Friday, August 1, 2008


If you were a child of my generation, then maybe some of my thoughts have occurred to you, but occurred to year years after the fact. I was a Nick Toons watcher--I loved Nickelodeon. I watched SNICK religiously and had a very close connection with the original Nick Toons. Rugrats was one of these original cartoons.

Simple, lovable--Rugrats was an instant hit with young kids like me. We loved to watch the nonsense they got into and see how far the child's imagination could go. It also gave me great ideas of what to do when I turned off the TV and went to play. Think of Tommy turning that cardboard box into a spaceship--genius!

But, maybe because I am more analytical now, I started to analyze Rugrats, as many texts should be analyzed. Now, what I want to focus on here are the family structures within Rugrats. One thing I am trying to convey to everyone I teach is that texts are created with purpose (for the most part). Every word, characteristic, piece of dialogue, etc. was put there intentionally by the artist for one reason or another. Our job as the audience is to interpret this.

So, here is my analyzation:

The Pickles: DiDi, Stu, Tommy, and Spike. They seem to be the normal, happy couple that truly do love each other and care for one another. Random arguments do come up every once in a while, but things always work out for the parents. They always make up. The parents genuinely care for the child. Stu is portrayed as a klutz while DiDi is the frantic suburban mother with a lot of control. They seem to have equal power though in the household. Tommy is a natural born leader who sticks up for what he believes in despite any stronger power in his way.

The DeVilles: Betty, Howard, Phil, and Lil. The family emphasizes sameness, between the names and physical appearances of all characters. The parents always looked scary, very similar--macho football players almost. Betty is a strong jock, representing that new sportsy mom who totally wears the pants in the relationship. Howard is more soft-spoken and angry at the control his wife holds over him, demasculating him at times. Phil and Lil are the perfect example of how twins are treated in this country: matching outfits, sameness, etc.

The Finsters: Chas and Chuckie. This family deals with an actual trauma: the death of Chuckie's mother. They face the very true reality of single parenthood and absent parents. Chas always strives to replace his mother but never really does. Chuckie struggles with this a little bit in one episode. Chuckie is portrayed as a wimp, always scared of everything but extremely loyal to his best friend. He is often very feminine, perhaps from the missing piece of his mother in his young life. Chuckie has crazy fears like getting his hair cut because he fears it will hurt--he's kind of that loser child that will someday grow up to be the smartest one. Be friends with this kid.

The Other Pickles Family: Drew, Charlotte, Angelica, and Cynthia (the doll): Financially successful, these parents neglect their child which turns her into an attention-starved little devil whose mission is to make everyone else miserable around her. Since her parents do not pay attention to her, she befriends her doll Cynthia who is the world to her. An inanimate object is the only true source of affection she receives in her life. She even seeks pleasure in torturing her younger cousin and friends. Angelica is the epitome of the suburban child--overpriviliged. She is the stuck-up girl chatting on her cell phone and worried about superficial things and status. She learns this from the cycle of her parents. It just keeps going.

Susie Carmichael: Their attempt to diversify Rugrats? They could have included her more if they really wanted to work this angl. It should have been incorporated more.

Reptar: The children's toy phenomenon that produces a million side products: a movie, action figures, an ice skating show, t-shirts, etc. Cynthia acts as a version of the modern Barbie doll as well.

I do need to comment that I did not go beyond the movies and follow them into their adolesence. I was upset that they exploited the show that far. It was at its best when it was original on Nick. It lost its flavor when it went to the big screens. I don't even want to talk about Dill and other characters--they are beyond the show's potential.

Interesting family structures, huh? Do you think they are appropriate as to act as an accurate sample of many American families? What other type of family should be added then? And, did you like this show growing up?

Rugrats also had such a great idea to show how intelligent babies really are. I don't think we give them enough credit. They acquire language at an incredible rate, and they have amazing imaginations that we stifle once they get older. I like taking the baby's perspective--it's a very creative angle.


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