Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wish Upon A Nickelodeon Star

I mentioned that I liked The Fairly OddParents because of its strict observation of logic and premise. Here's an excerpt from the Butch Hartman site, courtesy of Dennis Cass who writes for Slate:

But the real genius of The Fairly OddParents lies in the complicated ways the show places limitations on Timmy. His wishes are constrained by a fairy code called "Da Rules." Written up in a floating pink book that Wanda frequently summons for consultation, some of the rules function to keep the show's premise from breaking down (Rule #3: A kid with Fairy Godparents can't tell anyone they exist), but others seem designed solely to frustrate Timmy. He can wish himself to be a "freakishly tall" and talented basketball player, say, but he can't single-handedly bring the Dimmsdale Ball Hogs out of last place because there is a rule against using wishes to win contests. There are also rules against stealing, counterfeiting, interfering with true love, and making every day Christmas, and they are often interpreted broadly. When Timmy wants tickets to a sold-out ice show he can't simply wish for them, because then some other ticket holder would lose theirs, which amounts to stealing.

These limits keep the show from operating as 15-minute reminders that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." In fact, Fairly Odd advances a more radical notion: that there is no such thing as absolute power. I hesitate to attach too much significance to a cartoon—especially one in which Cosmo conjures an ear of corn just so he can give it a hug, or Timmy's dad spontaneously loses the pants that he's wearing—but there is something heartening about the success of The Fairly OddParents. It's refreshing to see a show that acknowledges the truth that even those who have it all can't have it all. Sometimes you can't get what you want not because the cost is too high or the consequences too dire, but because, well, you just can't—no matter how hard you wish.