SteelyKid has recently become obsessed with the Disney Junior show Jake and the Never Land Pirates, demanding to watch it all the time. Thanks to her two recent bouts with this year’s stomach bug, I’ve had to watch, or at least listen to her watching in the next room, every episode that Time Warner offers on demand. Being a scientist, and thus inclined to over-analyze things, this has, of course, raised some questions:
— The show focuses on the title character, Jake, and his friends Cubby and Izzy, who live on Pirate Island off the coast of Never Land, and spend their time thwarting the schemes of the bungling Captain Hook and his crew (Mr. Smee, his right-hand man, and two bunglers named Bones and Sharky). However, other than their tendency to use vaguely piratical slang (“Yo-ho, let’s go!”, “Weigh-hey, no way!”, calling each other “Matey,” etc.) it is not clear how, exactly, they are pirates. We never see any of them preying on merchant shipping, for example.
— Whenever they solve a “pirate problem” in the course of their adventures, they are awarded some gold doubloons, which appear hanging in the air, and are later counted out into the “team treasure chest” to provide the minimally educational content needed to make parents feel OK about letting their kids watch. The source of these doubloons is never explained. Nor, for that matter, do they ever appear to use them to buy goods or services. The entire Never Land economy is something of a mystery.
— You could solve both of the previous problems by imagining that Jake and company, being kids who are presumably good with the computers and so on, are making and selling illicit DVD’s, and the doubloons represent PayPal payments turning up. This seems like an odd message for Disney to be promoting, though.
— At the start of every adventure, the crew runs down their assets, which include Jake’s sword, Cubby’s map, and Izzy’s pouch full of pixie dust (but not a holocaust cloak or a wheelbarrow). every episode involves at least one use of the pixie dust, to fly away from trouble, and Cubby’s map is frequently used to find their way. I have never seen an episode in which Jake did anything with his sword. Which is probably for the best, as it appears to be made of wood, and thus not as useful as it might be for fighting.
— At the start of every episode, they ask the viewers to join with them. To verify their identity, viewers are asked to “say the pirate password: Yo-ho-ho!” I suspect Bruce Schneier might have some words for them about the value of an authentication system in which you tell people the password as you ask them for it. (See also, Khazad-Dum, western gate thereof.)
— Less of an issue with the show than a terrible idea that won’t go away and thus must be shared: Jake’s surname is clearly Aubrey, and Cubby could be a Maturin, and there really ought to be crossover fanfic that spends several thousand words explaining the details of the rigging of Bucky the magic pirate ship.
— Alternate crossover possibility: Jake’s surname is “Roberts,” and Never Land is near Patagonia.
Of course, one side effect of the show is that SteelyKid is now fascinated by anything involving pirates, which allows us to get her holiday gifts like a Playmobil pirate set with a cannon that shoots little darts:
Which gets a great reaction:
So, you know, it’s not all that bad a show. Except for the Disney signature live-action songs at the end, which are soul-destroyingly awful.