Now that my daughter is three, it’s become nearly impossible to keep her completely away from the television set. PBS in particular, thanks to our cutting the cable. While this means that she’s thankfully not exposed to the machine gun fire of brain-frying commercials and the endless parade of brain-dead princesses with no aspirations to do anything with their lives than to look pretty and make babies with handsome men, she has become quite likely the world’s number one fan of a show you’ve probably never heard of: Wild Kratts.
Wild Kratts is so called thanks to its two hosts: Martin and Chris Kratt. They travel the world in search of animals, save them from those that would do them harm, and talk pretty much like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. (Zoinks!) Their live, fatter versions bookend each episode, with their animated, slimmer selves—flying around the world searching for creatures in a giant mechanical turtle—comprising the middle. They do everything to the XTREEM! thanks to their ability to take on the “powers” of the animals around them. What this means is that they can basically turn into rhinos, birds of prey, and even termites. As if that wasn’t enough, they even have some help in that giant turtle of theirs: the brainy (yet clearly attractive) Aviva, the brainy (yet clearly attractive) Koki, and some stoner kid named Jimmy Z. (He sleeps and eats.) It all sounds ridiculous—and it is—but Audrey LOVES it and it’s become a part of our lives for better or worse.
Let’s start with the better:
While Audrey has always been a big fan of animals—she cherishes her stuffed animals, but couldn’t give two craps about the dolls she has—Wild Kratts has taken it to a whole new level. Thanks to Martin and Chris, Audrey can now readily recognize American badgers (not just badgers, American badgers), aardvarks, and many other exotic creatures; she knows that giraffes have long necks to not only reach high leaves, but compete with other giraffes; and that bees help pollinate plants and flowers. That’s pretty great. The show has also helped her with her geography. For instance, on Christmas she got a playset that had a desert theme. Her reaction? “It’s the Sonoran Desert!” That’s right, my 3-year-old knows about the Sonoran Desert. All thanks to Wild Kratts and their wacky globe-trotting adventures.
The show, however, has also resulted in a great deal of strangeness for me and mine. This is best exemplified whenever Audrey decides to treat Martin and Chris Kratt as if they’re her imaginary friends.
The other day she was in the car with me when she announced that Martin and Chris were in the back seat. “Martin and Chris are riding with me! Martin is in that seat. Chris is in that seat. AvivaKokiandJimmy [all three names said together like that] are at the house. And Audrey is in this seat!” This was not the first occurrence of this sort of behavior so I responded with an enthusiastic-as-possible-despite-hearing-about-Martin-and-Chris-every-day-for-far-too-long “Oh yeah?” “Yeah!” she cheerfully replied, before turning to talk to her invisible companions. A few minutes later, however, disaster struck: “Where’s Martin, Daddy?” This resulted in a stammering, “Uhh…wha?” “Martin’s missing!” Amazingly, I responded with nothing sane, but the completely ludicrous, “Is Chris still back there?” “Chris is in that seat, Daddy.” Thank God. “But no Martin!” she continued. For the rest of the ride we “searched” for poor Martin. Lord only knows what happened to the guy. Probably something XTREEM.
Missing Martins is child’s play compared to this creepy little nugget from the other night: “Martin and Chris are watching me in the tub!” How do you respond to that? I must admit my first thought—as insane as it sounds—was to find those two Kratts and beat them to a pulp for watching my daughter bathe. HOW DARE YOU?!?! INNOCENCE LOST!!! But of course those thoughts were merely the wild ravings of a protective father. Still…
That’s creepy, right?
And maybe that’s the crux of it. For all of the enthusiasm for animals the brothers Kratt have bestowed on my daughter, I just can’t get past the fact that they have basically become A PART OF MY FAMILY. They ride with us in the car. They watch us in the nude. They’re EVERYWHERE. It’s weird and unsettling. It’s also not going to stop any time soon so I might as well get used to the idea.
For better or for worse.