Something just happened to me that has NEVER happened before.
My seven year old daughter is home sick today. Just before 9AM, I made her some toast, got her glass of water and blanket, plopped her in front of the TV, and turned on PBS. Randomly turned on PBS, mind you. I didn’t consult any menus, didn’t order anything On Demand, just turned on my TV to channel 9, and then something quite extraordinary happened. Across my TV screen, there was no Caillou, no Curious George, no Arthur or Clifford the Red Dog or any of the other male protagonists from the regular PBS early morning line up who I’ve blogged extensively about. Instead, there on my TV, in early morning prime sick kid hours, there was a female protagonist! A red-haired girl, and– this is truly breaking news: the series is titled for her. This new series is called “Peg and the Cat.”
I had heard this show was coming out and posted about it on Reel Girl’s Facebook page. But, my experience with PBS shows starring girls like “WordGirl” or “Chole’s Closet” (the latter which is pretty heavy on rainbows, not to mention her adventures come from her clothes, how original for a girl) is that they are never on. I have to hunt them down. The reason that’s a problem is the inconvenience become an obstacle between kids and strong female characters. It keeps shows starring girls in the “special interest” category.
This episode of “Peg” begins with her cat stuck in a tree. Her cat is hilarious. My daughter was cracking up. I liked the cat, but being cynical, I was thinking: Girl star, girl in title of show, she’s going to be surrounded by males. But the next scene, was mind-blowing. To find help to get Cat down, Peg goes to her neighbor’s garage. In that garage were two neighbors: an African-American woman and an Asian woman. Do you realize what I’m writing heer? Three females, zero males, diversity, and they all shared the screen in an eponymous show about a female character– all this randomly turned on in my house in the morning hours.
You’re not going to believe it, but this story gets even better. Peg tells the neighbors that she needs help, and they try to give her a pink dress, which one of them happens to be making, then a tiara, and a bow. Now, if this scene had taken over the story, I would’ve been annoyed. I’m tired of the trope where the strong girl rips off her restricting corset or her frilly dress, just like I am sick of the narrative where the strong princesses gets to decide who to marry. Why does marriage have to be an issue in the story at all? Who cares what she’s wearing? Does her outfit have to be a plot issue? Would it be for a male character? So though I liked Peg rejecting the dress, tiara, and bow, and found it charmingly meta, a female character refusing the gendered accoutrements always in cartoons, I prepared myself for Peg’s narrative now being dominated by a discussion of her appearance. However, I was wrong again. Peg moved on in 5 seconds to her original purpose of finding tools to rescue cat. There was no digression at all, not even a joke about her rejection of pink, tiaras, and bows. That may be a first for me to see on TV as well.
In the next scene, a male friend comes to help Peg and he is African-American. He assists but does not take over. He offers to catch Cat, Cat says no, and then Peg uses her tools to make Cat a slide to get down.
I am so excited about this show! I only saw one episode but it made history today in my house. I have a good feeling it will continue to.