Does Paw Patrol encourage our kids to embrace capitalism?
Criminology professor Liam Kennedy argues the popular children's TV show has few redeeming qualities
Liam Kennedy's two-year-old son isn't allowed to watch Paw Patrol.
"He has now internalized my feelings about the series and knows that we don't in fact watch Paw Patrol in our house," said the King's University College professor in an interview with London Morning's Rebecca Zandbergen.
Kennedy, on the other hand, has spent a lot of time watching the wildly popular children's series in his office at work, dissecting what he sees as the show's underlying messages. The outcome of that research has just been published in the journal, Crime Media Culture. It's called "'Whenever there's trouble. Just yelp for help': Crime, Conservation and Corporatization in Paw Patrol."
Paw Patrol, an animated series that began in 2013, is about a group of do-good dogs who are led by a 10-year old boy, named Ryder. Together they rescue various people who find themselves in tricky situations. The show has spawned a run on franchise toys, as well as a travelling stage show.
"I'll start with the depiction of the state. Mayor Humdinger and Mayor Goodway — kind of the representatives of the state or the government — are portrayed negatively," Kennedy explained.
"Mayor Humdinger is portrayed as unethical or corrupt. Mayor Goodway as hysterical, bumbling, incompetent."
Plus, Kennedy takes issue with Paw Patrol as a kind of stand-in for a government-funded police force. "I would argue that the Paw Patrol, as a private corporation, is used to help provide basic social services in the Adventure Bay community.
"That's problematic in that the Paw Patrol creators are sending this message that we can't depend on the state to provide these services."
Not to mention, Ryder should be in school, Kennedy added.
Kennedy said it's possible these kinds of messages affect the children who watch the program.
"I just think that as time goes on, children might be less likely to critique the capitalist system that causes environmental harm in the first place and reproduces inequality," Kennedy said.
But what about the "No job is too big, no pup is too small" message so often quoted on the show? Kennedy has a problem with that too.
"To me that's an individualist message. Pull up your boot straps, you can do it if you just try hard enough. That kind of message ignores structural barriers in our society and not everyone can do it," he said.
Kennedy admits his Paw Patrol deep-dive may not be palatable to all parents and children.
"Some people roll their eyes. I think it's a serious message but I also want to have fun in my job, so this was fun."