I learn so much from my grandchildren.
For instance, if it were not for my grandchildren, I would never have become acquainted with Paw Patrol. And I would not have had the opportunity to watch each episode so often that I can recite most of the dialogue from memory.
For those of you not blessed with young children or grandchildren, Paw Patrol is a TV cartoon in which adults in the fictional town of Adventure Bay repeatedly get into trouble. Sometimes this is because of something foolish they have done and sometimes not. But no matter what difficult situation they are in, the one constant is that they are totally unable to solve their problems and help themselves. They have to call on a boy named Ryder and his team of puppies to rescue them. It all sounds so silly when you write it. The puppies can speak and operate complex machinery such as police cars, firetrucks, and excavators. Other animals on the show can’t talk, and they act like animals. Ah, now it makes more sense.
What Paw Patrol is, in fact, is a vast commercial enterprise designed to sell plush and plastic replicas of the puppies. And their vehicles and machines. And their images. On backpacks. Lunch boxes. Running shoes. Bed sheets. T-shirts. Underwear. Socks. And just when doting parents and grandparents think they have bought all there is to buy and they can start thinking about how to pay off the bank loans, the program introduces a new puppy and/or a new vehicle.
The show raises a number of questions.
For instance, given the overwhelming desire to constantly sell more product, why are there multiple reproductions of the puppies but no plush toys in the image of the mayor or any other adults living in Adventure Bay? Probably because the producers feel it is easier for children to identify with talking animals than with foolish adults.
Further, why isn’t Ryder in school but instead has a full-time job rescuing people? Aren’t the producers familiar with child labor laws?
As well, at first I couldn’t figure out how someone as strange, silly, and incompetent as Mayor Goodway ever get elected. Then we were introduced to the fisherman, the farmer, and the storekeeper. Compared to them, the mayor is a genius. In fact, compared to them, the mayor’s pet chicken (which she keeps in her purse) is a genius.
What Paw Patrol really is, I think, is a satirical portrait of municipal governments—the mayor is an idiot, the director of emergency services is a child, and all of the workers are animals.
More seriously, Paw Patrol is a reminder that every work of fiction presents its own world with its own rules and its own set of values and underlying truths—its own worldview. In some worlds, animals talk, adults do foolish things, and everything is designed to sell products and make money. In other worlds, more real worlds, there is absolute truth, moral certitude, and the God of the Bible.