Monday, August 13, 2007

Thomas the Train: Causes Autistism?

Maybe that’s a wildly unproven speculation, but consider this.

Fact #1
In the past 17 years, Thomas the Tank Engine has undeniably become a marketing juggernaut. The videos make hundreds of millions, despite having no original theater release* and the merchandise earns far more.

Fact #2
Rates of autism have skyrocketed since to 90s.

If you’ve known a toddler, you know that for them Thomas runs a powerful personality cult that’d make Jim Jones blush.

Sure the People’s Temple held some sway and convinced 900+ people to make some rather, ill-informed choices, but it could never match the long-term influence of the talking train lurking in every parent's DVD player.

Thomas says he needs a bath; they suddenly need a bath. Thomas needs more coal; and now they want coal for breakfast. Thomas says jump; they say how high?

Children are transfixed. A locomotive charismatic only comes along once in a lfetime -- and nobody has yet denied that he's built an army. An army with malleable minds and small hands. Their only weakness, besides literal weakness, is an early bedtime.

But, did you know for a certain subset of kids, the obsession for all things Thomas extends much deeper into their lives? Autistic children love Thomas well past toddler-hood and late into their childhoods. Here’s a mother talking about her two autistic sons:

My sons are technically teenagers (age 13 and 15), but they're unaware of the implications. They have no interest in fashion, mobile phones, the internet, iPods, parties, alcohol. As far as tastes and interests go, they're still stuck on the Island of Sodor with Thomas the Tank Engine, which is cosy, if a little dull.

For children on the autistic spectrum, a very common problem is “face blindness” or the inability to understand what another person is feeling based on their facial expression. Thomas videos actually help, due to their choppy stop-motion animation with exaggerated facial expressions frozen in place for several seconds. Apparently this helps autistics make sense out of a world that doesn’t make sense, and aids in understanding the alien concept of emotions.

Autistic children respond to this and watch Thomas well past the age that most others have moved on. And that's why autistics will be the elite shock troops in next year's devestating toddler uprising.

*Same business model as the direct-to-video porn industry, with much more success. Maybe they just need more trains.


HogWild said...

This is the silliest thing I have read in the last fifteen minutes!

We must crush the toddler uprising!

HA HA HA! Great stuff.

Paul said...

Thanks. Originally it was supposed to be a serious examination of autism, but it went off the tracks.