Trust the Gene Genie

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Behind-the-Couch Post

You remember how sometimes your spouse will come up with a crazy theory to pin on you some type of bad behavior? I know. I didn't believe it ever happened either until Becky did it the other day.

She and Elsa were home after preschool, the older girls still at school. Becky went down stairs to work on the computer leaving Elsa upstairs to play on the organ. After a few minutes, Elsa calls out to Becky, sounding a little nervous and wanting her to come upstairs. Becky tells Elsa to just come down stairs. So Elsa hops down from the organ, walks to the stairs, moving a little quicker with each step until she's running down the stairs. When she reaches the bottom, she's moving at full speed and screaming.

Clearly, this girl has been genuinely frightened.

Becky gets her calmed down and asks her what happened, a little concerned. Through the 4-year-old speak, Becky puts together that Elsa was scared to be upstairs alone because she was afraid her pink, stuffed poodle and the bulk of Leigh's stuffed animals would come to life and kill her.

Now, rather than explain away this fear as simple cognitive development and anxiety phenomena that normally present themselves in toddlers and young children, Becky has the temerity -- the TEMERITY -- to suggest that this fear of her impending doom at the paws of stuffed animals awakened from their inanimate slumber was due to me. Specifically, she said, it was due to all those episodes of "Doctor Who" I had been watching with the girls.

I know, right?

So let me make a quick list of the episodes we've watched and the basic plot of each so you can see just how crazy this accusation is. I'll list them in the rough order we watched them and include some photos from the actual episodes to illustrate just how harmless this stuff is. (You can click on the pics to make them bigger, you know, if you want the full effect.)

"Blink" -- Angel statues come alive when you blink and devour what would have been the rest of your years on earth by sending you back in time.

"The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" -- Alien microgenes infect blitz-era London turning people into gas mask-wearing zombies. When the zombie-ness takes effect, the gas masks pop out of people's mouths. I might note that the episode ends on the rather up-beat note of the Doctor shouting, "Just this once, everybody lives!"

"Dalek" -- The Doctor discovers his ancient archenemy, the Dalek is still alive. The Dalek gets loose and kills a bunch of people.

"Bad Wolf/The Parting of Ways" -- Rose and the Doctor end up on a 51st century game show where the losers are killed. And then Daleks appear and start killing people.

"The Girl in the Fire Place" -- The Doctor discovers gear-driven robots are visiting 18th century France and stalking Madame De Pompadour. The robots hide under her bed and then attack her with little circular saws.

See? Pretty innocuous stuff. The idea that watching these episodes is somehow freaking Elsa out and that her fear is manifesting itself in ideas that stuffed animals could come to life and attack her is just absurd.

In fact, my solution, if we're to suppose Becky could possibly be right, is to simply explain to Elsa the reality of the situation. It's natural when you're a child to believe in monsters and to be scared of them. But, as the Doctor explained to a young Mde. De Pompadour, monsters have nightmares, too. Who do they have nightmares of, you ask? Of the Doctor. So don't be scared of monsters because you'll always have the Doctor to protect you.

Becky's not convinced that solution will do the trick.

No, if we're going to be honest with ourselves, we might have to admit Becky has a point. In England, back in the '70s and '80s, particularly frightening episodes of "Doctor Who" were called "Behing-the-Couch" episodes because the kids watching would jump behind the couch and hide when the scary parts would come on.

So really, we can all take heart. Elsa is simply taking part in the broader -- albeit distinctly British -- cultural experience of watching "Doctor Who" as a child. And the Brits totally turned out fine.


Shed said...

Genius my friend. Genius.

Uncle E said...

God, that gas mask episode would do it for me!

V. Daniel said...

This is my Granddaughter we are discussing. We can only hope she has more of Becky's genes than her dads.

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