About a week and a half ago Jon and I loaded up the kids and headed to the PNE. It’s an annual end-of-summer ritual for many Vancouver families, and ours is no different. We eat fair food, ride the roller coaster, play midway games, visit with farm animals and go to shows. On the day that we were there Shrek: Stompin’ the Swamp was playing at the Family Theatre, and my kids were eager to go, so we went. This, my friends, is what parents do – they go to shows that they would rather not go to in order to make their progeny happy.
The good news is that watching Shrek and Fiona dance and sing on stage did make my kids happy. Three-year-old Jacob was especially thrilled at being so close to Shrek. It was, for him, a real-life celebrity sighting, and he was over the moon. If the stage hadn’t been six feet off the ground, I’m not sure I could have stopped him from climbing up and joining in. The other good news is that the show was really very short, and so while it wasn’t my first choice of entertainment, at least I didn’t have to spend all afternoon watching it.
Photo credit: Yogesh Kumar Jaiswal on Flickr
I was especially glad about the shortness, because Shrek: Stompin’ the Swamp may have been the worst show I’ve ever seen. The costumes were large and padded, so Shrek and Fiona could barely move. The plot was weak and didn’t make much sense. The main premise that Shrek forgot his anniversary was really over the head of your average preschooler. And the venue we were in didn’t really lend itself easily to kids getting up and dancing around. Many people left the performance midway through out of sheer boredom.
In my time as a parent I’ve carted my children thither and yon, and I’ve seen a lot of children’s entertainment. Based on my experience I can say that Stompin’ the Swamp is hardly unique in its bad-ness. While there are truly amazing children’s entertainers, fabulous attractions, terrific children’s museums and even top-notch kids’ TV, there is also a lot of truly terrible children’s entertainment in the world.
Photo credit: Musicwala on Flickr
My children are oblivious to my opinion about whether something is “good” or “bad”. While I grit my teeth and bear it, they are often having the time of their lives. On one level, I understand that children’s entertainment isn’t made for me, so my opinion doesn’t really matter. But on another level, I see that it could be so much better, because some of it is. And yet, drivel is so often churned out simply because kids aren’t as sophisticated as adults. The people creating the poor-quality shows know that three-year-olds (and their parents) will show up either way, so they’re not putting in the effort.
I don’t think there’s an easy solution to the problem of really shoddy children’s entertainment. If I decided to boycott it, I would only be making my kids sad. So I put on my grown-up pants and sit through shows that I hate, because I know that a little boredom is a reasonable exchange for really happy children. Afterward, Jon and I laugh about how comically awful it was. Eventually, my kids will become more sophisticated audience members and they’ll demand a little more. And then they’ll have kids of their own, and sit through some really awful shows for them. It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all. If only it were a little easier to watch.
What’s the worst children’s attraction or show that you ever attended? Do your kids usually agree with your assessment of whether a show is good or bad? Let’s compare notes and commiserate.