Thursday, 10 December 2009

Thomas is a Tory

I have huge respect for Canadians. Any country that can maintain its character and independence when sat on the doorstep of the world’s only superpower deserves to be viewed with a certain amount of awe. However, my esteem for the Canuks has been dented somewhat by the mad mutterings of Shauna Wilton, a professor of political sciences at the University of Alberta.

Ms Wilton claims that Thomas the Tank Engine, a popular series of books and TV programmes about steam trains with cheeky little human faces, is in fact a fascist Trojan horse. Apparently the show’s politics are distinctly right wing. The poor little engines are punished and squashed if they show any initiative and individualism. She also paints the Fat Controller who bosses Thomas and his chums about as being some sort of bullying aristocrat. He’s probably a freemason and a foxhunter, I shouldn’t wonder. Thomas meanwhile is a lacky and running dog of international capitalism.

As if those crimes weren’t enough, it seems that the story suffers from a lack of female role models. The professor watched the TV show with her three-year old daughter and was concerned enough to launch a full-scale witch hunt… er… academic paper which she then presented at a conference on political science in Canada.

"The female characters weren't necessarily portrayed any more negatively than the male characters or the male trains, but they did tend to play more secondary roles and they're often portrayed as being bossy or know-it-alls," she said. Any attempt to break out of this controlled hierarchy to gain individual power, show initiative or dissent is met with punishment, usually because it goes wrong.”

Thankfully it’s not all bad news as Professor Wilton concedes that Thomas has some acceptable values including contributing to the community, tolerance of others and good communication. However she does go on to say that children who watch the programme will attain full political citizenship, and the opinions and world outlook they develop now will be partially influenced by shows like Thomas.

Thank goodness the professor has an open and balanced view of politics. If she weren’t such a paragon of fairness and tolerance one might imagine her students would be influenced by her anti-conservative agenda, although I’m sure she’s far too impartial to allow that to happen.

So who’d have thought it? Thomas the Tank Engine… the Fuhrer of the railways. It’s amazing how clever those right-wing zealots are at hiding subliminal political messages in the most seemingly innocent guises.

On the other hand it could just be a fun and enjoyable story about steam trains for children who know nothing of politics.


  1. Sorry TM,

    I'm afraid you're caught in your own trap there. You spend a lot of time dissecting other people's agendas, but if someone else does, it's a witch hunt. What was that again about glass houses?

    Everyone follows a certain agenda, shaped by a certain world view. Prof. Wilson is stating the obvious - TV series, like anything else, are shaped by a certain world view and do shape viewers' opinions. The main difference between conservative and (for lack of a better term) liberal agendae is that the latter are open about being biased, while conservatives frequently don't even think of their own biased world view of being anything else than the natural order of things.

    Only, it isn't.

    Get well soon, Stephan

  2. Stephan... the difference is that Prof Wilson (sic) is an academic with a professional need to be impartial in teaching a subject such as politics. I'm simply a blogger who's peddling opinions rather than fact. Now, allow me to lower a ladder into that elephant trap you're in and give you a hand out!

  3. I can't believe what these people are paid to watch cartoons and teach this crap.
    And I am from Canada.

  4. It beats working for a living, Betty! :-)

  5. Lock her up in the Tidmouth Sheds I say ;o)

  6. If Prof. Wilson wanted to educate her daughter she could explain the world view during the time Thomas the Tank Engine was made. And read a few Enid Blyton books with her; isn't the hero(ine) called George?
    I assume there are now a lot of women working for the Canadian railways.

  7. Ms Wilton sounds nutty enough to be heir to the enfant terrible role of Germaine Greer.

  8. I'm really worried for her three-year old daughter. Apparently she loves the shows and adores Thomas.

    Will no doubt be sent to an Albertan gulag for re-programming. Poor wee mite.

  9. It is ridiculous how Prof. Wilson is trying to put a larger world order on The Island of Sodor (where Thomas lives), when frankly, it should be obvious to everyone that what is there is the Children's World Order. They are told what to do, they have temper tantrums, do something their not supposed to, and get punished.

    I can't stand it when people try to put political agendas on something that is simple and sweet. Next thing you know, she will be saying that Mr. Rogers is a Communist and indoctrinating the children into the world of Karl Marx.

  10. chris of the sad shirt10 December 2009 at 12:52

    Greetings XTM. Hope all is well in the Mystery Medical Tour business.
    Poor Thomas! And here I was going to apply for the job of the Fat Controller next time it was vacant. Ruled out immediately as most of my political leanings are slightly to the right of Genghis Khan.
    If Thomas and Co are such a bad influence on a three year old, bless her soul,imagine whats going to happen when the Wiggles and the Bananas in Pyjamas are analysed.Four aging rockers in vivid coloured skivvies and a token female Dinosaur. Checking out the Bananas in Pyjamas guestbook comes up with 'why are you wearing pyjamas-why can't you be a nut?' and 'has B1 got a girlfriend?' What party's that?
    An aside-the pink thing has permeated to here. So far being treated in a light hearted way but I'm running a book as to how soon it's picked up by some rabid group or the other.
    Chris the Sad Shirt wearer, Melbourne OZ

  11. I think shed rather approve of your last suggestion.

  12. I have even more respect for Cubans - also on the doorstep of 'the world's only super-power' - and never missed an opportunity to stick up two fingers at it. Hoorah.

  13. I think I'd rather be Canadian than Cuban. Their leaders may stick two fingers up to the USA but most Cubans would be too afraid to put two fingers up to Fidel and Raul!

  14. Now I wonder what Ms Wilton would make of Easops Fables ?

    My boys loved all the stories and the morals from them.


  15. and there was me thinking it was a delightful childrens storytale about trains....perhaps i am just not intelligent enough to see what it is really about. or maybe the good prof just needs to take some time away from work especially when watching the telly with her daughter

  16. I have a feeling she's a shrewd publicity seeker and I (along with the media) have swallowed her bait. That must be her intention as no one would seriously believe the stuff she wrote, would they?

  17. Being Canadian and living in Alberta just down the highway 3 hours from UofA & Prof. W. I'm laughing and choking on my hot chocolate. This is a scream of hilarity. Alberta IS Conservative! We've voted Conservative like dried baby cereal on a highchair (a cement block) for the past, um, well since 1971!

    We too have looneys in our academics. She probably had to publish something so she can validate her existence at the Universtity. She probably thinks those Teletubbies were gay and political brain washers! Every so often someone spends too much time reading too much into nothing and needs to change to decaf coffee.

    Oh, Cubans are letting Americans in now. Or rather the American gov't is letting their people go legally to Cuba.

    Thomas is really popular here...he even came and did a show in Calgary! (Maybe she couldn't get tickets to it??) We have whole sections of toy stores/departments that are Thomas everything.

    Girls had Dora the Adventurer for themselves until someone pointed out the no boys thing and Diego showed up. Bob the Builder has Wendy now. Cub Scouts and Boys Scouts are co-ed now....boys can't have anything just for themselves but girls can (Girl Guides, Barbie, Spa Lady...)

    Don't get me started! And I was going to tell you that our hospital system is going to have a special holiday meal that staff can buy while they work over Christmas Day.

  18. Dora the Adventurer? I think Dora the Explorer (as she's called in England) sounds much better - despite the puns on my name.


  19. it is Dora the Explorer...I shall be shunned by 3yr olds for the mistake!

  20. We get a lot of strange ideas like this over on the West Coast of BC. Must be something in the water.

  21. well it is a price less thing at front of children's smile
    Thomas the Tank Engine Beds