Summer break is coming to an end and I'm actually proud of myself for what I've done so far. In addition to reading and writing stuff this summer, I took it upon myself to catch up on a few shows and start a couple new ones. One of the shows I started was a cartoon on Cartoon Network called Craig of the Creek. Quick rundown: it's a show about a ten-year-old Black kid named Craig who explores the wilderness every day after school with his friends Kelsey (the girl who is The Chosen One in the fantasy novel in her imagination) and J.P. (the slightly older and deeply Southern not-trailer-trash comic relief). They get into fun adventures exploring the creek and mapping out their findings. I was put on the show after reading an article from one of my favorite blog sites and I fell in love. I binged all twenty current episodes in like two days and now here I am recommending it to you. Why? BECAUSE IT'S BLACK AND ADVENTUROUS AND WE NEED THAT.
Quick, name five cartoons where the main character is Black. Now subtract Fat Albert and Little Bill (because they're ANCIENT and...yeah...Cosby), The Boondocks and The Cleveland Show (cuz they are NOT for kids), and what are you left with besides The Proud Family? Answer: not much. Hell, even with the ones named above you don't have many shows that just show kids being kids and enjoying their childhood. One of the things I love about Craig of the Creek is that it reminds me so much of my own childhood. I was a super geeky kid back in the day, and I spent a good part of my adolescence (about 10-14) reenacting stuff from the video games I played, the books I read, and the TV shows I watched. Most of my friends were the same in one way or another: geeky ass Black kids who loved anime, video games, superheroes and adventures. In fact, my best friend (at the time) and I both had wooden weapons (he had a huge buster sword and I had a smaller rapier and later a staff) that we used to act out additions and go on adventures around the apartment complex where we lived. On our campaigns we fought “bosses” (big ass trees) and gained "party members" (other people in the complex) to help us complete our journeys: my outside life in the apartment complex was basically a huge RPG. Craig of the Creek speaks to kids like us who were Black but still wanted adventure. It takes us back to a simpler time where we didn’t have to stress about work, bills, or the quickly crumbling country that we live in. Most importantly, as a show primarily aimed at kids Craig of the Creek shows them that adventure is possible, wonder is okay, and the imagination is probably the most valuable thing you can take into adulthood with you, and as a Black child that can't be emphasized enough.
Believe it or not, there are Black kids who like to explore: ones who want to go on adventures and who don't automatically think basketball when you say "go outside". Black kids, like any other kids, have plenty of imagination just waiting to be let free. Unfortunately, we too often see that imagination discouraged and that desire to explore met with (sometimes deadly) results. The thing that Craig of the Creek does that is so beautiful is it normalizes adventurous, imaginative Black kids having innocent fun. You’ve got Craig, the leader of his trio and a kid who loves to draw maps and is in an advanced math class. You’ve got Kit, a young business woman who peeks the interest of Craig’s business-minded little sister Jessica (the scene where Jessica is amazed at Kit's business model is the thing that made me fall in love with the show). You’ve got kids who are archers that bear a striking resemblance to the Green Arrow, kids who build cardboard cities, and other kids of color into books and swimming. The show is super diverse and shows that kids have a variety of interests even outside of the ones that we push on them. They (the kids and us adults) need to see themselves and their interests represented to learn to love them and themselves.
We all know how big a part TV plays on kids’ development, so it should come as no surprise that showing kids, especially Black and other marginalized kids, as innocent and adventurous is important too. It’s one of the reasons why Black kids seeing themselves in fantasy is so important. Showing Black kids just having fun and being kids humanizes them and normalizes their adventures. It makes it more believable that a Black boy is just playing around and not trying to shoot anyone or that a Black girl isn’t any meaner than anyone else. Above all, it makes it alright for Black kids to be their full selves because little by little, we get to see that enough that it becomes commonplace. That's why diversity and inclusion are truly important: enough of it forces us to change (or at least address) our biases. For Black kids, the need to do that has probably never been more pressing. I already know that can be addressed with books and fantasy-related stuff, so why couldn't it be the same way with realistic TV? Answer: it can and it is.
Yes, I’m saying all of this about a ten-minute-long show featuring preteens who have built a Recess-esque society into the creek behind their houses...BECAUSE IT APPLIES. Craig of the Creek isn’t perfect (I personally don’t like that all of the Black characters besides Craig’s parents and grandparents have white love interests, for example), but it does what it is supposed to do and show the diversity of childhood experiences to generations (older AND younger) who need it. We can’t underestimate how powerful media can be if we allow it to do its job. The people who see Craig of the Creek now are getting an important lesson about childhoods which could lead to even more important lessons; we can’t ignore how vital the media is as a teaching tool. This is why this semester I’ve designed a class on media literacy: because of shows like Craig of the Creek that need to be seen for all the good they can do. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow at the Creek .
Craig of the Creek will be showing new episodes on August 20th, will you be watching? If you have watched, what do you like about the show? Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!