To start, a couple of disclaimers:
1. Growing up, I loved Doctor Who – both the TV series and books. Can’t add anything else to this particular disclaimer – I absolutely loved them.
2. On a similar, yet diametrically opposed, note, I absolutely hated Disney films. I’m not going to go into the reasons, because that would take a long time, but even now whenever a child gets mauled by a dog – I wonder if it happened because the child was trying to get the dog to sing.
Let’s move swiftly on. A few years ago, Doctor Who was revived as a TV show and I was very excited. Then I saw the first episode, and I was somewhat less excited. Excitement diminished every week – there were some excellent stories, typically the ones not written by Russell T. Davies – but there was always something that got in the way of enjoyment.
That fucking sonic screwdriver.
In the older episodes, the Doctor would whip out his sonic screwdriver occasionally. In the new episodes, the screwdriver became a magic wand. What’s the problem with magic? It doesn’t require explanation – it’s just magic.
Also fairly recently, as the father of an amazing daughter*, Disney DVDs entered the family collection alongside uncountable zombie films, 80s John Hughes movies and my treasured Buffy DVDs. Most of them were, well, exactly as I remembered. Some where actually very enjoyable (such as The Little Mermaid), but one set of films has really stuck in my mind. These are the Tinkerbell films.
Specifically, I’m talking about Tinkerbell And The Lost Treasure. In a nutshell, Tinkerbell is given a task that is of vital importance to all the fairies, and requires an extremely rare moonstone. It’s a movie, so of course the moonstone is shattered and she has to deal with the consequences. Most of the movie deals with her travelling to a far-away place to find a magic mirror that will make everything OK again. So far, so Disney.
This, from both a general and technical point of view, is where it starts to get interesting.
She finds the mirror, and manages to screw it up again. Suddenly, there’s no more magic solution to her problem and so she starts using her brain. She designs and implements a solution based on the broken moonstone for the fairy ritual that is far more successful than previous rituals have been. She’s taken the broken pieces of something she’s told has to be whole, and instead of taking what she’s told as the only truth, innovates her way out of the problem.
At a time when the importance of teaching children to program is making (inter)national news, I think a role model that encourages critical and pragmatic thinking trumps one who can zap his way out of any problem with setting xyz of his magic wand.
* And I dare you to prove otherwise 🙂