NPR chuffs into the Island of Sodor’s philosophical vortex

PHOTO: screenshot via YouTube video by Will Rain

Thomas the Tank Engine has visited the Depot in Duluth, Minnesota, several times in recent years. PHOTO: screenshot via YouTube video by Will Rain

It’s been a couple years since I’ve “visited” Sir Topham Hatt’s Island of Sodor and his many sentient machines, including most famously Thomas the Tank Engine. Our boys are older now. One boy practices archery. One boy plays video games. One boy draws dramatic, intricate scenes of human carnage and calls out at night, “Mom, I have necrophobia!” Point is, the boys have moved on.

But this week I was amused to see National Public Radio latch onto the very thing that enthralled me about my boys’ time spent with Thomas the Tank Engine — the strange economics, politics and philosophical questions that come with this seemingly benign children’s program.

You can hear it here, or visit the link:

Of course, I was initially jealous. After all, I had already penned a number of think pieces about Thomas the Tank Engine’s Island of Sodor, Bob the Builder’s Sunflower Valley or any number of the strange transmorphications of humans and machines, capitalism and socialism, found predominantly in British kids shows.

I would point out my July 10, 2011 column “Animated children’s programming, a dissertation” for instance, or perhaps this paragraph from a post last summer:

To follow Thomas the Tank Engine’s world is to explore an illogical, inefficient, disconcertingly polite world in which a wealthy businessman controls an entire island, its economy based on sentient trains moving around flatbeds sometimes loaded with as little as a single box of balloons or a pair of clown shoes. The cities are caked in coal dust and the countryside is guarded by an eccentric farmer who appears to produce the island’s entire food supply, at least 10 percent of which is eaten by Sir Topham Hatt himself.

And though the archives of my original sloppy HTML version of are no longer active, I swear to Fat Controller that I’ve been writing bullshit think pieces about the Island of Sodor since 2006.

Topham that, NPR.

But upon reflection I realize that for the high level study of bizarre children’s programming to continue, scholars trapped in their living rooms with bottles of formula and the odor of poo need to pass the baton to the next stinky, sleep deprived generation in order to bear academic fruit.

Peep, Peep! Chhhhhhhhhhhhhsssshhh!

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