Guardian writer Tracy Van Slyke is raising some eyebrows today after making a bizarre comment about the children’s show "Thomas the Tank Engine" in a recent column.
In the column, Van Slyke makes a number of fair points about the lack of female characters in the show and the series’ unnecessary reinforcement of tired gender norms (e.g. a male train being embarrassed for being painted pink, a ‘silly color’.)
All of this is fine, and Van Slyke actually makes a good case for why "Thomas and the Tank Engine" is one of the less morally encouraging kids’ shows out there. Where she went a bit off the deep end, according to many readers, is when she tried to connect “good trains” in the show blowing white smoke and “bad trains” in the show blowing black smoke to racism.
“...if you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages,” she writes.
“For the record, all the “villains” on Thomas and Friends are the dirty diesel engines. I’d like to think there was a good environmental message in there, but when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke … it’s not hard to make the leap into the race territory.”
Judging by the reactions in the comments section, most people think Van Slyke tried just a little too hard with that one. You don't have to be an English professor to know that there’s a long history in literature, drama, movies, and even religion of light representing good and dark representing evil. To say that dark representing evil in this context is suggesting anything about people with dark skin is, well, silly.
My favorite reaction to the piece was this sarcastic remark from Guardian commenter randomwalker:
“Definitely keep your son away from Lord of the Rings. After all the Elves are simply a projection of the Aryan Master Race. And keep him away from Star Wars - did you notice that after Anakin turned to the *dark* side he started dressing all in black? The leap into racism is hard to avoid.”
Source: The Guardian