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The relationship between parenting and television is one that can really evolve with time. There may come a day when TV will seem like the Bermuda Triangle for productivity and social engagement, or the hypnotic screen that I glare at in frustration as I drag my child to her room and urge her to clean it.
For now, though, TV serves as the treasure that I not only praise for my entertainment, but the glowing goddess that I occasionally call upon to quell my adorably destructive toddler while I try to accomplish something. It’s a fantastic age, you see, because they’re still wholly impressed by swirling colors, poppy songs, and random sequences of inexplicable actions. It should be easy enough to plop them down in front of the screen and essentially trick them into sitting in one spot for 22 minutes at a time, right?
Yeah, sure. Here are five shows that should have distracted my daughter, but instead managed to hook me.
This was my first major loss as a trickster parent. Between the bright hues, the music, and Steven’s infectiously bubbly persona, I initially pegged this show as easy bait. I had no idea that this utterly mesmerizing gift from Cartoon Network was going to be a vehicle for exploring LGBTQIA love, identity, loss, and complex emotions with a stunning soundtrack. The visuals! The deeply webbed story arcs! How is Garnet so damn cool?! Wait, what did my kid just toss down the toilet?
Stumbling upon this show just weeks before the series finale seems particularly unfair, but I’m lucky that I learned of it all. If my daughter hadn’t stopped in her literal tracks to watch Liv (played by the remarkable Dove Cameron) belt My Destiny as her twin sister Maddie (also Dove Cameron, that unfairly talented sunfish) cheered her on, I would have remained oblivious. I paused my editing to watch one episode. That easily turned into three, which eventually turned into eight as the afternoon slipped by and I fell in love with each and every member of the Rooney family. The series is officially over and my daughter has moved on. I, however, have not. I already miss the heartfelt familial moments and snappy comedic timing. You win this round, Disney.
Finding one intriguing live action sitcom by Disney is hard enough, so getting sucked into a second felt like a whirlwind trip into an alternate universe. But honestly … how often do you get to see a Black family of spies? As a person who often writes about representation in entertainment, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for my daughter to see a rare reflection of herself in fantasy. I also couldn’t pass on a show that cared enough about me, the grown ass woman in the room, to include a reunion of one of my all-time favorite television couples, Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert of A Different World. I still haven’t sent that Very Important E-mail and I’m pretty sure my daughter is now coloring my shoes, but my heart is full.
Super Robots. An epic journey. Steven Yeun’s beautifully familiar voice. As I sit here, I realize how cute it was that I thought I stood a chance. I might be the only one out of the two of us that’s into it, but at this point I’m too far down the rabbit hole for that to matter.
The Disney cartoon series about the plucky princess who really wants to buck traditionally sexist ideals and grow into her own identity is everything I could have used in my youth. Star is hilarious, intelligent, values friendship, and embraces the weird in such a phenomenal way. The writing is so sharp that I forget that the target audience is technically the tiny adventurer who somehow found my third hiding place for those artisanal cookies. This I’ll consider a win, though: every time the theme song plays, we now have a mandatory dance party. My to-do list is still too long and I’m losing daylight, but we’re having a great time.
There’s a lesson here, I just know it. I’m sure it’ll come to me right after this episode of Gravity Falls.