Saturday, August 7, 2010

Of Triceratops and Rocko's Modern Life, and Captions

The other day we had a brand-new whiteboard installed at work. It's just an ordinary whiteboard for writing notes and information on, with half of it a corkboard to post items. Naturally, the same day it was put up it became covered in a long random conversation about Post-Its. One of my coworkers came in and drew a (very good, actually) picture of Spunky, the dog from Rocko's Modern Life, and another of my coworkers, Caris, and I got into a conversation about Spunky and Rocko. (That eventually led to me dashing his childhood joy with information about how Triceratops is now likely known to just be a juvenile version of Torosaurus - but don't worry, they're keeping the name Triceratops.)

However, one part of our conversation got me thinking. Caris pointed out that Spunky looks like a smaller version of Rocko and referred to Rocko by his species. I thought I heard "wildebeast" so I called him a wildebeast later only to be corrected that Rocko is actually a wallaby - which is what Caris said in the first place.

Now, I loved Rocko's Modern Life growing up. I actually loved all of Nickelodeon's classic shows like Doug, Clarissa Explains It All, Legends of the Hidden Temple, The Ren and Stimpy Show, Rugrats, and Hey Arnold!. I was exactly the right age to enjoy these shows when I was a kid, along with my brother and my neighborhood friends. But I never knew even such basic facts as what species Rocko was, and it took me quite a few episodes of Doug to realize his dog's name is Porkchop.

Why? Well, because Nickelodeon rarely captioned their shows in the early 1990s. I remember enjoying their shows a lot, but finding the PBS shows like Wishbone and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? easier to watch, because PBS has a solid track record with closed captioning. Not only did the captions help, but the fact that a lot of those Nickelodeon shows were cartoons only hindered my ability to understand.

Whether or not my future children are deaf, I intend to have closed captioning on all the time on television. It not only helps with understanding shows but it also can develop childrens' vocabulary, spelling and grammar skills if they see printed words constantly.

If they are deaf, I feel grateful that 99% of the programming they'd be watching will be closed captioned. With any luck they will always know that Rocko is a wallaby and that Porkchop is Doug's dog.

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