Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thomas the Train

We didn't allow Max to watch tv the first couple of years of his life--except the presidential inauguration, but that had historical significance.

Sesame Street was first.  Then we chugged on to Thomas the Train because he loved trains.

But I never really liked it.  It's not especially educational, although they do promote being nice to others. Sort of.

Actually, I find it a bit sexist.



Sure, trains traditionally appeal to little boys and the creator of the books wrote them for his son.  I get that.  However, of all the engines, there is only one who is female. And she's annoying. She possesses some stereotypical "female nag" traits.

Then, of course, Clarabel and Annie are the coaches.  In one of the books, they annoy Thomas with their excitement and giddiness and he has trouble "keeping them in line."

I wondered if I was the only person who thought these stories that promote hard work and honesty could be tinged with sexism.   Apparently not.  I Googled "Thomas the Train Sexist" and was amazed at how many responses I found.

Read for yourself.

The Week

What do you think?

Should authors who target children be aware of such messages?


  1. I think it is only sexist if ya raise a stink about it! (ha)
    The boys' therapist actually suggested Thomas The Train videos for the boys because they do a great job at teaching emotions. Take another look and you will find that true. Lots of happy, sad, concerned facial expressions on the trains with verbal descriptions and why they feel that way.
    However, the boys find the shows dull and boring and prefer shows with lots of music and repition, like Dora and Diego!! (Who are not sexist!! And actually have great lessons throughout!) in fact, Jack now prances around the house with his "backpack, backpack"! I even made him a "map" for it! Pretend play at it's finest...thanks Dora!! :-)

  2. No doubt Thomas teaches many positive things, even emotions. A couple of my son's books and a few of the shows have had aspects that rankled me regarding the absence/treatment of female characters. Finding those articles where others felt the same way--okay, actually more offended--than I was reassuring I wasn't crazy.

    Dora and Diego are great. Max isn't hooked on them yet, though.That's so adorable Jack has a map with his backpack. What a great party activity!

  3. I realized the same thing when my daughter and I sat down to watch the show. The episode was how one boy train got accidentally painted pink and all the other boy trains were teasing him. The train painted pink was so embarrassed he was trying to hide from everyone, but in the end he met some girls that loved him because their favorite color was pink. It sort of upset me about the message it sent to boys and girls. Pink was a girly color and boys would appear weak if they wear it. If they are any different than what society thought was the norm, than they should hide. That's a terrible message to send to our kids. We should be embracing individuality and uniqueness, not rigid gender stereotypes.

  4. "If they are any different than what society thought was the norm, than they should hide...We should be embracing individuality and uniqueness, not rigid gender stereotypes."


    Since he loves the show so much, I'm trying to adjust my approach. Transforming into the commentary that can't be turned off, I point out the things that "our family" doesn't believe--like pink is just for boys.

    In fact, Max loves pink.:)

  5. I think you ladies are thinking way too much into this. Children's mind are pure and innocent, and not that complicated. It's not because of "pink" paint is why they laughed. If you've seen other episodes, you'll see that it's just NOT pink. There's black paint(tar), white snow, mud, etc. My toddler loves Thomas, and he loves ALL trains, including Emily. So lighten up and don't brainwash our children into thinking it could be something else. It's just pure entertainment.

    As far as Dora, if the show can only be in ENGLISH. Wouldn't it be confusing for the children to try to figure out what they're saying when English and Spanish are spoken???

  6. Isn't it wonderful that people can disagree in a civil way? Perhaps our politicians should learn a lesson from the blogosphere.

    Anonymous #2, I agree that a child's mind is innocent and should be guarded against those who want to "brainwash." Parents are all different and have various beliefs on how they want their children to see the world. As I mentioned before,I see lots of good things in Thomas the Train; however, I did notice another aspect that was less favorable.

    I wasn't clear what you meant about Dora. I'm thrilled with any bilingual education my children receive.

    The important thing is that we are in tune with what our children are watching on tv.

  7. I think that accusing Thomas the Train of being sexist is a stretch. By the way, there are at least two "female" engines on the show, Emily and Rosie. Rosie is pink. TV is entertainment. Parents are supposed to teach their children.

  8. Don't forget Belle, Lady, and Molly.