Reviewing Veggie Tales as an Atheist; Larry-boy and the Rumor Weed

You know, the whole reason my parents had me watch all this stuff was so me and my siblings could grow up virtuous and pleasing unto God. When I rewatched this for my review, I was drinking a bourbon and coke while my gay boyfriend lounged totally naked on the couch. Not for any pervy reasons, it was just laundry day. Still, take that fundy upbringing!

This one, like the previous Larry-boy, scared me as a kid, but I did watch it, very bravely. Hooray for young me. It opens with Larry-boy saving two peas from an evil scallion who took their milk money. This establishes that Larry-boy is a real superhero, despite the fact that Jr. will once again be the actual day-saver.

Oh, and that Larry accidentally creates the villain by knocking a plant onto the telephone wires of a gossiping housewife.

I love how she's vaguely sinister, and yet kinda weirdly likeable. Like you should know she's trouble, but you're so gonna talk to her anyway.
I love how she’s vaguely sinister, and yet kinda weirdly likeable. Like you should know she’s trouble, but you’re so gonna talk to her anyway.

The next day, Alfred gives a talk at Jr’s school, and when he makes a joke about recharging his batteries, Jr concludes that he’s a robot. This is understandable. Alfred’s personality is basically the same as C-3PO. On Jr’s walk home, he encounters this little plant, who talks him into sharing his speculations.

Soon, Mayor Blueberry is making a call to Larry. It seems that, despite the plant’s promise that her roots prevent the story from going anywhere, she has been sending out shoots in everyone’s yard. Wherever she goes, she spreads the rumor of Alfred the robot, and in the typical telephone game of gossip, he soon acquires laser eyes and a plan to rule the world. Mayor Blueberry warns Larry about the dangerous rumors, and also the plummeting property values. No, the last part was not me being snarky. It’s actually something she says. God, I love Veggie Tales.

Here we have Veggie Tales making a nod to feminism. I think this episode wins most female speaking parts in VT history. Sadly.
Here we have Veggie Tales making a nod to feminism. I think this episode wins most female speaking parts in VT history. Sadly.

So while the rumor weed sings her villain song, Larry-boy engages in some ineffectual gardening. Naturally, being a supervillain, she’s immune to any standard weapons.

Alfred uses science to find the mother weed at heart of the root system. Unfortunately, once Larry-boy is underground, he can’t receive Alfred’s radio directions. Larry-boy’s superpowers are basically 1. super-suction ears and 2. Alfred micromanaging everything via radio, and frankly the super-suction ears don’t work that well. He’s slightly screwed. Alfred realizes this, at sets off to save him. On a teeny tiny scooter.

When Alfred gets to the center of town, nobody will help him because they think he’s a robot.

Actual line; "I'm not a robot. I'm British!"
Actual line; “I’m not a robot. I’m British!”

As the weed threatens Larry-boy, and the townsfolk threaten Alfred, Jr’s dad finally shows up and sets Jr straight.

The Jr and Laura Carrot realize that if they go say nice things about him, the weed stops being evil and starts sprouting flowers. And thus, the day is saved! Except that there’s still an enormous weed covering all of town, and now everyone in town must carefully watch what they say because anything could be passed along, distorted and create widespread panic. But you know, the day is otherwise pretty saved-ish.

I loved this episode on rewatch. It’s definitely a candidate for Best of Veggie Tales. I also think the message is great. There is a place for talking about what other people do wrong, when they are abusing a position of authority (Hi Kim Davis!) or putting themselves up for a position of authority and they do things that suggest they would abuse it (Hi Donald Trump!) or when they are claiming moral superiority and trying to bring the rest of the world around to their ways of thinking, yet their hypocrisy shows flaws in the system they are trying to promote (Hi Josh Duggar!). But that’s a matter for adults to worry about, not little kids. Furthermore it’s not a tangled, thorny issue where you need to introduce kids to at least the concept of nuance early on. There are plenty of relevant social, legal and moral criticisms we can level against Kim Davis, and no need to pick on her weight or her hair. I think that’s pretty straightforward.

In this world of information overload and clickbait, it becomes too easy to let the real issues be drowned out by gossip that might not be accurate, let alone relevant. I try to stay out of the world of media gossip, so I might not have the most relevant example, but a few months ago there was this video by Amandla Stenberg about cultural appropriation of black culture. Media honed in on one three second clip of Taylor Swift, and turned it all into “Amandla slams Taylor Swift, ohmigod look at the catfight,” when the video wasn’t about Taylor Swift at all. The segment wasn’t even directly critical of anybody. It was just pointing out how ubiquitous the borrowing of black culture is, and there were other parts that were much more explicitly critical. An honest report of what happened was less interesting than the mean-spirited rumor, so the actually constructive topic was eclipsed.

All of which is to say, be aware of this human tendency to hone in on easy, ugly gossip. Before you engage in it, think about whether it is really helpful. Check the facts to make sure it is accurate. Don’t fuel the growth of mutant city-consuming monster weeds.

Watch me menace your favorite characters. Mwhahahaha!
Watch me menace your favorite characters. Mwhahahaha!
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