If you have young kids, there’s a good chance "CoComelon" needs no explanation. Perhaps, if you are living under a rock or in a life stage that doesn’t include repetitive nursery rhymes with lyrics like "I can be a fireman. A Fireman! Yes I can…" then let me explain.
It’s a Netflix show that drives parents (like me) nuts while simultaneously offering them a brief respite from parenting to cook dinner or have an adult conversation while their toddler stares entranced at the TV.
To call it popular would be like saying Taylor Swift has some fans. The show actually started on Youtube and boasts 154 MILLION subscribers and 152 BILLION – with a B! – views. "CoComelon" began streaming on Netflix in June 2020 and has been featured in Nielsen’s Streaming Content Ratings’ Top 10 for two straight years.
It also just dropped its seventh season on Netflix and what I saw in this new season made me simultaneously laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it while also wanting to throw my daughter’s "CoComelon" microphone at the TV.
Before I get much further, I have a confession. My name is Lanna (Hi, Lanna!) and I am a CoCo parent. I resisted for as long as possible, but I gave in around my daughter’s second birthday. Immediately she was captivated.
At first, my husband and I laughed when she’d ask for "CoCo!!" in an excited voice. It was cute. Then we realized that little girlfriend was HOOKED. As others have pointed out, many parents do not enjoy "CoComelon." Sure, I’ve been known to hum the repetitive songs to the point my husband pleads with me to stop or go to another room. Scary enough, I didn’t even know I was humming!
That’s what CoCo does. It infiltrates your brain like a noxious gas. It permeates your life. "May I watch CoCo?" the 2-year-old asks for the hundredth time. You end up using it as a negotiating tool. "If you go potty … I’ll turn on CoCo." Immediately, she complies.
There’s also the inevitable meltdown when CoCo gets turned off. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth. There was a fascinating Reddit exchange in which parents compared the show to crack. The executives behind "CoComelon" have said their core age demographic is 1 to 3. And yet every time I visit our pediatrician the walls are covered in reminders that children under 2 shouldn’t have screen time. Go figure.
The show definitely wants to come across as educational, but this season feels a little extra preachy. Let me explain. Generally the show centers around JJ, an overly happy toddler who interacts with his family and friends in toddler ways.
Each episode is just a long compilation of short, saccharin songs with different topics like going to school, family trips, doctor visits, etc. In this newest season, a friend of JJ’s named Cody goes grocery shopping with his dad and pregnant mom in "Red Light, Green Light."
They carry around air traffic control type wands that turn green or red based on the nutritional value of the food they consider purchasing. Bell peppers, spinach, yogurt? "Green means go! Put it in the cart. Cody asks about a donut? Ooooo. "Red means stop! It’s time to restart" the lyrics tell us. No Dunkin’ for you, Cody. Same goes for cookies and candy.
The dad, who looks in relatively decent shape, tries to put a chocolate bar on the checkout belt and is told no by his toddler. Tofu however – green! "It’s made out of beans," the creators tell us.
Now, I understand encouraging children to eat healthy in a society where childhood obesity is on the rise. But tofu? That’s what we’re pushing toddlers toward? Has our society become so extreme that the poor dad isn’t allowed a candy bar and the pregnant mom is left to eat tofu and some veggies?
During my pregnancy my nausea was so bad the only thing I could keep down was mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of crackers. Am I now going to be food-shamed by my 2-year-old? In a society that seems to be veering away from rational judgment, are the writers telling us that our children know best, and we should take our social cues from them? Am I out of touch and a bad parent if I offer chicken nuggets once a week?
In "Recycling Truck Song," JJ’s pajama-clad parents realize it’s recycling day just minutes before the truck arrives so there’s a mad dash to "do our part" for the "Earth" and separate the items. Paper! Plastic! Cans! "I love recycling day," JJ sings. Who knew trash separation could sound so compelling to the preschool bunch? They double down a few minutes later in "Days of the Week" when JJ declares his favorite thing about Thursday? Yep, you guessed it. Recycling Day!
Comedian Jim Gaffigan had a bit about that animal cruelty commercial from two decades ago that showed sad pictures of dogs and cats while Sarah McLachlan’s "Angel" played dramatically in the background. In the deep throaty voice of a dog he quips, "It’s a little heavy-handed, Sarah!" I’d have to say the same to CoCo’s creators.
Maybe I just don’t appreciate when a show directly marketing to babies tries to claim the moral high ground. "Daniel Tiger" doesn’t give off the same vibe in my opinion. But I’ll give credit where it’s due, the CoCo creators know exactly where their bread is buttered and continue churning out (see what I did there?) content that my 2-year-old eats up. But actually, bread is probably on the red no-no list. ... Someone grab some tofu!