maddening and vomit-inducing

You may have missed this one while you were pumpkin picking this weekend: according to the New York Times, the Disney Company, parent company of Baby Einstein, will offer refunds to any consumer disgruntled that their babies have not actually become geniuses.

“The unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that [the videos] did not increase infant intellect,” according to the Times, and this is much to the delight of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which had been pushing this issue for years with the Federal Trade Commission.

Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the fact that the Baby Einstein videos would seem to enhance, rather than contradict, this organization’s stated goal of a “commercial-free childhood,” since unlike, say, the surprisingly ad-riddled PBS Kids, the Baby Einstein videos did not HAVE advertising. OK, all the DVD’s did begin with somewhat annoying pitches for the videos themselves. But they weren’t hawking Chuck E. Cheese or anything.

My question is, did anyone REALLY think that these videos were going to make their kids smarter? Are any of us that idiotic?And how does something that is”not educational” become, in some experts’ minds, something that is actually harmful? Vicky Rideout, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, had this to say in the Times article:

My impression is that parents really believe these videos are good for their children, or at the very least, not really bad for them.

You know what? That is EXACTLY my impression. The Baby Einstein DVD’s are, at the very least, not really bad for my children. Not compared to a lot of other stuff out there. And there are other marketing pitches I have much greater problems with.
But should we all storm Moose A. Moose’s office because nick jr., nee Noggin, despite their cheery claims, is nothing “like preschool on TV”?

Can I take the Diaper Genie to court because I spent $109.99 on it and my baby’s room still stank?

Heaven knows parents are on the receiving end of more unnecessary but slickly marketed crap than any other consumer group. (If you want to read more about that, read Pamela Paul’s excellent book, Parenting, Inc.) But I think these experts are just being silly when they suggest Baby Einstein was somehow especially fraudulent.

In fact, I am going to go on record and say that “Baby Neptune” was THE BEST $12.99 I HAVE EVER SPENT. It’s old-school (on VHS) but I keep the old VCR around at my inlaws’ house just so I can pop it in when Maggie gets up way too early, due to being in a strange bed, just like she did this past Saturday morning. And when I took a nine-hour flight with all three of my children last year, I’m not sure we would have survived without “World Animals” on repeat. Have your kids watch TV, or not; but if they are going to watch TV, they could do a lot worse than Baby Einstein. My barely two-year-old watches “Ni Hao, Kai Lan!” on my bed while I get dressed in the mornings, and it makes me want to stab my eyes out. Her brothers prefer the ultra-violent and occasionally racist “Tom and Jerry,” and sometimes she manages to catch a few moments of that as well.

When my oldest was a baby, I didn’t know a mother who didn’t have a Baby Einstein video around, or a baby who didn’t enjoy them. I also didn’t know a single person who thought she was creating a future genius with these things. Whenever my kids watched one of these videos, I would be reminded of an avant-garde theater writer I studied in college named Antonin Artaud, who, in one of his texts, called for a beetle to lower itself onto the stage with “maddening, vomit-inducing slowness.” That was Baby Einstein’s pace: slow to the point of making you vomit. But my babies were transfixed. It’s the idea that we parents are idiots that this mother is finding maddening. And vomit-inducing.