p.m., on the Space channel in Canada and on the Sci-Fi Network in the United States. You will be watching an extra-long introduction story entitled The Eleventh Hour, so adjust your digital recorders accordingly — it runs from 9 until 10:30.

I saw the episode soon after it debuted in the United Kingdom and I believe that you are in for a treat. I even wrote up a review shortly afterward, but I’ve been sitting on it so as not to spoil you guys. The review will be posted first thing tomorrow.

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