A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja is an action-packed cartoon geared toward tweens. Expect a lot of physical exchanges marked by martial arts-style fighting, as well as the use of swords and other weapons that disable and destroy some of the robots or monsters who attack the school. Because the violence isn't bloody and typically doesn't result in human injury, it won't have an upsetting effect on tweens. There's a mild sexual tone to some of the content, including some innuendo and partial rear nudity on guys and revealing clothing on female characters. The series touches on relevant social issues like status and striving to fit in, so there's a fair amount of content you can talk about with your tweens afterward.
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What's the story?
RANDY CUNNINGHAM: 9TH GRADE NINJA is the story of a teen (voiced by Ben Schwartz) who steps into the longtime legacy of his high school when he's named the successor to a line of ninjas who protect the students and staff from a series of villains and mishaps. With his best friend, Howard (Andrew Caldwell), always willing to lend a hand and his ninja handbook, the Nomicon, by his side, Randy has to simultaneously learn the ropes of being a hero and tackling the ups and downs of his freshman year.
Is it any good?
Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja taps into a familiar plot point: An unlikely hero emerges from the shadows to be his compatriots' saving grace in the face of danger. It's a fun concept to run with and offers plenty of opportunities for humor and chaos as Randy and his best friend attempt to keep his true identity hidden while duking it out with the bad guys, but the show misses the mark somewhat when it comes to exploring and defining heroism itself. As Randy adjusts to his new role, viewers see him rely more on the tricks that his ninja suit holds and the play-by-play advice his book offers than on his own skills and instinct. Plus, he finds that his prowess as a fabled, if anonymous, ninja does little to change his fortunes on the popularity front, which is the other battle he's fighting at school.
Of course, none of this will bother the tweens that this cartoon hopes to rein in. They'll be so absorbed in the fast-paced story and quirky characters that they might not even notice that there are underlying messages to be heard, but if you can draw them into a conversation about the issues -- including the definition of popularity as it relates to your kids' experiences -- there might be some value to the show after all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about popularity. Is this something you're concerned about? Are your decisions or actions ever influenced by your desire to fit in with a certain crowd?
Tweens: How do you define a hero? Who are some of your personal heroes? Have you ever been disappointed by the actions of someone you admire?
What are some of your favorite shows? What, if anything, could you say you've learned from them? Is it important for TV shows and movies to have positive messages?
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