We republish this story from December 18, 2019 as a reminder that despite this the White House press secretary said, Paw Patrol is not canceled.
Let’s start with the redeeming qualities. First, the Honorable Mayor of Adventure Bay is a woman of color. Second, the gray dog named Rocky is really into recycling. Otherwise, Paw Patrol is a moral and aesthetic disaster.
My wife and I have done our best to protect our sons, now 4 and 6, from screen time for as long as possible. For the first child, that meant no television for two years. For the second, we have almost done six full weeks. We started them on our nostalgic favorites – Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood (a fallout from Mr. Rogers) – and were pleasantly surprised that these shows were funny, thoughtful and true. Then we got into the rough years where the boys no longer tolerated Elmo but weren’t quite ready for the superheroes who murder murderers. And that’s how JV’s superheroes made their manic entrance into our lives, enveloped in a whirlwind of strobe lights, talking dogs, and bowling sound effects.
It is not the logic of Paw Patrol that bothers me. Does it make sense that dogs can talk but cats and chickens can’t? Or that dogs can operate complex machines without opposable thumbs? Or that Marshal the Dalmatian personally carries on his body at all times a seemingly inexhaustible reserve of water? No, but cartoons don’t make sense. We agree with anthropomorphized animals that wear ups but no downs. And to be fair, there are kids’ shows with much more confusing internal contradictions. Take the theme song from (far superior) PJ Masks, the lyrics which read “Cuz bedtime / Is the right time / To fight crime” while obviously the line should be “Cuz nighttime / Now is the right time / To fight crime ”! What could explain such an oversight? Nothing so disconcerting happens in Paw Patrol.
And even Paw Patrol is monstrous. First, there’s the show’s disdain for anything uplifting from a distance. Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger, PJ Masks and even openly fascists Thomas and his friends build their stories around minor conflicts that provide opportunities to teach life lessons in a fun way. Courses like Try new things Where Be kind to others or (in the case of Thomas) Suppress your individuality for the greater good. But no Paw Patrol. It’s one of the few kids’ programs that doesn’t try to entertain parents or encourage kids to be better people.
Paw Patrol tracks the adventures of a canine emergency response team, but it offers no guidance on how to behave in an emergency. Instead of finding smart ways to teach kids about everyday virtues, writers just throw a rescue dog at every problem. Does a farmer need to harvest his crop? Does a restaurateur need to organize a party? Throw a rescue dog. If Marshall the Dalmatian Fire Dog is around, why not teach kids what to do if they smell smoke? While the Rubble the English Bulldog Manual Laborer is on the scene, why not show kids how to practice safety around hand tools?
Even though the show was not cruelly amoral, it is physically unpleasant to take in. Put aside the horrible theme song and the ghoulish laughter that punctuates bad puns kids can’t yet understand. Before Chase the police dog (a cheerful German Shepherd) can help anyone, he must first announce, “Chase is on the case!” Then launches down a winding slide as the lights flash and an invisible choir shouts “Paw Patrol!” Go go go go go go! Paw Patrol! Go go go go go go! Hunt! Go go go go go go! Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol! followed by ten solid seconds of sirens, running motors and more flashing lights.
One more thing: the main cast of Paw Patrol has about a thousand boy dogs and exactly one bitch. And no, Everest and the Mighty Twins don’t count. Skye is the only dog girl who is still there. And it’s a cockapoo. Whose costume is entirely pink. Yes, Skye, the lonely female actor from Paw Patrol, is a tiny, fluffy, self-deprecating, and emotionally demonstrative member of a toy breed, who is constantly praised for their cuteness and excellent memorization skills. Why couldn’t the only bitch girl be a firefighter or a cop? Come to think of it, even the adult mayor relies on a 10-year-old white boy to solve all of her problems. This show is pure dirt. My kids love it.
* A version of this article appears in the December 23, 2019 issue of new York Magazine. Subscribe now!