In her 2003 conservative book/rant, “Shut Up and Sing!” radio talk show host Laura Ingraham condemned know-nothing entertainers (among others) who use their popularity to push political views on their audiences and others. I certainly agree with her primary point, which is the expertise and notoriety in the entertainment field does not confer any special perceptiveness in matters of government and social policy, and many, if not most, of the opinions being vocally expressed by these singers, actors and comics are ignorant at best and infantile at worst.
Thus it is puzzling that Ingraham has increasingly been using her radio show, which is supposed to be about politics and current events, to hold forth on the relative value of children’s movies and TV fare in 2011 compared to the films and television programming of the past. To say that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about is being kind. She also is displaying such wretched aesthetic taste and factually mistaken analysis that her comments amount to pundit malpractice.
Last time I commented on Ingraham’s laments for bygone trash, occasioned by her nostalgia for the brain-rotting TV creations of Sherwood Schwartz (“The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island”), I assumed that this was just a one-time lapse. No. Ingraham, who is a new mom, is now apparently watching children’s fare for the first time in a long while, and has begun making her critical pronouncements a regular feature of the show.
Laura argues that Pixar films are “too fast paced” and lack “the beauty and emotional power” of hand-drawn animated films like “Cinderella.” The older films have their own charm and artistic values, and if she likes them better, that’s up to her. Still, virtually no serious critics argue that such films as “Up,” “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story” (1,2 or 3), and “Wall-E” are not every bit as aesthetically and emotionally satisfying as the best of the Disney classics. Then Laura goes on at length about how inferior such cartoons as “Sponge Bob” are to her favorite Hanna-Barbara yuck-fests, like “Josie and the Pussycats.” If these were just fleeting opinions from an unsophisticated viewer with no taste or experience, they would be harmless. But Ingraham uses her credibility as a social critic to go on and on extolling “Scooby Doo” and “The Jetsons,” as if they are noble casualties in the culture wars.
There is more wit and humor in one episode of “Sponge Bob” than in the full run of “The Jetsons.” Nostalgia is not the same a quality.
There is plenty of garbage among the cartoons and other TV programming for kids—there always has been. Still, the general quality and variety in children’s entertainment today is far superior, in both writing and artwork, to what was available in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. The great exceptions are the Warner Brothers cartoons, which 1) date from the Forties and Fifties, 2) were designed for adults, and 3) are more violent and sexually suggestive than anything Laura rails against today.
If Laura Ingraham is going to chastise entertainment professionals for a pulling a bait-and-switch on their audiences to argue politics, she should follow her own advice. I listen to her, when I tune in, to hear what the best and wittiest far-right female pundit is saying about the state of the world, not to be bombarded by her weird biases in children’s entertainment.