Plates Are People Too
Ocean is publishing the Kids Theater Series – original stories done as interactive storybooks. We looked at Plates Are People Too (ages 3 – 8), a strange little morality play that buys into some of its own stereotypes even while delivering a message of tolerance. Barry Baking Dish and the rest of the cupboard crew are forced to deal with a vacancy in sleepy Platesville when an upstanding family moves out. Everybody has a different idea of what the new family in the neighborhood should look like. Barry finds himself playing the role of real estate agent, and finally gives the house to his friends the Chinese Dish set. The rest of the (white heterosexual) plates have some trouble accepting the Chinese Dish set, just because they’re different. Then Mrs. Wang falls down and breaks herself, and everybody understands that all plates are created equal. It’s an admirable message and a pretty solid execution – the storybook plays well for both kids and adults, with its combination of simple language and sly cultural references (an ad on TV proclaims “Our vacuum cleaners really suck!”). It’s odd, therefore, that some of the characters are such obvious stereotypes. The Chinese Dish set, for starters, have eyes drawn as slits, exaggerated in WWII American-propaganda style; they also speak in broken English. There are other stereotypes here, like the Greeks and the intolerant white bluebloods. And it might be our imagination, but we don’t think so – Barry Baking Dish exhibits an unusual amount of stereotypical gay mannerisms. It’s hard to fault the program too much for its little indiscretions, since the whole point of the storybook is that we should accept different kinds of people. Still, the disc could have a little more class. It could also use some better pacing – most of the 22 pages consist of Barry Baking Dish walking around town and hearing, over and over again, how everybody wants someone different to move in. When the Chinese Dish set does show up, the arrival, the town’s intolerance, and the town’s subsequent revelation all occur in a single page.