The Backyardigans is a Nickelodeon preschool show that is enjoyed by both adults and children. We continue the series with reviewing the DVD, The Snow Fort. This week’s episode is, “Knights Are Brave and Strong.”
“Knights Are Brave and Strong” is the first of several medieval-themed episodes. Writers’ preferences aside, pretending to be knights and going on epic quests is traditional make-believe, as old as the game itself. Uniqua takes center stage here and, in true Wizard of Oz style, meets up with friends on her journey.
Uniqua is, as her name implies, a quite unique character. Mischievous, graceful, funny, sweet – she’s the eternal optimistic and never lapses in self-esteem. Even though she’s a girl, she wants to be a knight – traditionally, a male role – and neither she nor anyone else has a problem with that (and more importantly, nor does the audience). You may wonder why someone with so much self-confidence would take the lead in a story that’s all about personal insecurity. Looking carefully, however, you see that that is actually the point; Uniqua and her determination helps others believe in their abilities.
Like Dorothy, Uniqua meets someone who is a little lacking in the courage department. For all her aplomb, Uniqua is well aware that one can be afraid, yet still courageous.
Tyrone: Aren’t you scared, too?
Uniqua: A little. But I’m trying to be brave.
Tyrone: I wish I was brave.
Uniqua: You are! Being scared doesn’t mean you’re not brave.
This is perhaps one of the most important lessons that children can learn (and adults, too!). So many of our actions are dependent on fear, whether it’s going to a new school/job or simply doing something you’ve never done before. The dangers of peer pressure are built upon fear, which is why having the self-confidence to be courageous and stand up for oneself is so vital to child development. Having a role model in this regard can be very beneficial, even if it’s a little pink character on a cartoon show.
As the story progresses, Uniqua and Tyrone are joined by Pablo, a gatekeeper who can’t open his own gate. Uniqua’s knightly determination knows no bounds, and together with her friends, not only manages to open the gate, but also to cross a stinky swamp with little more than creative thinking and some elbow grease. Admirably, she never thinks less of her friends for not figuring out their respective dilemmas, merely acknowledging that everyone needs a little help sometimes. Throughout the story, Uniqua demonstrates that obstacles aren’t meant to avoided, but to be overcome. By the end, all three have learned from their adventures, using their newfound knowledge to finally reach their destination.
1940’s Big Band is the musical style for “Knights Are Brave and Strong,” with trombones and saxophones being especially prominent in “A Message, A Message,” a reworking of “A Tisket, A Tasket.” Jamia Simone Nash, Uniqua’s singing voice actress, deserves special kudos for her impressive voice work in this episode. “P.U.! (Stinky Swamp Song)” is an especially silly number, and very much intended to provide amusement for the younger members of the audience.
The next episode is the final one The Snow Fort DVD, “Secret Mission.”
How do you inspire self-confidence in your child?
[Images © Nickelodeon via Viacom, Inc.]