Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mary Poppins is an Atheist

Dear Internet Diary,

I'm hooked on television again. I'll talk about that great show "House" some time later. My favorites are kind of embarrassing to talk about though, because they are reality programs. I'm talking about Nannies.

Nanny 911 and Supernanny are two of the most positive shows on television. The seasons are over, and I'm not sure if their next season will be watchable, considering the fact that at least one of them is sponsored by Focus on the Family. Maybe we should try and keep mum about why the shows are so great. Could you guys try and keep it a secret? I don't want those Christian Nazis to find out that they are paying for shows that promote atheistic, secular values in children.

The premise of the shows is this: the parents have realized their children are completely out of control. They figure they can exploit this situation on television for money and perhaps a fabulous Hawaiian vacation. They submit their videotapes to some cute, and generally chubby english ladies, so that one will come to their home and "fix" their children for them. The nanny observes, reveals to the parents that they are the problem, not the children, the parents get upset, then give in, and eventually we get something that looks like it very well might work.

Here's the tricky part that would really infuriate those tools at FOF: the problem in these families invariably is that the family has stuctured themselves after some kind of conservative christian model. Nanny appeals to their reason, and they change it. What happens is, in about 2/3rds of the shows, Dad says "I am the king of the castle, it's her job to take care of the kids, we believe there are roles in the home, etc etc ad naueum." (In one case, when Mommy had gained weight after popping out 5 kids for this gentleman, he says, "It's not what I paid for." Daddy and Mommy sometimes seem really attached to the idea of spanking, a practice that is totally forbidden on both of the shows. That's what worries me about the FOF sponsorship. How much pull do they have with ABC and Disney?

What gets these traditional christian families to change (and they are almost always traditional christian families) is that the nanny is able to show the parents that what they are doing is not working. The mom cannot manage the cooking, cleaning, and child-raising all on her own, while Dad is conspicuously absent, even from the traditional disciplinary duties. The christian ideal would have Mom delaying the discipline until "Daddy gets home." That would be the weakest and most impotent discipline technique next to spanking. Nanny's methods are simple: going to the corner, consistent and honest discipline, emotional contol, positive reinforcement. Lots of Skinner-like conditioning for the very young. That kind of information should also be kept from the FOF: recently a conservative think-tank voted Skinner's work one of the most dangerous and harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. I guess it's evil to practice repetitive rituals in order to train behavior. They prefer the ritual of pull down the pants, over-the-knee, spank 'til red, aquire an adult fetish discipline. Perhaps they have a scratch-my-back deal with Fantasy Unlimited or something.

The great thing is, traditional-family-fetish Daddy almost always ends up helping around the house and participating in the child-raising. With enthusaism. Usually it takes traditional Mom longer to accept this than Dad . The Nanny is very good at reasoning with unreasonable people. The video recorder helps a lot. Atheists should take lessons with these nannies on how to appeal to reason with conservative Christians. I don't know how much these families really change, but in the follow-ups, you get testimony from these families about how well these non-church-endorsed techniques work for them. In your face, FOF!

I don't know how much longer a program that promotes reason over idealism will last. The last episode I watched had several disturbing television commercials: the Mormons urged us to spend more time together, the Moonies encouraged us to give our bus seats to little old ladies, and Focus on the Family offered up their telephone number for advice on parenting problems. Sort of cancels out the fact that they support reasonable television programs.

Thanks for listening, diary.

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