A CNN article published Friday complained that parents are buying their kids "Thomas the Tank Engine" and "Paw Patrol" toys, despite the shows supposedly having "fascist" undertones.
"Why kids love ‘fascist' cartoons like ‘Paw Patrol' and ‘Thomas,'" wrote parenting writer Elissa Strauss, a regular contributor to CNN.
Strauss noted that "Thomas the Tank Engine" has been labeled "a ‘premodern corporate-totalitarian dystopia‘ in the New Yorker, imperialist and sinister in Slate, and classist, sexist, and anti-environmentalist in the Guardian."
"And yet people—presumably parents—spend $1 billion on ‘Thomas' merchandise every year," she marveled.
"Paw Patrol," Strauss wrote, is "equally polarizing," with outlets like BuzzFeed complaining about "instances of gender and social inequality that go unchecked on the show."
"Nevertheless, ‘Paw Patrol' is ubiquitous," she added. "Branded merchandise featuring Ryder and the gang outsells most other television shows, according to recent data from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association."
"It's tempting as a parent—especially those of us who are aghast at contemporary politics—to be disturbed by the notion of our children tuning in for a regular dose of primary-colored authoritarianism," she wrote.
Strauss spoke to several experts who assured her that, even if the shows have an authoritarian bent, it is OK for children to watch them.
"Rigidness and simplicity of narrative (in children's television shows) is really important, because in the real world so much is going on. And young children aren't really capable of abstract thought," UCLA scientist Yalda T. Uhls said.