Monday, August 13, 2007

Like Dora But Better and Less Annoying

The girls and I, wiped out from our long hike, settled in to watch the DVD I received from Scholastic. Olie began singing along to the catchy theme song as soon as the opening animation began: It's Maya and Miguel. Madhubby and I simultaneously turned towards her, you know this show?! I asked. Yeah, Olie answered brightly, it's Maya and Miguel! Like, duh, mom. Apparently, the kids are hipper than I am and are already clued in that Maya's glowing barrettes mean she has a super idea - not super powers.

We watched an hour of the DVD - or approximately two shows. Immediate standouts were the colorful graphics, the liberal use of Spanish phrases, and Maya and Miguel's diverse group of friends; one child is physically disabled. Not since The Proud Family have I seen race so well-represented and ethnicity so celebrated.

In La Calavera, Maya and Miguel, the twin tween stars of the show, have been assigned an oral project on the country of their choice. Maya picks Mexico, which thrills her Abuela Elena. Miguel chooses the United States, which is equally pleasing to his family. The episode doesn't delve much into the juxtaposition of the two cultures, presumably because most children watching PBS, the channel that broadcasts Maya and Miguel, already know a lot about US culture. Instead, the episode centered on Mexico and its celebration of Dia de las Muertos.

I spent a good portion of my life in New Mexico, so I know all about Dia de las Muertos but my girls were mesmerized by the creation of the sugar skull and the celebration of the dead. They admitted that at times they did not understand the Spanish phrases, but it didn't keep them from enjoying the show.

One thing that did strike me as kind of "off" was when, in a different episode, Miguel's little cousin, Tito, is introduced. While Miguel is lanky, fair skinned and light haired, Tito is short, dark skinned, black haired, and is less fluent in English than his "cool" cousin. On the surface there is nothing amiss, but the subtext I picked up is that being a little less Mexican and a little more Anglo is cool, maybe even desirable.

Still, I think Maya and Miguel is a breath of fresh air. It's a welcome change from television programming replete with bratty tweens. Maya and Miguel are good kids. They work hard, they value their family and they are good friends. And, I think, those are great qualities for any kid to have.


PT-LawMom said...

Ooh, this is great to hear. My husband's always looking for new ways to expose our son to Spanish. I also lived in NM and remember my first Dia de los Muertos celebration. There was also something they told me about a scary witch that would steal kids - La Llorona, I think? Do you remember that one?

I may have to Tivo this and watch a few episodes before I let Pumpkinhead, esp. if you're right about the Tito subtext...

Smart Mom Type Chick! said...

My kids love that show, especially since they're taking spanish lessons now. Good review!