Parenting is like Religion (separate blog on that forthcoming) in that certain parents are an often-fanatical, easily offended and overly sensitive bunch. You get the right group of parents together (in real-life or online) of a certain mindset, and you're in for a real treat. I have seen more heated... strike that... anger-fueled, red-faced rage displayed about Caillou than I've seen spewed forth regarding other "hot-button" issues like parents rights, circumcision, abortion, breastfeeding, you name it. One such event happened back in December, after which I tweeted the following:
Just heard two dumb mothers in the park district parking lot blaming Caillou for their kids acting badly. No, your kid is just three.— The Rock Father™ (@therockfather) December 14, 2012
Note the unfortunate date and time of the tweet. It was a couple of hours later that we'd return home and learn of the terrible events at Sandy Hook, but my morning started with witnessing blatant Caillou-bashing. What was happening is that two mothers were gossiping in the parking lot at the back of a Jeep with an open hatchback. One of them left their child (assuming he was three) in the back seat, but not strapped into his car seat. As they continued their quite animated discussion, the youngster got antsy and climbed over the seat to snag their attention. What did they do? BLAME CAILLOU. As I sat there in the parking lot, sipping coffee and awaiting the end of Addie's "2s and 3s" class, I listened as the one lady straight-up told the other "That god-damn Caillou teaches him this." Now, I've seen a lot of episodes, and I don't ever remember seeing "CAILLOU THE SEAT CLIMBER." You stood there talking, with the back door to your Jeep open... on a cold day in December... and your unbuckled child grew restless. Seems pretty normal to me. Not to these ladies, as the other quips that "Caillou should be banned." They continued, but you get the point.
In the blogosphere, Caillou is practically "Public Enemy No. 1" (take that, El Chapo and Al Capone!) with Mom and Dad Bloggers alike. Even some folks I enjoy reading, like Charlie over at HowToBeADad and Alan over at Always Jacked have let their hatred for Caillou be known. In fact, just yesterday, Alan posted a follow-up to his popular "Why I Hate Caillou" post with a new call to action with the suggested hashtag: #EffYouCaillou. Then you have posts like this one saying how much "Caillou Sucks!" A big basis of all of this hate? "Caillou is whiny." Well guess what? So are all of these parents that take the time to whine about Caillou.
Addie first zeroed in on Caillou quite by accident, first catching a glimpse of him when she was around six months old. From there, her love for the little guy just grew and grew, and soon we had the show piling up on the DVR (it's on 40 times a day, I think) and then we started amassing the DVDs. Oddly enough, there seems to be no real order to which the episodes are aired these days, as many of them seem to have been re-cut and re-packaged several times over. There's a lot of repetition in Caillou airings, and that would be my biggest personal complaint. Awhile back, I reached out to Cookie Jar Entertainment [note, Caillou has since been sold to DHX Media] looking for a definitive answer as to how many episodes of Caillou had been created, along with a full season-by-season breakdown. Honestly, I don't think anyone knows what exactly has been released in the 'States, and even the fan-created wikis don't agree with each other. Definitive info on the Caillou cartoon is hard to come by. What we know now is that there's the "regular" episodes that run on Sprout, the ones with the puppets and live-action interludes (on DVD and occasionally PBS), and some seemingly rare episodes found on YouTube in which the narrator is shown to be a grandmother sitting on her couch while reading "Caillou" from a book - a nod to the original source material. Another funny parent blogger line is that "Caillou should be cancelled." Well, since they don't really make new episodes (actually, that's only sorta true - see this update), that's sort of already happened.
I have some fun little things that I like to poke at, but the reality is this: Caillou is a good show. Kids get to see a fictional boy that's close enough to their own age that it's easy for them to relate. Yes, four-year-olds can whine, have temper tantrums, question things repeatedly, and in some cases just be a pain in the ass... but they're children, and they're learning. That is what Caillou displays. Here you have a young child surrounded by supportive parents and grownups that teach him to embrace his creativity and personal exploration. I've seen lessons about conflict resolution and respect for others, music, art, gardening, all things that we're teaching here. Even the CAILLOU HOLIDAY MOVIE (which gets it's own batch of hate each winter) teaches children about how the Christmas/Winter Holidays are celebrated by different cultures around the world. Additionally, Caillou features a fairly diverse cast, with different races and religions presented to the kids... just like real life (though sadly, I've never noticed an openly Atheist character). While Caillou can't teach your kids alone (and it certainly shouldn't), perhaps the bigger problem is the parents that just plop the kids in front of the tv and leave them be.
I think that Caillou rocks, and with that I will encourage the use of the #CaillouRocks hashtag. There is no greater reason for this than to counterbalance the hatred throwin in Caillou's direction on a daily basis. We have tons of the books and toys (which I still think Famosa does a terrible job with, and would love to see someone like Mattel or Hasbro pick-up for the Fisher-Price or Playskool lines), and just last month I surprised Addie with a plush Caillou by "The One and Only Cuddle Pillow" that I found at Walmart.
Caillou, like anything, is great in moderation. He's Charlie Brown for a new generation, without all the depression.
Caillou airs daily on PBS Kids and Sprout. Want some cool Caillou merchandise for your little ones? Check out the official store over at Ty's Toy Box!
P.S. If you don't like the Caillou Theme Song, just envision it as being performed by Bobby McFerrin - "Don't Worry Be Happy" style.