OK, brace yourselves everybody, we're going to talk about Barney.
See, I'm still struggling a little bit with the feeling of having left
Strawberry Shortcake bruised and bleeding in a ditch, then walking away
and brushing off my hands and saying, "Well, now that's done." (Yes, I
know my vision of reality is significantly skewed, and if I ever took
on Strawberry Shortcake one-on-one for real, she'd kick my ass up and
down the block. And yes, I also know that she is a fictional character
and not real and this is all taking place in my weak and fevered
imagination. So it goes.)
But I was talking about it to a very smart friend, and she said, "I don't know, it seems to me that what kids really want when they're little is sweetness." And just like that, I remembered the Barney incident.
I've written about this before, but somehow I never learn my lesson. And in an attempt to make my brain grasp the point, I will tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was a very nice little girl who was 5 years old. One day she was sitting with her baby-sitter, who was greatly skilled in the art of the DVD, and the baby-sitter discovered, hidden in the extras section of a Pingu DVD, some clips of Barney! They watched all of them, and the little girl was very happy.
That night when the little girl's mother came home, the little girl joyfully announced, "I found a movie I like! It's Barney!"
But the mother, who had been aesthetically repelled by the large purple dinosaur for many years, was dismayed. Wasn't Barney cloying, treacly crap? And wasn't 5 too old? It was just so dorky and icky. "Don't you think you're too old for that?" the mother said.
"But he's really nice! Also, he's funny! He makes jokes," the 5 year old beseeched, and led her mother downstairs to watch one.
And was this mother, and adult with, one would hope, a full set of social skills and flexibility, nice about it? No, she wasn't. "I think this really for littler kids than you. I don't like Barney."
And thus was the 5 year old shamed, and sad, and she didn't watch Barney anymore.
Here's the thing: the child (who shall remain nameless, due to the similarity between the cruel world and the mother here) was right: Barney is nice. He's simple, he's nice, he offers comfort. And if you need that, and can welcome it in to your heart, you should, no matter if you're 2 or 4 or 5 or 10. And to hell with the rest of the world saying that's dumb. And to hell with my own ideas of good and bad. And to hell with should.
I think it's hard for us grownups to conceive of just how fully kids long for uncomplicated sweetness: for the earnestness of a Mr. Rogers, the kindness of a Barney. They don't want to be cool, they don't need to be cool—whom did being cool ever help? And who cares about the aesthetics of it? That's not all the only thing that matters here, it can't be.
I don't, however, yet acknowledge the Strawberry Shortcake is on the side of good. Maybe she's trying to be, but I personally think she's failing, both aesthetically and comfort-wise.
But if someone loves her, I guess, then the love makes it worth it. Right?
PS: Need I say how much I regret trying to push someone who was already growing up, to grow up? Probably not.