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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Carmen Sandiego is a new take on the story of the infamous thief of 1990s games and TV fame. In this version, Carmen's still a thief, but she's more of a Robin Hood-style character, lifting items of historical and cultural value to prevent them being taken by V.I.L.E. operatives, then returning them to their rightful owners. This makes it easier to think of her as a hero and overlook how she goes about doing her job. Other than her thieving, Carmen is a fantastic role model: intelligent, altruistic, and willing to challenge authority to do the right thing. Expect some peril and many action sequences that show characters fighting, but no injuries to speak of. The show incorporates solid geographical and cultural information into its plot in creative ways and shows the characters using that knowledge to foil the bad guys' schemes.
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What's the story?
CARMEN SANDIEGO is the origin story of the notorious and mysterious titular globe-trotting thief who made her debut as a video game and TV series character in the early 1990s. In this imagining, Carmen's (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) story begins when she's an orphan baby raised among apprentice thieves on a remote island. When she comes of age, she trains alongside her classmates Tigress, Crackle, Le Chevre, and El Topo, excelling in ways that indicate a promising future as an operative. But when she learns the truth about the V.I.L.E. organization's mission -- and its real name (Villains' International League of Evil) -- Carmen escapes and sets about thwarting their nefarious capers around the world. Together with her hacker friend, Player (Finn Wolfhard), and her teammates, Zack and Ivy, Carmen races to safeguard the world's treasures from the clutches of V.I.L.E. agents and herself from the planet's most determined Interpol inspector.
Is it any good?
Everybody's favorite thief returns in grand fashion in this exhilarating series with a crack female lead and her arsenal of gadgets, perception, and ... geography? Carmen Sandiego refreshes the best of the former iterations of the red-clad character: She's smart, she's crafty, and she loves the thrill of the chase and the feel of clutching quarry from the hands of her adversaries. What's changed most is how much more we know about her now, and that just makes her all the more endearing. Instead of stealing artifacts for the V.I.L.E. organization, Carmen is the world's best defense against the group's schemes, and she's in league with detectives Zack and Ivy now instead of competing with them.
Carmen Sandiego never was a particularly threatening baddie, but the fact that she's adept at breaking and entering and an accomplished thief made her the obvious antagonist of her story. That's different now, and it's much more fun to root for her than against her. Also surprisingly fun is how this show incorporates solid geography lessons into each episode, introducing kids to basic facts about each new location on Carmen's travel list. Not only is this content good for viewers' sense of different places and cultures, it's also a reminder that knowledge can be an effective tool against the world's ills and one's enemies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how heroism is defined. Can a hero be someone who does something wrong for the right reason? Should a person's intent be considered when judging his or her actions? In what ways is Carmen Sandiego a hero? Can it be argued that she isn't one?
What character strengths do you see in Carmen? How does she display courage and determination? In what ways do Player's technological skills help the team? To what degree does their insistence on doing the right thing make them even more formidable?
Carmen had to stand up to her friends in order to do the right thing. Is that more difficult to do than defying enemies? Have you ever been in a situation that put you at odds with your friends? How do you defend yourself against peer pressure and bullying?
- Premiere date: January 18, 2019
- Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Abby Trott
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Adventures, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- TV rating: NR
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: April 2, 2021
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