Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Swiper the Fox

So, after all the drama of the past week (and ongoing), I thought I'd just calm it down a little. My daughter watches Dora, as, I imagine, do lots and lots of little kids (and, since the show debuted fifteen years ago, not so little kids). I'm sure they put less effort into planning this show than I do thinking about it, but Dora continues to amaze me in the ways in subtly disseminates some pretty awesome social lessons. On this day, it's Swiper the Fox.

Swiper is, as you might have guessed, a fox. He generally shows up to swipe things. He takes stuff and hides it nearby, thus requiring Dora (with help from kids watching at home) to find it. Sometimes Swiper is slow and Dora's mild rebuke, "Swiper, no swiping" helps him come to his senses and give up his klepto-quest.

Ostensibly, Swiper is a villain. But there are no villains on Dora. They're very good about separating people from what they do. Dora and her crew readily admit swiping is wrong, they continually reject Swiper's actions, but they never seem to reject him. He gets invited to parties, he gets cards like other people. When there are special cookies for everyone, Swiper's right on the list. There are no "good guys" and "bad guys" in Dora's world.

It would be easy for us to laugh and say, "what a wonderful childhood fantasy." I could even see some people upset we're not preparing these kids for the real world (as if this is the job of cartoon monkeys, et al). I find the opposite true. It's a beautiful depiction of the world as it is. Our society tends to send the message of "good guys" and "bad guys," because it serves the interests of power, but, in reality, we're all people. As much as we don't want to admit it, that makes us all essentially the same. The very best of our actions are possible from any of us; so are the very worst.

There are no bad people, just people doing bad things. Yes, our actions shape us and change us, but they only do so in how we respond to things. They change our actions and our inclinations. They don't change us. Deep down, we're still the same people, even if our humanity is lost beneath the effects of a lifetime of evil.

Obviously, Dora's world is far more simplistic than the real world. She doesn't face the sort of existential challenges that exist in ours, but her world does offer some picture of what the world could be. I say that with gospel hope. My faith tells me the future is a world in which we're all loved and valued as the humans we are. At some point, we may reach a world where bad actions are removed, but until then, we're still called to treat people like people.

Swiper gets to participate in the world of Dora, despite his propensity to swipe. He takes and hides and is cruel for no real reason, yet he's treated as one with a specific place in the system. That is not to say we need evil to emphasize good, but simply that all are welcome, all are included, all are loved. Exclusion comes from our own choice; it's not forced on us - at least in the world as it should be.

Dora might be seen as foolish. She continues to treat Swiper well, even as his presence tends to be bad news. She approaches him as if the past is no indication of the future (the story is a bit different when he approaches her, but then again, the challenge is only to his actions, not Swiper himself). I admire the lesson Dora is teaching my daughter. If we really believe that love will win, that love can change the world, it's something worth being foolish for. Dora gets that. I hope my daughter will, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can there be analogy here with the fact that Judas is invited to the table at the last supper despite the fact Jesus seems to know already that he is the betrayer? Interesting thoughts