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National and Global, United States

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thomas Gets Tanked...


I can't state emphatically that I watch "Thomas The Tank Engine" on a regular basis. However, I do have my days. I also never thought of Thomas as conformist or sexist. After all, Thomas is a train engine. Nevertheless, only about 18% of the characters presumably are female, and only one is the head of something.

A Canadian professor has been flooded with angry e-mails from parents after publishing a study saying that the popular children's TV show featuring Thomas the Tank Engine teaches children to be conformist -- and sexist. University of Alberta political scientist Shauna Wilton says she recognizes that Thomas—who works on the railway on the fictional island of Sodor—also stresses positive themes, such as trust, honesty, and hard work, but she notes that only eight of the 49 main characters in the current Thomas shows are female. Only one, Emily, is among the core team of steam engines—and she didn't show up until the TV series' seventh season. Is Thomas the Tank Engine sexist?

On a real railroad, the majority of workers are male anyway. I checked with the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads on this topic. Less then 10% of their workers are female that actually work on the trains. Thomas, on the other hand, has around 18% who are female. You go Thomas!

In the original Railway Series, Thomas is generally depicted with a cheeky and even self-important personality. He believes that he should be more respected by the others, and he gets annoyed when he does not receive this respect. Well, I can surely identify with that, and have no disagreement.

Thomas strikes me as a loner frankly. A myopic sense of 'right and wrong', and if he gets laid off from the job, there's not much else he can do with the expertise. After all, he's a train engine. Life would certainly be lonely.

"I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you."

So, let's put it all in perspective when raising critical statements about issues that have no resolution. Let's not play games by ourselves. Second guessing our abilities. We'd lose every time.

"So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact and remember that life is a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left."

1 comment:

  1. "A Canadian professor has been flooded with angry e-mails from parents after publishing a study saying that the popular children's TV show featuring Thomas the Tank Engine teaches children to be conformist -- and sexist."

    If Thomas the Tank teaches our kids ANYTHING, the fault lies with the parents, not with the poor little steam engine who's just doing his job, trying to get by. This is entertainment, not parenting. Although, I will say that teaching kids to be conformist and sexist is better than the characteristics many parents are modeling. Perhaps Thomas is smarter than we think.

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