For a while I was despairing about finding children’s media that I felt good enough to share with my kids. Ponyo was a great film, to be sure, but I was looking for something smaller and repeatable, like a TV series. But the vast majority of them are empty and mindless. Shows like Spongebob strike me as the unfiltered imaginings of an insane ten-year-old.
Then I found Dora the Explorer. My kids love it almost as much as I do. It’s about a bilingual brown girl who runs around with her best friends exploring and discovering. Here’s why I love it:
Dora explores and embraces racial diversity. Her skin is dark and she speaks more than one language. She takes part in different cultural celebrations. Difference is good in Dora’s world. Not something to be hidden, but something to be celebrated. She doesn’t try to make us all the same, she rejoices in all our differences. This is wild because just recently Joseph noticed that I am a different color than Ruth and that we are both different from him. For a second, as he was asking about it, I saw a glimmer of confusion on his face. I told him he was right, that we are all different, and I acted excited about that. “Isn’t it neat that we are all different colors?” And Dora backs me up on that, whatever the kids at school might say.
Dora is a hard-working helper. Like the time when her friend Boots lost his truck and they had to climb a mountain to get it. Or the time her parents asked her to help with the babies and she spent the entire episode reading to them and feeding them banana baby food. While most children’s programs have heroes doing everything they can to get out of school and work, Dora embraces the tasks she gets and even asks for more.
Dora loves her enemies. Swiper is the villain of Dora’s universe. He goes around swiping Dora’s toys and food and anything else he can get his foxy hands on. He’s a klepto, I’m sure. He never gives Dora a moment’s rest. He’s a punk. But when Swiper, through his own crimes, was trapped in a magic bottle, Dora was quick to help. She didn’t say a word about Swiper’s swiping or about his guilt. She dropped everything to travel across the world and get the king to release him. And when Dora gets anything good that she can share, she tracks down Swiper to make sure he gets some of it. She doesn’t fight her enemies, she embraces them. Reminds me of a Man I know.
Dora never hates. She never has a harsh word for anyone. She holds no grudges. She only works against the ‘bad guys’ when to do otherwise would compromise her own high moral standards. And even then she does it gently, without anger.
Dora loves to sing and dance. She isn’t content to sit and sleep and eat. She wants to get up and move. She wants to dance. She wants to explore. She wants to get out of the place she is from and achieve and carry her unique light into the world.
So if you have kids, go check out Dora. She’s a hero.