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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Slugterra is better than most adventure cartoons marketed toward tweens and toward boys in particular. Its hero is an often-overlooked underdog who relies on cleverness and quick thinking to hold his own against bigger, brawnier opponents, and he surrounds himself with a crew whose loyalty overshadows any thirst for battle. It's a bit disconcerting that the players' ammunition is capsules that hold slugs -- many of whom have names and personalities, which endear them to viewers -- but the fact that the hero and his friends show them respect and care stands in contradiction to how most of the villains treat their slugs. The story line surrounding the main character's attempts to fill his deceased father's shoes is a good jumping-off point for talking with tweens about your expectations of them and theirs for themselves.
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What's the story?
Following his father's death, 15-year-old Eli Shane (voiced by Sam Vincent) embraces his destiny to follow in his dad's footsteps to a secret, subterranean world called SLUGTERRA. Filled with caverns and populated by a colorful array of characters, Slugterra is also home to the sport of Slugslinging, in which players duel using slug-filled capsules they shoot from guns. As the slugs reach top speed, they transform into larger creatures with superhero powers, which they unleash on their opponents. At the end of each face-off, the winner claims the loser's slug, thereby accumulating an arsenal of varied weapons. But friendly matches are few and far between in a place where the nefarious Dr. Blakk (Mark Oliver) has his sights set on domination, and he mutates the slugs he captures to that end. It's up to Eli and his fiercely loyal crew to save Slugterra from the terrible fate Dr. Blakk has in store for it.
Is it any good?
Action, adventure, comedy, sci-fi, and (would you believe it?) cute little slugs crash head-on in this impressive cartoon about an unlikely hero who manages to stay true to his morals in a world where corruption and brute force threaten to rule the day. Eli is an average Joe who has no allusions about his heroic role, despite how those who knew his legendary father receive him in Slugterra. What he does have is a rag-tag team of loyalists and a whole lot of self-confidence, and he needs every last ounce of it to face lifelong Slingers three times his size. It's not hard to relate Eli's situation to a real-life one your kids can appreciate, and the hero's ability to find vulnerability in his opponents' games can remind your youngsters that even bullies can have their weaknesses.
Yes, there's a good deal of violence in this show, and at first glance the incorporation of the living, breathing slugs as weapon fodder gives thoughtful viewers pause. But there's some good to come even from this aspect of the plot, as Eli's compassion for the creatures sets him apart from his foes and most especially from Dr. Blakk, who treats his slugs as lab rats. Ultimately, the message kids get from this show concerns finding a cause worth defending, but not letting the fighting process strip you of your morals. Fight the good fight for the right reasons, choose your friends with care, and stick up for the little guy: all in all, not a bad set of takeaways from a highly entertaining cartoon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dealing with bullies. What makes some kids bullies? How do they use their physical appearance to intimidate? What are some good coping techniques for dealing with bullies?
Tweens: What causes do you believe in strongly? How do these causes reflect your personal interests? How can you use technology to learn about these causes? What can you and your family do to help fight for these and other good works?
Do you think of any people in real life as villains? How do their actions hurt others? What do they gain from the process? Whom do you see standing up to them and to what degree of success?
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