Blaze and The Monster Machines - Positive, Parent/Child Interactive,Entertaining - Learn while Laughing with a Kid Safe Show
This is a quasi-interactive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) oriented program combined with the normal upbeat Positive
Social Awareness Message (Friendship, Teamwork, Responsibility, Diversity, and Caring).
The CGI environment is stylized for "shape" recognition in a world environment (circle, squares, rectangles, etc.). It does use children's interests in motorized vehicles (specifically suped-up trucks) that have been personified with unique but not intensely deep human personalities - a tool of the trade animators have used ever since animated flip book cartoons and recently like the Disney CARS movie franchise.
Many parents have begrudgingly compared BLAZE to Disney Cars (not a STEM oriented animation whatsoever), Dora The Explorer, Bob the
Builder, Elmo's World, Sophia the First, Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine, etc. They also expect this show to be the end all, do all STEM/Social Awareness/Environmental Responsibility all rolled up into one show for their children to watch without parental
Bob, Dora, Elmo would be closest on par to Blaze as STEM and Social Awareness. Dora does get more involved with a direct Environmental Message, which was one of its goals, than Bob or Elmo. Thomas has elements of STEM, but it's more on track with Social Awareness and doing the right thing (after doing the wrong thing). Paw Patrol and Sophia are not STEM oriented, but focus more on Social Awareness. Cars ... is just entertainment. According to Disney, Cars definitely is not STEM and although it has elements of teamwork, it's primarily just entertainment.
The fact is ... not every child is interested in the characters of Dora The Explorer, Bob the Builder, Elmo's World, Sophia the First, Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine, etc. ... just like they may not be interested in Blaze!
So, the same STEM and Social Awareness elements are incorporated broad spectrum into a number of different children's shows. Just like you as an adult may like one Late Night Television Host but absolutely dislike another Late Night Host although both are expounding the same views on the same exact topic ... children feel the same about what programs they like to watch.
Of course, there are the claims:
1) "Give me some Speed" and "Let's Blaze" are drug references to LSD and Marijuana use.
2) the running Protagonist and Antagonist theme (Good Personal Choices vs. Bad Personal Choices) between primary characters AJ/Blaze and Crusher/Pickle promotes an "us versus them" theme.
3) Crusher and Pickle's friendship is based on a Bully and a Victim relationship.
4) the dangerous street stunts and reckless driving promotes unsafe behavior (children imitating in real life what they see on television) and no segment on Street Safety.
5) there is no Environmental Message present and Resource Waste is acceptable (Crusher spilling oil all over the Monster Ball field, Baker Bots making tons of food that is only cleaned up by throwing it all away).
6) the characters are primarily one dimensional stereotypes.
7) AJ and Gabby are too young to drive, Gabby looks too boyish, and they seem to be the only humans in the show.
8) the character Zeg pokes fun of slower individuals or individuals with speech issues.
9) the audience in the Axel City Monster Dome stereotype spectators as less intelligent or redneck.
Let's pick each one of these claims off:
1) They're not promoting drug use. If you're reading that deep into this cartoon, take two really big steps back and put down the bag of Doritos folks. Although "Blaze Up" and "Gimme Speed" were drug references in the 80s counter culture, they've pretty much run their course in 2016. And just about any phrase can be used as an inappropriate reference ... the phrase "You're on Bob's wood Mr. Crab" from an episode of Bob the Builder is now a popular adult oriented reference. Dora talks to and understands Boots ... so the same thing said about Scooby Doo could be applied to Dora as well.
2) All shows require at least one thing ... a Protagonist element (what you want to be and cheer for) and an Antagonist element (what you want to avoid). Otherwise you have no storyline, or one that's not very interesting or becomes numbingly redundant where nothing happens. Parents complain that AJ/Blaze and the other Monster Machines never attempt to help Crusher become a better personality, but they miss the fact (that children pick up quickly) Crusher never wants to change and that Blaze! gives him every opportunity to do so. Crusher is an adversary, his purpose is to show the opposite of cooperation and fair play and how cheaters never win in the long run. Nowhere does AJ/Blaze never "ostracize" him or Pickle. In matter of fact, in one episode Crusher doesn't want to race with Pickle and AJ/Blaze asks Pickle to race with them. AJ/Blaze even helps Crusher in the same episode when Crusher's chosen team mate Rudy abandons him in a pit that Pickle cannot pull him out of. There's no "US vs. Them" theme ...
3) This is by design. That's why parents should watch shows with their children instead of plopping down kids in front of a TV or Computer and walking off. Crusher is a classic bully, as most antagonists in any story are. His character exhibits every personality trait of a narcissist. There's a reason for this ... for you as parents to discuss this with your children about what to look for in choosing who they consider friends or hang out with. After all, this is STEM and Social Awareness. Children pick up on this right away, that in real life, people like Crusher are not necessary your friend even though they may pretend to be. But even bullies need a toadie (sidekick) and Pickle is it. Pickle is basically Crusher's conscience - always upbeat, always trying to get Crusher to do the right thing. As a Bully, Crusher is more of a whiner than a physical abuser.
4) Yes, and it's intended to keep interest. Let's face it, children are not going to watch a show where monster trucks drive slowly through Axel City or stay parked in Gabby's garage and talk like old women under dryers at a hair salon. Here again, is where you as parents come into play ... explaining the difference between cartoons doing funny stunts and how in real life drivers do not do this except in shows like the special ones that the Monster Machines participate at the Monster Dome. Blaze! requires some parenting on the parents' part too. My 2 year old daughter already knows it's just a cartoon and people don't really drive that way in real life
and how you can't do their stunts on the road. And she figured that out without me telling her. Too many times, parents think their children are too young to understand concepts when children are actually more keenly aware about things than adults are. Also keep in mind, this is not a Safety Town video or Driver's Education. But the creators probably could tone down the stunts if the Monster Machines are not racing or practicing and are just driving down the street normally.
5) Correct. Generalized Science, Technology, Engineering and Math concepts are it's core, Social Awareness is its message. It is not
an Environment Sciences lesson. You're not going to see a saving rainforests/whales episodes or energy conservation episodes or
benefits of recycling. That's Dora's bailiwick and Paw Patrol's "Rocky" touches on Recycling with his "Don't Lose It, Reuse It" catch phrase. Although - the writers should play the responsibility angle by showing someone recovering the oil for reuse after Crusher spilled all over the Monster Ball field in order to cheat or all the Baker Bots food recovered to help the less fortunate.
6.) Again correct. But keep in mind, this is a pre-schooler's show and the K.I.S.S. method ... Keep It Sensibly Simple. (I know that's not the true acronym, but I'm keeping it polite). There's no need to over complicate the characters to get the core STEM topic and message across.
7) It's an animated entertainment program for children. Give children more credit than what you're giving them, they know children don't normally drive Monster Trucks. They know that some older children in real life can ride a 4 wheeler like Gabby or Ryder in Paw Patrol. As for Gabby missing some female attributes - they're unnecessary to get the point across that Gabby with Purple longer hair and a girl's voice ... is a girl who is a mechanic (another Plus: Gabby personifies that girls can do just about anything as boys). And the children this program is for, don't have those attributes yet to begin with. As for them being the only two humans living in a city of living machines, again it's the K.I.S.S. method. The show is about Monster Machines and other living vehicles, you only need 1 boy and 1 girl. And for people clambering for diversity ... AJ is not Caucasian and Gabby is representative of a mixture of races.
8.) Zeg is a dinosaur Monster Machine that's well loved by the characters and children viewers alike. He's not an inside joke against slow people or people with speech impediments. There's no need for a Political Correctness crusade against Blaze! because of Zeg's character voice. If you're going to do that, then you may want to first consider the stereotypes concerning Transformers and the way the Dynobots were portrayed in that cartoon ...
9) Ever been to a Truck Pull or Demolition Derby or Rodeo at a Fair or a Motocross event? Ever sat in the Grandstand bleachers and looked around at the folks sitting next to you? LOL ... it's pretty much the same as they portray in Blaze!
Overall, it's a positive show. Children get excited over it. They absorb the STEM and recognize what it means to be a friend, work as a team, and what a bully is. There's nothing scary, evil, or "disturbing" about the show. No creepy, gross, hideous, nightmare causing creatures (regardless if they're "nice"). The majority of complaints by parents are simply complaints made to complain about something. Watch it WITH your children, like it's supposed to be watched and do the interactive parts WITH your children. Sometimes, I think the children who watch these programs are more acute to what's happening than the "bubble-wrap the world" parents who comment about the programs. LOL