new residents on the prison island of sodor

Good news! Steph was worried today’s post would require her dwelling on the completely disgusting ridiculousness of cutting federal funding to state schools, but keeping federal funding to private schools because they’ll definitely be discriminated against and get less money??! ? IDK, I’m hoping I’m completely misunderstanding every article I read about it.

ANYWAY, we’re not talking about that today because Steph will start yelling at work and is already really stressed. Instead: MULTICULTURAL THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE.

As always, reminder that Sodor is a prison island for sentient trains, and we don’t support sending any train there, let alone any brown trains. Especially because:

As everyone knows, Thomas the Tank Engine is the story of several straight white men who solemnly obey the every passing whim of a white, straight, male dictator in a crude reinforcement of the belief that the working class should know its place. It is outmoded and outdated, and it teaches children nothing but dangerous stereotypes about the world.

But there’s a part of me, the part of me that will reluctantly admit that the prison island of Sodor is not real, that is glad to have more trains from different countries on Sodor.

ashima
Ashima, from India

There’s Vinnie (Canadian), Ashima (Indian), Frieda (Germany), Raul (Brazil), Ivan (Russia), Axel (Belgium), Carlos (Mexico), and Yong Bao (China).

Of course I’m worried about the tokenism of one train each from eight countries and still the usually eleventy billion from the UK, but I guess this is okay.

(Liz says: let’s unpack the bit where Ashima has sculpted brows and eyeliner.  Is Frieda the German Engine also going to conform to gender stereotypes, or are we only sexualising the trains of colour?  How is it that it’s 2016 and I, a grown woman, have just used the words “trains of colour” with only a tiny bit of irony?  But on that note, why is Ashima so white?)

(Steph notes: is this a legacy of “fair and lovely”?)

(Liz says: Please hold, I need to go hit up GallifreyBase with the theory that introducing a Desi train on Thomas is in fact confirmation that Rakhee Thakrar is playing the new Doctor Who companion because Steven Moffat controls all media and absolutely drops hints about his own shows in other, completely unrelated shows.)

yongbao
Yong Bao

Impact on the prison island of Sodor

Obviously, at this stage it’s too early to tell what impact these new residents on the prison island of Sodor will have on its politics. I expect punishments to take on a new perspective, and for the bullying to increase. As always, we ask, what does it mean to be a Really Useful Engine? Will these new engines have different perspectives on what this means, and bring with them the will to break free from the system? Or are they just another sign that the imperialism of the Empire is far-reaching and that many are cowed by it?

Please stand by for opinions; I’m confident that No Award Toddler Television Correspondent Melina will have some.

Further reading:

HILARIOUS, though: the article at The Poke, Daily Mail readers have lost their minds over “multicultural Thomas The Tank Engine”, which include some hilarious quotes; and at the Guardian, ‘Why must I expose my kids to all these sexy trains?’ How the world will react to the new Thomas the Tank Engine.

Also worth reading is this piece after No Award’s very heart, up at Salon: Thomas the Tank Engine, neocolonial fantasy: What his new international pals, and the backlash against them, signal.

Yet the crucial detail about Thomas’s new “foreign” friends is that these trains are all wearing masks, each face ghostly white despite being “Indian,” “Brazilian,” Mexican,” or “Chinese.” Under the bourgeois aegis of globalization, Thomas’ expanded universe is fostering the assimilation of the rest of the world into structural whiteness, and the new “friends” are facilitators of the neocolonialist marketplace. The century-old series’ original message of Civilization through Industrialization remains intact.

Please be friends with us, Paula Young Lee, I think you’ll get along with No Award so well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “new residents on the prison island of sodor

  1. nonelvis

    (Liz says: Please hold, I need to go hit up GallifreyBase with the theory that introducing a Desi train on Thomas is in fact confirmation that Rakhee Thakrar is playing the new Doctor Who companion because Steven Moffat controls all media and absolutely drops hints about his own shows in other, completely unrelated shows.)

    I will personally send you the shiny American treat of your choice if you do this.

  2. Periwinkle

    The writers seem to have made an honest attempt here to create some genuinely diverse characters, and also done some homework on regional locomotive variations. It was probably a waste of time, and just shows what a mess you get when you try to diversify an existing cast whose core members are all effectively white and male.

    You could actually tell an interesting story with talking steam locomotives. Many designs came from Scotland and were shipped overseas where local workshops built copies. So picture an “original” locomotive (with 100 years’ worth of local replacement parts) and a couple of copies being sent to Glasgow for restoration. The “original” thinks she’s going home, yet finds she is now a foreigner. The copies are irritated by engineers who don’t appreciate the changes made to adapt their design to their home climate and fuel sources.

    With a skilled writer, you could cover some deep issues of assimilation and culture. But that can never happen as long as they tie themselves to the existing stories and characters of Sodor, with Thomas serving as the viewpoint for the (presumed white) audience looking at the “foreign” locomotives as exotic outsiders.

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