Thursday, January 29, 2009

Montessori and The Two Week Shark Tale Marathon

So, after all that static about TV, we have a TV crisis.

It started on a rainy afternoon when the babysitter had called off or something, and Nuvy said, innocently (or so I thought), "Maybe I could ask T.T. (next door neighbor--9 years old) to come over and watch Shark Tale. Can I, Mommy?

T.T. and I hang out a lot together. She comes over to bake, borrow cups of olive oil, make macaroni and cheese, clean mirrors (her favorite housekeeping task, and one that never even comes up on my radar unless T.T. is around). All very Montessori-friendly activities. So, I thought, "I won't fight her on this one. A little cartoon movie won't hurt anything, and we'll be back to making braided breads tomorrow." That's how it started. After they watched it, I turned off the TV and they went up to the playroom to make imaginary tea or write on the chalkboard or something, and I thought everything was copacetic.

Heh. Don't ever think that.

It crept in on little cat's feet. We went out to dinner and left the kids with the babysitter, came home and they were watching Shark Tale. Then I went to yoga (repeatedly), came home, Shark Tale was on (every time). Some days I turned it off and endured the screaming long enough to find a book or some other activity, some days I made a few phone calls and looked the other way. Then, about a week ago, the bottom dropped out.

We have had the plague at our house for about a week. Everybody got snotty noses, junky coughs, high fevers and secondary infections. In short, it was the sort of thing that nailed our feet to the floor. Between doses of Tylenol and Motrin, I thought, Hey! We have a copy of Shark Tale, and Nuvy's sick and entitled to a little indulgence, so I'll prop her up on the couch and pop it in the DVR and presto! Some healthy cartoon entertainment for a feverish three-year-old. (We actually have a long and checkered history with Shark Tale, starting, as so many tumultous relationships do, in the back of my Mom's car.)

Nuvy watched Shark tale four times that day, Then four times the next day, then, for the rest of her illness, we pretty much had it on a continuous loop. I felt sick, but Nuvy felt sicker, and this was keeping her entertained and distracted both of us from her misery. After three days of straight Shark Tales, I started to worry that I was scrambling her brain, but my Montessori logic bent and twisted so as to hold up even in the face of this insult. I reasoned (rationalized?) that, as we all know, repetition is very important to 3-year-olds in the Montessori classroom. She was clearly working through something with the endless repetition of this show, so I decided I would not introduce any other TV, and I would not try to dissuade her from watching it over and over. I would wait her out. Nobody can watch the same show over and over forever, right?

On the fourth day, an interesting thing happened. She stopped just watching. She insisted that I sit with her, and was suddenly full of questions about the motivations of all the characters. She asked who was good and who was bad, and why, why, why at every line of dialogue. After a day of this, She started asking to replay certain segments that particularly interested her. She was especially fond of the part where Lola (the Angelina Jolie fish) enters the movie with a sort of pole-dance/MTV sex appeal, to the tune of "Golddigger" ("She's dangerous/super-bad/better watch out she'll take your cash/she's a golddigger/she's a golddigger), which our neighbor, Destiny (15) helpfully sat with her and replayed for--well, I don't know how long, but a long time. I found it interesting that she so fixated on the sparkly, red, icon of cartoon feminine identity that was the sexy golddigger fish. I don't even read Vogue magazine around her.

Yesterday, her last day home sick from school and a snow day to boot, I watched one round of Shark Tale with her, and was stunned to find that she accompanied each scene with her own little discourse on what was happening and why. "Frankie's bad because he wants to eat Oscar./Lenny is sad because the anchor fell on his brother and he died/Leno is mad because Lenny is not a good shark, but Lenny IS good, because he doesn't eat people!/the worm is scared because he thinks Lenny is going to eat him, but Lenny will not eat him because Lenny is nice and doesn't eat anyone/Lola is mad because Oscar loves Angie. She is bad, but Angie is good). She did this all through the movie.

Where she still seems confused, even now that Amoxicillin has made everyone feel better, she went to school, (we only saw the movie once today. Let's call it a wean) is with the character, Luca the Octopus-who is the Don's sidekick (comes in for schtick-y things like picking up the phone to order a pizza during a threatening call, or mistakenly replaces the creepy godfather music with "I like big butts" in a scene where the big shark is talking tough to an underling). Nuvy just cannot get her head around what is funny about an incompetent and laughable henchman, who undermines all the Don's intimidation tactics. I am at a loss to help her understand this subtlety, and it frustrates her.

They say there's a lesson in everything...


NOLA mom said...

I'm a little unclear, who has watched Shark Tale more, you or Nuvy? ;)

Testdriver said...

Tee hee.

She and I have seen it an equal number of times--actually, I am allowed to get up in the middle for a few minutes on occasion...

However, a brain quirk for memorizing audio/visual input runs in my family. Song lyrics and movie dialogue stick in my head (and the heads of my Mom and two siblings) like pine tar. My sister memorized a couple of movies, and could do recitations of them, when we were kids--I think they were Mr. Mom and Splash. We all speak to each other in song lyrics. I don't know, it's just one of those things.

My dad and husband, however, can watch the same film (or hear the same song, or read the same book) and be surprised every time by the ending!

Gracie's Mom said...


Great post.

And yes, Mr. Mom and Splash were my movies. If I think really hard, i could probably remember several lines from each.

Testdriver said...

Schooner tuna is reducing its prices by 2 cents a can. When this economic crisis is over, we'll go back to our regular prices.

...Schooner Tuna. The tuna with a heart!

mom said...

hahaha! Fabulous! If I liked tuna, I'd buy schooner.

mom said...

By the way, I do call any object I develop an attachment to "my woobie". I guess thats one of the many things that stuck.

You know, I recently saw Mr. Mom again after years and years... the movie took on a completely different life to me as an adult. Funny.