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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: ‘PAW Patrol’ research has fur flying

Some of the stars of the "PAW Patrol" series. —
Some of the stars of "PAW Patrol." — Screenshot

I’m sure that by now, scores of parents have told their children that there’s going to be no more “PAW Patrol” in the house, and that’s that.

King’s University College professor Liam Kennedy told the CBC that his two-year-old son has “now internalized my feelings about the series and knows that we don’t in fact watch ‘PAW Patrol’ in our house.”

Be prepared for an earthquake in the kid world.

“PAW Patrol,” in case you aren’t familiar, is a children’s television series where a 10-year-old boy leads a series of computer-generated puppies on improbable rescue missions. It is, among a certain age set, wildly popular — its spinoffs include everything from wallpaper to gift wrap to stuffed animals.

And, apparently, “complicity in a global capitalist system.”

That’s what Professor Kennedy argues in a new study published in the journal Crime, Media, Culture.

Here’s the abstract, because, wow: “Undertaking the case study of the popular animated children’s series ‘PAW Patrol,’ I find that crime is committed predominantly by literal outsiders and that wrongdoers are temporarily warehoused or forced to engage in hard labor. In this world, politicians are presented as incompetent or unethical and the state, either incapable of delivering or unwilling to provide basic social services to citizens, relies on the PAW Patrol corporation to investigate crime, rescue non-human animals in states of distress, and recycle. I argue that the series suggests to audiences that we can and should rely on corporations and technological advancements to combat crime and conserve, with responsibilized individuals assisting in this endeavor.”

OK then.

His conclusion? “Ultimately, PAW Patrol echoes core tenets of neoliberalism and encourages complicity in a global capitalist system that (re)produces inequalities and causes environmental harms.”

Now, I am “Teletubbies”-years-old (heck, I’m “Friendly Giant”-years-old), so I can tell you that I remember when the fact that one of the Teletubbies was purple and had a triangle on his head was supposedly proof of insidious homosexual incursion into children’s television.

To tell you the truth, I’m more concerned about “PAW Patrol’s” relentless cheeriness than its possible role as a tool in a neo-con brainwashing plot for children.

I also remember when a set of authors deliberately set out to see how easily they could place hoax studies in some scholarly journals and were successful beyond any possible expectation — leading me to always have a niggling sense of doubt about the scientific publication process.

But I really wonder if we haven’t reached a point of super-analysis that beggars credulity.

Kennedy is a criminology professor, and he watched plenty of episodes to form his belief that the show is putting forward an argument that corporations are more effective than governments.

That being said, Kennedy is not four years old — having watched a fair amount of “PAW Patrol” myself, I wonder if four-year-olds would even stop to consider that the puppies are part of a global corporation. The dogs don’t appear to be paid, respond without corporate structure, and show little signs of top-down management. As part of a globally controlled multinational, they are remarkably without organization, inventoried assets or anything remotely close to a profit-making methodology. They problem-solve on their own and don’t consult company manuals or request permission from further up the chain.

Viewing the show through another lens, you might argue that their attitude of “to each according to their needs, and from each according to their abilities” is fostering a neo-communist collective as much as anything else.

To tell you the truth, I’m more concerned about “PAW Patrol’s” relentless cheeriness than its possible role as a tool in a neo-con brainwashing plot for children.

When it comes to real threats to children and their development, I’d look far more closely at the attention-destroying abilities of using cellphones and tablets as distraction for growing minds than I would be with the latest television offering.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire publications across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky


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