Television: Brothers and Sisters to the Rescue!

Brothers and Sisters to the Rescue!This episode of Little Einsteins* was all about Hansel and Gretel. The classic fairy tale siblings wander out into the woods and get trapped in a gingerbread house by a witch. Unable to save themselves, the Little Einsteins rush to the rescue. The witch continually block their path, but the foursome is able to solve each puzzle and eventually make it to the gingerbread house where Leo, the group’s clear leader, defeats the witch with help from the viewing audience. Hansel and Gretel are saved and everyone goes home.

There are obviously a lot of changes to the story in this version. The parents abandoning the children in the woods is completely cut out, probably because the fates of Hansel and Gretel are actually fairly unimportant to this tale. Hansel and Gretel themselves are also portrayed as completely helpless. They need to leave a trail for themselves every day to be able to get back home and when the witch traps them all they seem to do is sit and wait to be rescued. First of all, it’s the same trail every day and they still need to drop something to lead them home? Seriously? And as for being trapped by the witch, did it not occur to them that she trapped them in a house made of food? They could eat their way out, or at least pull apart the gingerbread walls and make a new doorway for themselves! But no, they just whine and wait to be rescued. Quite a change from the fairy tale characters who roast the witch!

I find this show rather interesting, but it does kind of bother me that the gender images, and to a lesser extent the racial ones, are pretty heavily following stereotypes here. The girls’ obvious talents are ballet and singing, respectively, while the boys are more obviously the brainy types. The white boy is the obvious leader while the black boy, Asian girl and white girl adoringly follow along with everything he suggests (even the rocket does whatever he wants!). There’s nothing saying every show needs to break image rules for gender or race, but I’d love to have seen something surprise me here. Anything.

* Little Einsteins is a television show and not the same as “Baby Einsteins”, the line of DVDs and books that promise to make babies smarter but probably don’t do anything of the kind (Michael requested that I clarify this, since it can be a little confusing).

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