Jun 6

Role models, whether we like it or not

My latest article with Ireland’s parenting site for fathers, dad.ie, is up here. It’s about princesses, pink and role models for our little girls.

I created and wrote the first series of Fluffy Gardens before I became a parent. I was asked recently if there is anything I would have done differently had I already been a parent, having more first-hand experience with children.

The truth is, yes, I would have done some things differently.

Even though I aimed for a completely safe, warm, good show built on positive values, and I totally understood that children learn from television, seeing that direct effect every day over a long period of time does make a difference. It changes things when you can’t give the children back!

I’m not saying it’s essential. But, for me, it made a difference.

And one thing having my girls really brought home is how much children can model their behaviour, mannerisms, speech patterns and more on what they see on television. Some of their understanding of what they can and can’t do in life comes from entertainment. Sure, it comes from many other places too but that’s where it gets difficult. That’s where people think, well, television didn’t affect me. But is it more just that the influences are so mixed that it’s hard to pick out exactly what effect TV actually had?

Every character in a show, mine or anyone else’s, can be a role model.

Now, I’m not saying every character should be a role model. That would likely make for some very dull television. But, still, it is important to understand that every character can be a role model, whether we like it or not. Some of Dora the Explorer’s research revealed that a sub-section of their male audience wanted to be Swiper the Fox when they grow up. You can be sure his creators didn’t intend that. But it happens.

Every character can be a role model.

And that’s something we have to accept and take on. We are responsible for what we create.

While I don’t think that should stifle our creativity, I think it’s always something worth keeping in mind. There’s some really good news here for show creators and writers – there are some voids in our modern role models. Some places where we could do with more positive role models for different sections of our community. Why is this good news? Because looking to fill those voids can lead to whole new fresh and interesting characters.

After all, if there’s no void there, someone else is already doing it.

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