Watching ‘Curious George’ fills a parent with questions

As far as children’s television goes, I think “Curious George” is one of the better programs available on PBS. I have spent a fair amount of time snuggled on the couch with my kids watching George get in and out of mischief. I have also spent a lot of time overanalyzing George as well as his mysterious friend, the Man in the Yellow Hat.

If I was single or lived in a cartoon, I think the Man in the Yellow Hat would make a pretty good catch. He lives in a penthouse with a doorman, he jets off to his country house each weekend in a sweet yellow convertible, he’s a long-distance runner, and he is apparently independently wealthy, because we never see him work. Add to that the fact that the Man in the Yellow Hat is a former astronaut who is good with kids and loves to travel, and this guy’s personal ad writes itself! The downside to dating the Man in the Yellow Hat would be convincing him to change his wardrobe and dealing with his pet monkey.

Another thing I wonder about “Curious George” is why the animators are so harsh on married people. With the exception of Marco’s parents, the only married characters in the series are older than 50 and a bit overweight. Is that supposed to mean something? I can see how Chef Spaghetti and his wife would have trouble finding time to exercise since they run a restaurant and are around all of that pasta, but you would think Mr. and Mrs. Renkins would be drawn in better shape after doing so much farm work. I know lots of married people older than 50 who go to the gym regularly, but apparently Curious George does not.

Then there is Steve and Betsy’s Aunt Margaret, who is really cute and owns her own business. It seems really unrealistic to me that Margaret’s not dating anyone. On the other hand, I can see how if you were a female rocket scientist/museum director like Professor Wiseman, your Ph.D. and career would have really impacted your personal life. But come on! Is Professor Wiseman’s “friendship” with the Man in the Yellow Hat ever going to go anywhere? Can’t we show young viewers that women can be scientists and have a family too? Or does Professor Wiseman even like the Man in the Yellow Hat? (Does this have anything to do with Aunt Margaret?)

The title character himself brings along the most baffling set of questions. Why doesn’t George have a tail? Can he communicate with the monkeys in the zoo? Does George use the toilet? Wouldn’t his fur clog up the bathtub? How did the Man in the Yellow Hat teach a monkey how to read? If George can read, why can’t he learn sign language? Should monkeys really be allowed to eat doughnuts?

For those of you who have never seen the cartoon version of “Curious George,” the book version by Margret and H.A. Rey from our childhoods is only slightly different. There is less diversity and the Man in the Yellow Hat’s car is blue instead of yellow. The most significant change is that in the book version George smokes a pipe. No, I do not know what was in the pipe although I have often wondered.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.

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