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July 23, 2014

Thomas the Tank Engine: Fascist Oppressor

Verily, it hath been many moons since the Editorial Staff raised the consciousness of the assembled villainry by exposing the shocking exploitation of one Knut - the Adorably Psychotic Gay Teen Bear.

Truth be told, Knut was a bit of a puzzlement to us at first. On the surface, he was not your garden variety, undertrodden pawn of the vast evil, reich-wing (but we repeat our ownselves) conspiracy. Unrepentantly white in color, a Haver of Decidedly Masculine Naughty Bits, poor Knut was the sort of bear at whom we would have felt more comfortable wagging the stern finger of international opprobrium.

Thankfully, our friends the Germans performed a seemingly impossible feat. They managed to turn this white, male bear into that most useful of social justice avatars: the perpetually aggrieved victim. Of course Knut deserves some of the credit for copping to a deliciously transgressive inter-species fling with his human handler (Thomas Dörflein's suspicious demise is alleged to have resulted from a random-but-completely-understandable S&M role playing encounter gone tragically wrong - possibly brought on Dörflein's boringly clichéd polyamorous adventures with female bipeds of his own kind). There is no shame in any of this - these are all perfectly legitimate lifestyle choices. And how could enlightened folk like us help but love Knut when he bravely led the German Gay Polar Bear movement to oppose Sarah Palin's VP nomination? In a civilized society like Amerikkka, even the voices of Deutschen Eisbären have their place?

The young ursine has been the target of death threats for his prescient and principled opposition to European Islamofascists. Thus, we found ourselves deeply disturbed to learn that, not content with being a bad mother, animal hater and strident foe of a woman's exclusive right to determine the reproductive destiny of both partners in a sexual relationship, Gov. Palin has come out against same sex marriage rights for polar bears.

But sadly, even in death our hapless fUr-brother (no thanks to PETA, still possessed of his huevos) has been pressed into service to bolster the brands of his heartless, capitalistic oppressors. We shall speak of this atrocity no more.

not_a_usefulengine.pngIn the culture wars, Evil never takes a day off. So neither must we.
Sadly, a new menace looms ... err... menacingly... on the horizon: a racist, sexist, rampantly authoritarian and Otherist danger to everything we hold dear.

That's right: we're talking about Thomas the Tank Engine:

Thomas and those friends are trains that toil away endlessly on the Isle of Sodor – which seems to be forever caught in British colonial times – and, on its surface, the show seems to impart good moral lessons about hard work and friendship. But if you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages.

For one, these trains perform tasks dictated by their imperious, little white boss, Sir Topham Hatt (also known as The Fat Controller), whose attire of a top hat, tuxedo and big round belly is just a little too obvious. Basically, he's the Monopoly dictator of their funky little island. Hatt orders the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done – regardless of their pre-existing schedules.

Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a "really useful engine", because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.

But there was one particular episode that caused me to put the brakes on Thomas for good. It revolved around James, a red engine who is described in the opening credits as "vain but lots of fun." (Wait, it's OK to be vain if you can show others a good time occasionally? Great – that's going in my Parenting 101 book.) In the episode "Tickled Pink", poor vain James, is ordered by Topham Hat to get a new coat of paint. But while James has only had an undercoat of pink slathered on, Topham Hatt interrupts and demands that James go pick up Hatt's granddaughter and deliver her and her friends to a birthday party right now.

This reckless and unsanctioned Pinklighting must not be allowed to stand. Until the oppressed locomotives of Sodor have achieved gender parity, we honestly don't know how we can sleep at night.

Admit it, knuckleheads. This is quite possibly the defining issue of our time. How will our children grow up to love social justice and resolve never to possess more material goods than the least fortunate among us if they are continually being fed warped values by self loathing cartoon locomotives who continually refuse to recognize their own best interests?

Now perhaps if Thomas were to come out in a future episode as a Locomotive of Unambiguous and Unapologetic Transgenderness, honor *might* still be served. Whatever happens, Percy should definitely be forced to parade around in a shiny new coat of pink paint. With rainbows.

And unicorn decals. OCCUPY SODOR!!!!

Posted by Cassandra at July 23, 2014 06:03 AM

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I would wager, based on having seen too many episodes of this series some years ago when it was popular in my household, that the episode ends with everyone learning that it's not nice to make fun of pink engines.

Posted by: Grim at July 23, 2014 08:32 AM

I'm pretty sure it does, that being the point of most episodes (the characters make mistakes to illustrate Why Good People Shouldn't Behave That Way).

But this is really irrelevant. No one, anywhere, must ever be allowed to show people doing Bad Things. Because that never happens in real life.

This concept is vitally important, because pretty much all of my public policy positions rest on the assumption that no one would ever take advantage of them.

Posted by: Barack "The Lightworker" Obama at July 23, 2014 08:34 AM

I'm all for occcupying Sodor. In fact, I might never come back. Anyone else having a problem finding direct flights?

Posted by: spd rdr at July 23, 2014 08:52 AM

There are those who live in a state of perpetual outrage. I have friends who do, and while I love them, I cannot follow them on social media for the utter hysteria they whip themselves into constantly. One, no lie, decried the Patriarchy because her OB/GYN dared ask her what her husband thought of her getting a long term birth control implanted! The NERVE! Asking for the husband's permission to take control of her own body! Why this outrage is without equal. When I pointed out that the doctor would not even perform my vasectomy without signed consent from my wife, she said, "well that's just silly!" Not decrying the vast Matriarchy responsible for denying men control of their own bodies. Just that it was silly. And she moved on to the next thing to be outraged over.

I think people like this LOVE to be upset at something. They're (in many ways) crusaders. They want something to fight, to struggle against. The insane mother all upset about Thomas the Tank Engine is not content just to censor it from her own TV. She MUST convince you of the evils of this show, so that you may be as enlightened as she, and this travesty of a show may be removed before more innocent children are twisted by its vile message!

Posted by: MikeD at July 23, 2014 09:20 AM

Anyone else having a problem finding direct flights?

Silly man (but I repeat myself)... you're supposed to take the train!

*running away*

Posted by: Thomasina the Reimagined Tank Engine at July 23, 2014 09:38 AM

I can't understand the outrage against Sodor. It's administered by a kindly central power and all the little transengines get their coal allowances for free. I suppose all you deregulator types would prefer we just let children get polio?

On FireDogLake yesterday, they were arguing that all money is violence. I think the idea is that, if you want someone's stuff and you don't offer him money for it, he'll use violence to ward you off.

Posted by: Texan99 at July 23, 2014 11:33 AM

Next up on Celebrity Deathmatch, it's Tinky Winky with his Pink Purse of Perversity versus Sir Topham Hatt and his Team of Train Terrors!

Can Tinky Winky show enough control to stay off the tracks or will James ruin his paint job with little purple bits of goo?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 23, 2014 04:26 PM

On FireDogLake yesterday, they were arguing that all money is violence.

EXCEPT money confiscated from the Evil Rich and redistributed to the Deserving Near-Poor.

Sheesh, people. Val Jarrett has *tried* (Lord knows she has tried) to explain to you yokels how I'm so smart that I keep falling asleep because nothing is challenging enough for me.

Except, apparently, governing a nation that was perfectly governable when GeeDumbya was prez, but inexplicably became UNgovernable as soon as I ascended to the imperia... err... was swept into public service by gazillions of adoring voters.

Posted by: Barack "The Lightworker" Obama at July 23, 2014 04:46 PM

Next up on Celebrity Deathmatch, it's Tinky Winky with his Pink Purse of Perversity versus Sir Topham Hatt and his Team of Train Terrors!

Yanno, I've had just about enough of your heteronormative hate speech of hate.

I see how you are. Oh yes, I see.... and so do the IRS, NSA, DoJ....

Posted by: Barack "The Lightworker" Obama at July 23, 2014 04:47 PM

I believe you can take a ferry to Sodor. (consults computer) Yes, there's a ferry service between Harwik, Sodor and Ramsey, Isle of Mann.

Posted by: htom at July 23, 2014 06:45 PM

As Gibbon would say, he blushed not to assume the purple.

It didn't work out for most of those guys, either.

Posted by: Texan99 at July 23, 2014 07:52 PM

I can't understand the outrage against Sodor. It's administered by a kindly central power...

The article suggests that the problem is that the kindly central power is a fat little white man with traditional upper-class tastes.

Of course, if it had been a Jamaican with dreadlocks, the charge would be stereotyping; and if a Jamaican with traditional upper-class tastes, cultural imperialism. It really has to be a kind of commune of all non-white people with various tastes to be wholesome.

Posted by: Grim at July 23, 2014 09:02 PM

Right: we're A-OK with the central power as long as he doesn't wear a tophat. If he's a kindly kindergarten teacher with technocratic credentials, well, thank heaven the Smart People are in charge!

Posted by: Texan99 at July 24, 2014 03:09 PM

Heh; obviously written by a deranged Lefty, as everyone knows passenger trains don't work well (and are nearly always subsidized, as they are uneconomical).
Real trains carry freight and COAL.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at July 26, 2014 01:12 PM