Skip to comments.The hidden evil in Thomas the Tank Engine
Posted on 07/25/2014 6:00:04 AM PDT by lifeofgrace
Ms. Tracy Van Slyke has uncovered such a dastardly attack upon our vulnerable youth, its shocking that nobody else before her noticed this malign cancer hiding in plain sight. She has exposed Thomas the Tank Engine as a pernicious evil, causing so much classism, sexism, anti-environmentalism bordering on racism in its hidden lessons.
I was completely captured and intrigued by Ms. Van Slykes keen insight and discernment on this topic, because, frankly, my two boys are very much taken with Thomas and his friends Percy, Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Emily, and the very scary Diesel Ten. If there were something so harmful to their little minds and psyches in Thomas hidden lessons, I certainly wanted to know about it.
After reading Van Slykes assiduous study of all things Thomas, and the conclusions she reaches, I must show my appreciation to her.
Dear Ms. Van Slyke (May I call you Tracy? If I may presume) My Dear Tracy,
Thank you for exposing such an assembly of immoral thought, wrongheaded teaching, and despotic attitudes regarding gender, friendship, work, class, and hidden messages counter to our sacred values. I am very much in your debt.
I read your statement about Thomas & Friends and how the constant bent of messages about friendship, work, class, gender and race sends my kid the absolute wrong message, and it all became clear.
Its very clear that you want to teach your child to judge everything through the cynical lens of entitlement, victimhood, and class warfare. Surely not a day goes by when you see a world filled with social injustice, gender roles, demeaning jobs, and microaggressions.
You point out to your son how white people (theres one!) are privileged, fat, overbearing overlords of the less fortunate classes, how he should be ashamed of his colonizing, oppressive heritage. Just like Sir Topham Hatt, the imperious, little white boss as you so cleverly put it, who is always scolding one of the engines about being really useful, as you say because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.
Of course, in teaching him your worldview, you arent being a controlling autocrat.
By choosing what he wears, watches on television, his meals, friends, and bedtime, you arent being a controlling autocrat.
Im sure you let your son decide when he gets up, what he eats, what he decides to watch on television all day, and generally you let him run his own life. I envy you, because my sons cant operate the DVR without help.
Im sure that your three and a half year old is fully able to appreciate that admiring Mommy and Daddy, who may act like controlling autocrats, is completely different than the trains on Sodor listening to Sir Topham Hatt. Im sure you just point out that Hatt is a white colonial oppressor keeping those engines from realizing their potential, but Mommy and Daddy only tell you what to do out of love and concern.
Its understandable that steam trains and the storybook island of Sodor, set in the early 1900s, is so confusing to young children, and they intuitively associate Hatts attire of a top hat, tuxedo and big round belly and conclude, as you do, that its just a little too obvious. Basically, he's the Monopoly dictator of their funky little island.
Because pre-schoolers make those kinds of judgments every day. Look Daddy, theres a white man in a tuxedo, how many slaves does he own?
Tracy, your deep and meticulous research into Thomas world is so complete that I dont believe I can add much to it. Except to say that its presumptuous, shallow and wrong. I am not a trained journalist, like you, and Im not a fellow at the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism, like you were, or a fellow at The Opportunity Agenda, like you are. In fact, Im not a fellow anywhere. But I do know this.
Thomas the Tank Engine was created by Wilbert Awdry, a.k.a. The Rev. W. Awdry, an Anglican minister, who passed away in 1997 after 85 years of loving two things: trains and children. Well, three things, and change the order: God, children, and trains. Awdrys first book included this dedication to his son Christopher:
Dear Christopher,Christopher was sick, in England, in 1943. Rev. Awdry told him stories about the steam engines he loved to watch as a child growing up. The first book, The Three Railway Engines was published in 1945, and Awdry continued to write books in the Railway Series until 1972, when his son Christopher, all grown up, took over.
Here is your friend Thomas, the Tank Engine. He wanted to come out of his station-yard and see the world. These stories tell you how he did it. I hope you will like them because you helped me to make them.
Your Loving Daddy
I did a little research, really nothing, looking in Wikipedia and Amazon for books about Awdry, to validate your statement about Sir Topham Hatt as an oppressive dictator ordering the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done regardless of their pre-existing schedules.
Of course, Im not a trained journalist. But heres what I found about Hatt (secret colonial oppressor name The Fat Controller):
In his iconic top hat and morning suit, the Fat Controller looks rather old-fashioned and formal. However, until at least the late 1950s it was customary for railway officials in Britain to be so dressed for Sir Topham to be dressed any other way would be far more unusual.Oh, what a terrible thing to teach children! Imagine, a clergyman teaching about an idea of there being someone who is in control of the world! Im sure, Tracy, that you raise your son as a proper atheist, and tell him theres no tooth fairy, Santa Claus, or God. As you drive by churches filled with worshippers on Sunday morning, on your way to tutoring for your dear genius, you point out the futility of putting ones trust in a Creator, who is just another invention for The Man to oppress.
Some have even suggested the idea that, with Awdry being a clergyman, the Fat Controller was meant to act as an omnipresent, God-like figure. This was never the intention, although in The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, Awdry states he is happy to go along with this idea if it gives the young children 'an idea of there being someone who is in control of the world.'
If I offend, and you do, in fact, attend a church, please accept my sincere apology. But we would never want to confuse religion and God with authority and responsibility. Preschoolers get those distinctions quite well, right? At least yours does. Mine eat crayons and write on the walls with dry erase markers.
Moving on to your specific indictment of the horrific episode James Painted Pink. You wrote:
"What are you doing James? You're a big pink steamie," says Diesel, the bad-boy engine. (For the record, all the "villains" on Thomas and Friends are the dirty diesel engines. I'd like to think there was a good environmental message in there, but when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke and they are all pumping out smoke it's not hard to make the leap into the race territory.)Everybody understands that dirty diesel engines represent a subtle racial message that .umm, well Im lost. Your Mensa-card-carrying boy must understand the leap from white and black smoke into racial prejudice better than I do. Or Im just missing the obvious leap.
Steam engines white smokevaporized water, or more commonly: steam. I realize that steam pollutes the atmosphere with great quantities of dihydrogen oxide (H2O), and thats a terrible environmental message for our kids. And, steam engines are powered by fizzling fireboxes burninggasp!coal, and the coal burns and makes smoke. Diesels run on fossil fuel.
Tracy, Im sorry, but Im just not sure what kind of environmental message a story about trains could teach a preschooler. Have your really thought this out? Id like to think you did, but I cant find any logic in it, just mushy thinking that makes me rub my temples.
Then theres the scourge of sexism. Emily is the sole female character among all those boy engines. Come to think of it, the whole Thomas story, and trains in general, are just so boy-oriented. Its those filthy gender roles!
James is painted pink and he thinks pink is a silly color, and you say its not OK because you want to teach your boy that pink is perfectly okay for boys. Fair enough. You can teach him that. My boys dont like pink, and we never cruelly laughed at them.
In fact, Im willing to bet a large amount of money that if I let them watch James Painted Pink twelve times in a row (during which theyd be playing with with their toys with it playing in the background), then quizzed them about the plot, neither of them would be able to tell me that James was cruelly teased for being pink.
Naturally, if you sit with your child and point out how James is being teased and how its bad to tease a boy for wearing pink, and if you force your boy to wear pink every day for a month while heaping praise on him, maybe you could teach him that pink is okay. But then again, maybe you will damage him by forcing it on him, forever scarring him against pink for life.
Our kids are not science experiment labs, programmable robots, lumps of modeling clay, or instruments of social justice. They are people. They have a built-in, hard-wired, God-given desire to love and please Mommy and Daddy. They have a need for attention, love, and guidance from us. They want a relationship, not a lecture on class warfare and gender roles.
The reason why Rev. W. Audrys stories about Thomas the Tank Engine are so enduring to children are because they are about relationships, responsibility, and love. They were written by a loving father to his beloved son. They were written by a God-fearing man who spent his life carefully constructing and documenting a fantasy world on Sodor where all the endings are happy, and all the steamies (and even the diesels) get along.
Thank you, Tracy, for teaching me a very important lesson, one that Ill use with my kids. Its this: the world can be either a loving, friendly place, or a place of hidden lessons filled with evil and injustice. Youve convinced me even more to keep my children away from people like yourself, whose judgmental, sanctimonious, hyper-critical elitist opinions would make even the most loving child neurotic.
That lesson, and one more: boys like trains. Girls, not so much.
Thankfully yours, Steve Berman
P.S. The part where you talk about Martin T. Sherman quitting as the voice of Thomas, Percy and Diesel, thats so quaint. Apparently Sherman wanted to make movie star money from Mattel, who paid $680 million for Thomas. Mattel obviously felt that theres more voices in the world who can do Thomas than Mr. Sherman.
Lesson learned: supply and demanddoing kid show voiceovers doesnt pay well. Sherman said As an actor you start off, and the first season is supposed to be survival money, he said. [But] the second season, you're supposed to get a raise. The third season it's supposed to be commensurate with what happens to the show. That only applies if youre Jerry Seinfeld or Jim Parsons (Sheldon on Big Bang Theory), or at least if you have a role where your face is on the screen.
I dont think my kids, or your Sheldon-intelligent son, will notice if Thomas voice changes ever so slightly next year. Mostly because they tend to grow up, and outgrow the show. I think Mattel, who has been making toys for almost 70 years, knows this little secret. Mattels reaction to Mr. Shermans quitting: dont let the screen door hit you on the way out.
Is Tracy this neurotic, or did she just not have something better to write about this week - say, some REAL problem?
Unintended consequences are a biotch.
I'm glad I read the whole story (for a change) instead of just the headline.
I was going to say, "So, what's her beef? Is Thomas a Christian?"
Darned if that isn't the case.
The word “microaggression” needs to be treated like the punchline to a joke.
In fact, let’s make up some absurd jokes where the punchline IS “microaggression”.
(Then again, maybe we shouldn’t. We know that when we make up jokes about absurd liberal ideas, they tend to come true eventually.)
Thomas must be exhibiting the scent of Christ from scripture (2 Cor 2:14-16).
That’s what Van Slyke is responding to.
I think Texas Eagle found the root of the problem.
Thomas is exhibiting Christian morals, and that’s like a dead skunk to a God-hating leftist.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
I was going to say, “So, what's her beef? Is Thomas a Christian?”
maybe Thomas will become one of those new fangled Gay Female Anglican Vicar-locomotives.....after getting his steam piston connecting rod bobbed....
Maybe its time to update Thomas for modern times and make him more PC. He certainly would need a government subsidy to keep running. But that subsidy would be used to pay to have an extra 5 or 10 employees on the train and not to repair him so we should have some rusted out old train manned by about 10 employees, who outnumber the passengers.
This Topem Hatt needs to be replaced by some useless son of a politician as a member of the board of the company that owns Thomas.
A "hidden lesson" that manifests itself if you play the videos backwards.
:: Take away sentence,
“But we would never want to confuse religion and God with authority and responsibility.” ::
Yeah, but how would you make a train appear gay?
from the USACP (from the 1963 CR):
16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policy-making positions.
21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
There is no legitimate authority outside that that comes from God.
probably have to do with how the coupling system. Or just make Richard Simmons the engineer; he’s got gay to spare.
I knew it! That Thomas was always a little too eager if you know what I mean.
:: There is no legitimate authority outside that that comes from God. ::
Cuz, He said so by His Son (”Logos”).
I believe! Help thou my unbelief!
- Martin Luther
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