The Economics of Curious George

6 Jun

Have you ever asked where The Man gets his money? Not the man you’re thinking of, the Man in the Yellow Hat, the guy who “owns” Curious George. Where does he get those wonderful toys?

I can’t believe I’ve pontificated on this topic before; when my kids were much younger, I watched a lot of cartoons. The PBS Kids lineup was the best of the bunch; there’s a LOT of crap out there. [The worst was a Portuguese show called “Nutriventures: Quest for the Seven Kingdoms.” Teaching kids about eating a balanced diet–it is the worst written edutainment.] However, despite it being enjoyable, well-written, and teaching kids about math, it had one nagging flaw. The Man seems to have a lot of time on his hands to pursue these hobbies that lead to his monkey getting into trouble. Where does the Man in the Yellow Hat get his money?!

The obvious answer is “Who cares? It’s a kids’ show!” But I watched a LOT of episodes – the Man mentions going to work ONCE. He has an apartment in the City, a car, a house in the country, and he does a lot of volunteer work for Dr. Wiseman at the science museum (who I’m convinced is secretly boning, but they don’t want to explain it to the monkey). Oh, and he takes care of a monkey. None of this cheap.

For those who are fans of the books, the original Curious George (written in 1941) is very dated. Let’s walk right past a white guy going to Africa and stealing a monkey and all that entails, and go right to the Man, the sailors, the cops, and the MONKEY all smoking a pipe. I’m a pipe smoker in 2022 and thought this was a bit oogie. The firemen don’t even have fire trucks; they still use hook-and-ladders! The cops use a party-line windup phone. But the monkey breaks out of a jail that Alexandre Dumas would have considered ridiculous, somehow lands back with the Man, and gets put in a zoo where he has a great time. Subsequent books have the Man taking George out of the zoo on trips for his misadventures.

The PBS Show doesn’t even bother explaining their origin story, because frankly, if you’re watching, you already know. But the first episode has the Man going to work… and never again. Probably because he realized the chaos that one little monkey can get into with him not there. Of course, the Man doesn’t realize his lesson. Then in a following episode, he sells his drawings to a children’s museum in Paris, and that’s when I realized, “Ah ha! He made the big time–he’s independently wealthy!” But still, a freelance artist might be able to afford the apartment, but what about the country house… and the car?

We meet Bill, the (east) Indian boy who thinks George is a “city kid,” and is really, REALLY annoying. Why does The Man put up with this guy? Then we have a flash-back to The Man’s childhood acting just like Bill in the same country house. That’s when two things occur to me. A) Bill reminds the Man of himself, which it why he can away with lines like “magnetism is my favorite invisible force.” Then B) he inherited the country house from his parents, now passed… or living in Florida, but either way, we never EVER see them.

Okay, that covers almost all bases, except for maybe the red-headed niece who plays with George who appears in Season 2. She I can’t figure out, but then again, I haven’t seen the show in six years… maybe more recent episodes explore that deeper. But I doubt it. By the time your cartoon-loving kid cares about such issues, they’re off to WordGirl (also, frickin’ brilliant) so they never have to face these economic questions about their kids’ universe. However, a warning to those parents out there; not all the PBS lineup is brilliant. Arthur is middling, Clifford the Big Red Dog asks more questions than are ever answered, and we must find a way to kill Caillou. Caillou must die! That French-Canadian mother-f#(@*# needs to taste the end of my… (breathe, damn you, breathe)

Whew. Sorry, almost lost it there. Now my son keeps wanting to feed me Family Guy and League of Legends. At least there’s internal consistency there. 🙂 Have you ever had to connect the plot holes of a universe before just to save your sanity? Let me know in the comments below!

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