‘Capitalism is best’ subliminal message in kids’ TV show


LIAM KENNEDY CAUGHT CAPITALISM WITH ITS PANTS DOWN. His recent paper “‘Whenever there’s trouble, just yelp for help’: Crime, Conservation and Corporatization in PAW Patrol” argues capitalist propaganda not only exists, but is on prominent display every day on a kids’ TV show

Kennedy is a criminology professor at Kings College in London Ontario. His work does not usually make headlines. But news outlets like the CBC, the Huffington Post, the Daily Wire, the National Post and their syndicated columnists all reported on Kennedy’s research and offered opinions on how misguided he was.

Private sector bias

In his paper Kennedy argues that the animated children’s TV show PAW Patrol presents the world as a place where private corporations are always more effective than government. He writes: “In this world, politicians are presented as incompetent or unethical and the state, either incapable of delivering or unwilling to provide basic social services to citizens....

“Ultimately, PAW Patrol echoes core tenets of neoliberalism and encourages complicity in a global capitalist system that (re)produces inequalities and causes environmental harms.”

PAW Patrol, is hugely popular with pre-schoolers. The series has been sold to TV networks in over 160 countries. It’s stories revolve around a group of do-good dogs led by a 10-year old boy. Together they rescue various people who find themselves in tricky situations.  Each dog has a specific set of skills based on emergency services professions, such as a firefighter, a police officer, and a pilot. The show has become a major franchise with games, toys and a travelling stage show.

Kennedy does not take issue with doing good. What he is critical of is how PAW Patrol portrays elected representatives as the last ones to trust to do it.

Kennedy points out, “Mayor Humdinger is portrayed as unethical or corrupt. Mayor Goodway as hysterical, bumbling, incompetent.

“That’s problematic in that the PAW Patroll creators are sending this message that we can’t depend on the state to provide these services.”

Kennedy said it’s possible these kinds of messages affect the children who watch the program.

“I just think that as time goes on, children might be less likely to critique the capitalist system that causes environmental harm in the first place and reproduces inequality,” Kennedy said.

Denies structural inequality

But what about the “No job is too big, no pup is too small” message so often quoted on the show? Kennedy has a problem with that too.

“To me that’s an individualist message. Pull up your boot straps, you can do it if you just try hard enough. That kind of message ignores structural barriers in our society and not everyone can do it,” he said.

Kennedy admits there is an element of fun in his PAW Patrol research. But that doesn’t mean it can all be just brushed aside. What Kennedy offers is more evidence that we get sold on the “glories of capitalism” precisely because it is sold to us all the time and everywhere—even in cartoons for pre-schoolers.

Liam Kennedy’s two-year-old son isn’t allowed to watch PAW Patrol.

- 30 -

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.