BThis week’s ad news is for parents of children younger than seven years old: PAW Patrol: The Movie has landed in the UK, and it’s a great way to feed a Covid-hardened generation. kidswith authoritarian, neoliberal propaganda under the guise a cheerful cartoon about puppies That’s right: the early years TV show that criminology professor Liam Kennedy suggests is complicit in “a global capitalist system that produces inequalities”It’s back!
PAW Patrol’s astonishing popularity has made it a fascinating case study for the tastes and cultural politics of a generation. The show’s move from small to silver screen has highlighted many of those peculiarities. The first thing to say – though it seems obvious – is that parents can’t simply leave their children in front of PAW Patrol: The Movie, as you might with a television show. The film’s makers may have reduced the often chaotic scenes because they know that adults will be watching. A fireworks display in which all rockets are simultaneously launched in an explosion of colours and noise is one of the most important scenes of the movie. According to the man in charge: “Hey – I’m trying to build momentum here.”
Adults may be relieved with this odd bit of downtime, but in general the film maintains the programme’s deathless vibrancy, a world in which everybody is alert and ready at all times, and where dreaming and imagining are likely to get you run over by a screeching car. It seems that this film is in sync with today’s culture. Children are obviously overstimulated.
PAW Patrol’s chief singularity is the way young people are called upon to rectify the mistakes or crimes of adults. Ryder, Charlie to the pooches’ Angels, is a 10-year-old vigilante, and in the new film has become a magnate at the head of a lucrative empire. The animals themselves, the movie reminds us, are conspicuously not dogs but puppies – never ageing, like Bart Simpson or Just William. It is important as it is in line with the culture that youth can save society, regardless of their ambitions or any other adult concerns. For children raised by late-millennials who have become adults, this may make sense or be easy to recognize. Children born after Philippa Perry will be more equal than those of previous generations.
Paw Patrol: The Movie attempts to fix some of the most obvious damage. Only one super-pup appears in the film as a woman. (Skye is depicted as so girly that not only is her uniform hot pink, but, freakishly, her eyes are too – the properties of biology clearly coming second to gender essentialism in the movie’s universe.) The film introduces a new female character, Liberty (finely voiced by Marsai Martin – the film’s best asset). The film’s future will depend on whether Liberty becomes a regular character. Everest, a puppy girl, can be seen briefly on the show, but she is not shown much. While Liberty is an interesting character, it’s not clear why the streetwise ragamuffin would join these criminal gangsters. In the end, she ended up in an apricot pink suit.
‘The film draws amusing parallels between the pups’ antagonist, Mayor Humdinger, and another blond North American megalomaniac’ … PAW Patrol: The Movie.Photograph by Landmark Media/Alamy
The film’s dismaying gender politics are in tune with the franchise’s gross rightwingery, which sees these privatised dog-Avenger types endlessly called upon to undo the failings of various functionaries. The film is dominated by Ayn Randian objectivism. The film’s most striking moment is when Chase (the most police-like) is told his blue uniform was stolen along with his police vehicle. “born to be a hero”. The film draws amusing parallels between the pups’ antagonist, Mayor Humdinger, and another blond North American megalomaniac, right down to the grotesque tower that Trump – I mean, Humdinger – erects in his own honour. But the film’s own sensibility is not vastly different to Trumpian individualism, disdain for the state, and capitalist materialism – indeed, in the film the dogs have a new tower of their own, subsidised by selling merch, and come with gleaming luxury gadgets that make Liberty, the poorer dog, swoon with envy.
How PAW Patrol will come to be viewed in years to come is an interesting question: it seems likely that a generation of children coming-of-age in a time of far greater gender fluidity than ever, will have little time for the show’s patriarchal gender performance. In other words, abandoning their children to this ceaselessly cheery neoliberal nightmare for 90 minutes shouldn’t worry parents too much.
Paw Patrol: PAW Patrol opens cinemas in August 13th.