Using Old Fashioned Television as Teaching Tool

13 Oct

When I was a child, I used to love watching the Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show.

My brother and I watched it for years, starting from very young and continuing on into our teen years. On occasion, I even watched it as an adult if I happened to catch it on at my Grandmother’s house.

A funny thing happened when I watched it as an adult. I always knew it was an oddly violent show and I always knew it was ridiculous and fake.

Come on, this was a kids show!

Come on, this was a kids show!

What I didn’t notice, though, as a child, was the racist and problematic imagery!

racist bugs bunny3

racist bugs bunny2

racist bugs bunny

I was so excited to find the old fashioned “classic” Loony Tunes released on dvd that I bought them for my son. But then we started watching and I started feeling really uncomfortable.

So we stopped watching them.

Another one of my childhood favourites:


I love this show! I’ve been watching the re-runs for my entire life and I find it to be wholesome and hilarious with a lot of teaching moments for the younger crowd.

Jason recently found all the seasons for me and I had been watching them while my oldest was at school and my young was napping.

Then one day, I left the tv on while I went out to wait for the school bus. So it was still on when RJ and I came back inside.

I don’t know if it’s because the actors on the screen were dressed as police officers or because there was a little boy on the screen (Opie) or if it was the novelty of black and white, but RJ was quite taken with The Andy Griffith Show. He watched it for awhile and then, in later days, he started requesting it, “Daddy/Mommy, I want to watch the Barney show!”

We thought at first he was talking about Barney the dinorsaur, but no, he was referring to Deputy Barney Fife!

So a few times a week, we’ve been watching the adventures of Barney and Andy and Opie and Aunt Bee and Otis and Floyd and Gomer and Miss Crump and Thelma Lou. And now even JP has started requesting to see Barney on the tv.

I’ve been loving watching a live action show with the kids as opposed to endless cartoons.

I was under the impression that there was nothing questionable about this good old fashioned family sitcom. And, for the most part, it’s quite benign. The show is obviously dated but all the 1960’s era clothing and cars and general way of life have so far “passed” as totally normal to my eagle-eye five year old. Oh, and all the American historical references (talk of yankees and southerners) have gone completely unnoticed.

RJ hasn’t even questioned why Otis staggers into his special jail cell every Saturday night.

Then we watched an episode called Aunt Bee’s Medicine Man. From

Andy must protect Aunt Bee from a charming traveling snake-oil huckster whose 170-proof “tonic” provides temporary relief from mid-life crisis.

So Aunt Bee sees this guy selling some sort of medicine (he has a booth set up on the side of the road) and he’s touting it as a magic cure-all to make you feel amazing! Aunt Bee is very impressed and buys two bottles right away.


Andy comes home to find her in high spirits, singing and laughing away as she pounds the piano keys.


Turns out she’s drunk and Andy knows it but too bad Aunt Bee has already invited the traveling salesman over for dinner!

And during that dinner he tells amazing tales of his time spent living in nature with “the Indians.” He can speak a little of their language and he makes smoke signals with his cigar smoke.


Opie is amazed of course. Aunt Bee is dazzled. Andy, however, is not fooled. Of course he’s not fooled, he’s way too smart. Eventually Andy and Barney expose this guy for a fraud and Aunt Bee is properly embarrassed for getting drunk off her ass. Poor Aunt Bee!

You can probably see why this episode was hard to watch with my five year old.

Oh the questions!

Starting with questions about “Indians” and continuing for at least fifteen minutes with questions about alcohol.

What’s a smoke signal?
What’s a medicine man?
Is that man an Indian?
Why shouldn’t I say Indian?
Do we know any Indians?
What does “gassed” mean?
Why is that man a criminal?
What exactly is in the bottles?
What does the bad liquid do to Aunt Bee?
What is alcohol?
Is alcohol always bad?
Do you drink alcohol?
Do you know anybody else who drinks alcohol?
Do you know anybody who gets silly like Aunt Bee when drinking alcohol?
Grandpa drinks alcohol?
Is that why Grandpa acts so weird and silly?
Is he a bad person?
Do we still love him?


And there were many more…

I want open dialogue about these things (about all things) and I want my kids to feel they can talk to me about everything and anything. I will do my best to answer all questions and if I can’t, I will help find the answers!

It’s not that I didn’t expect these kinds of questions….

I just didn’t expect them at age five.

And I certainly didn’t expect them because of watching an episode of The Andy Griffith show!

It’s so important to know what your kids are watching (and what video games they are playing) so you can answer their questions.

And obviously it’s important to make sure they’re watching age appropriate television (and playing age appropriate games). We only get 18 years (give or take) to shape these people into adults and part of our job is to be aware of all media.

Media has powerful influence!

Now I only watch my favourite (and non-racist) Bugs Bunny (or Loony Tunes) clips with RJ on YouTube. And I’m always prepared for anything when we watch Andy Griffith.

I can’t wait until he’s old enough to watch Matlock!
Andy Griffith and Carol Huston star in Matlock.

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