Wednesday, 23 July 2014

NWR Editorial: Thomas the Sexist, Racist, Communist Tank Engine?


As I said back in 2013, these comments on Thomas the Tank Engine are nothing new. This week in 'The Guardian' an article wrote by a mother saying the same thing we've heard countless times for years since the popularity of the television series. Thomas the Tank Engine is a 'bad show' because it shows racism, sexism and communism towards children. Here are some points from the articles and my rebuttal against them:

'Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a "really useful engine", because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.'

The Fat Controller is like a parent to the engines, if they mess up a job or teasing or even not doing as they are told he disciplines them. The classic series (S1-7) shows that while the newer series (really S13-16) shows none of it, two episodes of that is 'Play Time' and 'Charlie and Eddie', both of these episodes feature the new character, at the time, Charlie, an engine who wants to have fun and doesn't want to do work on the railway. In 'Play Time', he persuaded Thomas to play rather then take Alicia Botti to the town hall, because he's no fun. So Thomas wants to prove that he is fun. This episode shows a poor example towards kids giving the moral 'Play is better then work' and this features the main protagonist. The Fat Controller did talk down to Thomas but no punishment was made (usually a punishment for an engine is either shunting trucks or staying in the shed). 'Charlie and Eddie' is about Edward not being fun according to Charlie because he's old, pretty much 'Play Time' again. At the end, the Fat Controller scolded Edward for messing up his car and for being late and not Charlie, who was the cause of it all. 

Now looking at a classic episode, 'The Sad Story of Henry', the Fat Controller punishes Henry for only thinking about his looks, as he worries about the rain spoiling his paint, over for what's important, through a railway perspective it's the passengers, by bricking him up, a bit like a parent telling their son/daughter to go to their room and think about what they've done. Plus in the recent modern episode, 'No More Mr. Nice Engine', the Fat Controller scolded Diesel for not looking after trucks in a proper matter, a lot like a child not looking after his/her's own things, such as a pet. If the Fat Controller's a dictator for being a father like figure to his engines, I hate to see a parent being classified as a dictator for discipling their child. 

'Well guess what? It's not OK. You think a little boy watching Thomas is going to file away the lesson that pink is OK for boys?'

In the article she was showing 'Tickled Pink' as an example for James being teased at for being pink, while I do like the episode because of its realism of an engine having an undercoat, it is rather a weak episode, considering that is this from S13. However the hypocrisy of this is just laughable, the colour pink is considered as a stereotype for girls, as its seen on princess dresses, Barbie dolls and other girl related items made by toy companies to sell. In fact, according to Stephen Fry, probably one of the smartest men from Britain in the 21st century said on 'QI', great show with excellent facts and great humour too, says that at the turn of the century, the colour for boys was pink and for girls it's blue. These were the colours back then. Yet she's against all the stereotypes of Thomas in this article. According to this blog though, there are boys who do like the colour pink and it's just like girls who like the colour blue or red. Earlier she wrote this:

(For the record, all the "villains" on Thomas and Friends are the dirty diesel engines. I'd like to think there was a good environmental message in there, but when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke – and they areall pumping out smoke – it's not hard to make the leap into the race territory.)

This is just like the article in 2012 were one 'journalist', I gave her and this one speech marks because she's not worthy of the title, thought Bulgy was a red double decker bus and that's communism screaming, when really Bulgy is based upon a London double decker bus. She's pretty much implying that there is a 'race war' on the Island because of different smoke..First off steam engines pump out both black and white steam and the 'smoke' coming out from diesels is exhaust and usually it's either grey or a bluish purple. The real reason the steam and diesel engines have a rivalry is because at the time when Rev.W.Awdry wrote these stories, the Railway Series, diesel engines were coming as British Railways was in favour of modern traffic and the steam scene was fading away, as he grew up in that time. He sees diesel engines as pompous thing because, as many enthusiasts will tell you, engines have personalities, and that is how the characterisation of Diesel is made. Diesel engines were new towards the steam engines and they were biased towards them, but Rev.W.Awdry and his son had introduce some nice diesels in the series to show us that we shouldn't be biased towards them over one who was arrogant or boastful as there are good ones out there. Besides most diesels like BoCo, Rusty, Mavis, Bear, Pip and Emma and the other diesels who're introduced as TV only characters showcase that there are nice things about them and that they respect the steam engines presences. The diesels aren't the only villains in the series, there is one who is the pompous Spencer a steam engine, who once put down an old engine called Hiro in 'Hero of The Rails' because he's old and 'heap of scrap', however he was also punished by falling into the muddy marsh, however was saved in the end. There's even a villain on roads, yes Bulgy the red double decker bus also was a villain against the steam engines and wants the railway to be ripped and was punished rightly because of his lies. There's even George the Steamroller for the same reason and was punished in S5's 'Bye George' for his carelessness towards the railway, such as rolling tarmac over the rails which caused Thomas' derailment and blocking Duck's way which caused one of his trucks to block the line for Gordon. These other villains outside of diesels, minus Spencer who was a TV only character, were made because in real life railways and road were in competition with passengers and goods, since the end of the second world war as former British solders were qualified for driving lorries after driving vehicles during the second world war and that the highways were being built. 

'And that's not even to get started on the female trains. Well, actually it's hard to get started on them, because they barely exist.'

As I stated last year, there are about 46 female characters and counting, according to HIT Entertainment over the quarrel that their's a lack of female drivers on the railways in the UK because of the lack of females in Thomas the Tank Engine. The 46 female characters, all combined together from the television series and Railway Series books. The sexism card is not new in stuff like this. In the Railway Series, they were used for the first four seasons of the show between 1984-1995, book from 2011, 'Thomas and His Friends' a pair of HST 125 intercity trains called Pip and Emma replaced Gordon as the express engine due timetable. 

There are female coaches in the series, such as Annie and Clarabel and the ones used on the Skarloey Railway. 'Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady' is an example of that as the coaches keep the engines in line like a mother figure, the same can be said about Annie and Clarabel, Thomas' coaches, this can be seen in the books as well as in the television series. Plus the coaches need an engine to pull them. There has been many female characters introduced such as Daisy a diesel rail-car, Caitlin, an express engine from the mainland, Mavis, a quarry diesel and of course Belle, a fire fighting engine, all of these female characters for example are doing male prominent jobs. 

Emily was only placed in the 'Steam Team' song because they need a main female character so as not to be sexist. 
This 'article' is nothing but filled with flaws that has been done to death before. These stories, that were used in the RWS books, have been written at a different time and the television series used those stories for adaptation. These comments have been said by many in the past and I'm sorry that these parents' children can't enjoy a simple childhood as these parents have nothing to do all day then overanalysed children's shows so their young kids won't have 'satanic messages'. Political correctness is of course here to stay but it's been abused too many times. However a show like Peppa Pig also shows the stereotypes of boys, George Pig wears the colour blue and loves dinosaurs, pretty much a stereotype for boys and that overrated kids show is getting so much praise that it even has its own channel! Heck it was number six on the 50 'Greatest' Kids Shows on Channel 5 in the UK. Well it too has its criticism, such as misinterpreting a word with a thick accent from 'rocking' to a swear word and that Peppa and her family weren't wearing seat belts in a car. My second oldest sister watched this show when she was young and she was never bothered by the lack of females and I've seen many female children at Thomas days and not once have I heard them say, 'Mummy, daddy why aren't there girl trains?'

And that's my rebuttal.