Like many others, the COVID-19 pandemic took a lot out of me. I was in the middle of a program and the pandemic added two years to it. Two years that I had to spend isolated, not speaking to anyone outside of my immediate family. I even looked forward to my classes with instructors that I didn’t like simply because the assigned homework gave me something to do.
This is when I started watching a lot of kid’s shows.
And I don’t mean shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Gravity Falls. These target a broad audience with as much content for adults as there is for children. I’m also not talking about shows made for toddlers.
I mean shows like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic or Ever After High. At first, I watched these mindlessly to pass the time. Then I started to pay attention, and then I started to enjoy them. This was when I began to question why I liked these shows. I kept my volume low or my headphones on so people wouldn’t know I was watching shows meant for little girls. Once I noticed this, I started to question why I was hiding it.
A part of me knows that these shows aren’t particularly good. Every episode follows a basic structure and the animation is rarely what I’d call great. But that makes them digestible. And, looking back, I think that sort of light-hearted, digestible media was what I needed.
We live in a world where two major wars are making international news. We’re still recovering from the worst pandemic humanity has seen in a century. A pandemic that’s brought both socio-political division and economic recession with it. The cost of living is so insanely high that most people need to work two jobs if they want to support themselves. So it makes sense that we’d all be a little stressed, anxious or even depressed.
During an interview with Vice, psychotherapist Dr. Laurel Steinberg commented children’s media can help if you’re depressed. She says that kids’ shows “can help restore optimism and give someone a break from worrying or feeling sad, all of which can help elevate [your] mood.”
If more shows focused on community and friendship were aimed at adults, I’d probably watch those instead. Especially if it was a show about forming strong adult relationships without the need for characters to go through an intense amount of trauma or discrimination together. Don’t get me wrong. I love shows like The Bear or A Handmaid’s Tale. But those shows are intense and difficult to watch regardless of their amazing writing. They’re generally not happy stories.
And that’s why I watch kids’ shows. Like everybody else, I need a break from the stressful world we live in. Some people go out drinking with their friends to forget about life for a while, and I do a bit of that when I can afford to. Others might take out their frustrations through martial arts or violent video games. My escapism comes in the form of pastel ponies learning lessons about acceptance, community and friendship.
So when you consider turning off a kids’ show because somebody’s passing by, think about why you’re doing it. You shouldn’t be ashamed of seeking out an escape, because we could all use a little more light.