Leftists Declare War on Thomas the Train
A conservative cynic from birth, I foolishly thought I had seen it all when it came to leftist madness. But then I saw, posted on CNN’s website, “Why kids love 'fascist' cartoons like 'Paw Patrol' and 'Thomas'.” The article referenced several other articles that described Thomas as “a premodern corporate-totalitarian dystopia,” “imperialist racist and sinister,” and “classist, sexist, and anti-environmentalist.”
This caught my attention because my six-year-old boy -- like children all over the world -- loves stories of Thomas the Train. I recently took my children to Thomasland in Massachusetts and now my boy wants to visit the Thomasland in Japan. The Thomas cartoon is so popular that 1 billion dollars of merchandise related to the show is sold every year.
Reverend Wilbert Audrey, creator of Thomas the Train, has recounted how, when his 3-year-old son was ill with the measles, he told him stories about trains. Audrey says that in his own childhood he had to read boring books about perfect children so that he would learn from their moral example. He decided to write interesting books about engines with human characteristics in a fictional island he called Sodor. The trains would push the envelope until they got in trouble, be punished, and after making amends would be “bought back into the family so to speak.” Morality in the world of Thomas was making oneself useful to society, being a good friend, and keeping the railroad functioning smoothly. The human aspect of his trains is part of their appeal to children and the moral aspect of his stories was part of their appeal to the adults who read the stories to their children.
Now left-wing critics label the Thomas the Train show “racist” because the diesel villain is black. They call it totalitarian because trains are supposed to do what the manager of the rails, Sir Topham Hat, tells them to do. They call it sexist because there are more male trains than female trains. (In 2013 the British Labour shadow Transportation Secretary actually called out Thomas for its lack of females.) When Thomas is awarded two female passenger cars to pull because of good behavior, the feminists call this sexist too.
The leftists are particularly offended by the stories of Henry in the Tunnel and Toad Stands By. Henry the Train decides that rather than contribute to society he’d prefer to stay in a tunnel. Despite the best efforts of Sir Topham Hat to get Henry out of the tunnel Henry refuses to budge and Sir Topham Hat teaches him a lesson by locking him into the tunnel with a brick wall. The New Yorker quotes a commenter as saying “What moral lesson are kids supposed to learn from this? Do as you’re told or you will be entombed forever in the darkness to die?” In the next episode Henry, miserable in the tunnel, becomes willing to help again and is released. The New Yorker critic doesn’t mention that. In Toad Stands By bullying trains, otherwise known as the troublesome trucks, are taught a lesson by Oscar the locomotive, whom they had picked on. Oscar pulls the bullying trains behind him when they decide to cause trouble and not move. Oscar fights back by pulling very hard and the leader of the bullies, Scruffey, who is behind him bursts in half. The New Yorker quotes a commenter as writing: “I guess the lesson is that if someone is bullying you, kill them?” In the next story Scruffey is repaired and the troublesome trucks learn never to cause trouble for Oscar again. You are not told that by the author of The New Yorker article.
In yet another episode a nasty double-decker bus named Bulgy comes to the station and talks about revolution -- “Free the roads from railway tyranny!” he cries. The New Yorker writes “He is quickly labelled a “scarlet deceiver,” trapped under a bridge, and turned into a henhouse.” Actually Bulgy deceives passengers into riding on his bus and gets stuck under a bridge. Too damaged to move, Bulgy becomes a home for hens. Once Bulgy is willing to make amends and be useful to society he is forgiven and repaired.
Why do leftists distort and demonize Thomas stories? Leftists do not like the idea that punishment and discipline are a good thing because it implies that the fault lies with those who misbehave instead of with society. That is one of the reasons that the anti-discipline policies of leftist Mayor DeBlasio and former president Obama have increased the discipline problems in New York City schools.
In the leftist worldview society is the guilty party and therefore revolutionaries are heroes. Reverend Audrey’s portrayal of a revolutionary as a nasty bus whose revolution gets him stuck under a bridge and keeps his passengers from getting to their destination is not a message they like. Even worse he becomes a home for hens instead of great revolutionary. He even stops being a revolutionary and starts to contribute to society. It is no wonder that a critic of Thomas ends his article in Slate by writing “Cast off your shackles and rise up, little engines! Down with Topham Hatt! Sodor revolution now!”
The leftist reaction to Thomas is a demonstration of the sick tendency of the left to demonize those they don’t like and to distort what they say. I told my 6-year-old son that I was writing this article to answer those who attack his favorite show he said “Tell them that whatever is wrong with Thomas is just little mistakes and that Thomas is very nice and teaches children a lot about trains.”