If you do not know anything about Thomas the Tank Engine, this post will make no sense to you. But if you – like me – are the parent of a toddler who obsessively watches Thomas and if you – like me – find yourself falling to sleep with “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight…” swimming through your skull, then I think you will relate to these deep questions about Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.
1. How Much Autonomy Do the Engines Actually Have?
The older episodes refer to (and show) drivers inside the train engines, but these gentlemen become less visible in the later computer-animated episodes. Still, someone must be driving these trains, right? Or do the trains do all the thinking for themselves? When Thomas and Toby hustle through the Whispering Woods, who is making the decision to actually go through the Whispering Woods? Percy and Gordon do some pretty stupid things. So do Rosie and Emily. If they have drivers, don’t the drivers have some say in getting them to not do these stupid things? Thomas just runs off to the country show without making sure his whistle is secured and the driver just lets him? Come on, drivers.
2. Is Sir Topham Hatt Also the Mayor or What?
He is head of the railroad, right? But is he also the mayor? What is his jurisdiction? Is the island of Sodor so dependent on a railway system that this has effectively given Sir Topham Hatt the power to control everything that happens there? If he is also the mayor, that would explain the fancy suit, but I seriously doubt the head of Union Pacific gets to march around ordering everyone around all the time while dressed in a tux.
3. Why Does Sir Topham Hatt Have Gentlemen-in-Waiting?
Who are these two guys who just follow Mr. Hatt around? They’re just looking around, nervous, ready to do Sir Topham Hatt’s bidding. These guys needs some lessons in self-esteem. They look like they’re going to start crying if Sir Topham Hatt even looks at them cross-eyed. That dude must be the mayor if he evokes that much fear in these minions.
4. Why the Relentless Capitalist Message?
Everything is about being a really useful engine – even at the expense of one’s dignity and personal health. Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Edward – how many times have we seen them debase themselves and humiliate each other in an effort to prove to Sir Topham Hatt that they are a “really useful engine.” I truly wish Thomas and friends would consider collective bargaining for at least one day off a week. The trains have nothing to lose but their chains.
5. Is the Overt Sexuality Appropriate?
Percy pumped his pistons. Bust my buffers. I’ll be your back engine. Emily is proud of her big wheels. Also – what the heck is “shunting” all about? I’m not sure my toddler son should be watching this.
All right – that’s it for now, but I admit these questions are on my mind way more often than I feel comfortable admitting. I’m not kidding, either. I seriously ask myself these questions when Elliott watches this show. Maybe next week I’ll take the time to share with you my thoughts on The Backyardigans (Is Uniqua transgender?), Curious George (Why is The Man in the Yellow Hat so weak?) and Caillou (Does Caillou have cancer and is this why he is bald?).