Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the paw
Sarah Rose // Features Editor
Cynthia Tran Vo // Illustrator
“Here’s to Paw Patrol and to capitalism,” chimes outgoing Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer while drunk ranting on Twitter about the free market. “May those enduring so much hardship in places like Venezuela, North Korea and Belarus one day be able to enjoy the benefits the free market brings to the world.” He says this while lifting a glass of what we can only presume is either union-made in Canada Alberta Premium rye or Glenlivet 1964, which retails for $7000 a bottle. Of course, Scheer’s government pay cheque will pick up the tab where he enjoys it from within government housing while tweeting about anyone who doesn’t support his policies of transferring capital from the working class to the ruling class.
This latest video in Scheer’s hallucinogenic body of work suggests he’s generously sampling his own product. In a wildly incoherent statement like “free market capitalism built our country,” he genuinely believes what he’s saying. Even though he’s clearly never used any of our three main telecommunication systems. Economic ideology doesn’t build countries, labour does, but the power of belief is resilient.
Marx emphasized that a commodity is never just a simple object we buy and consume, like a toy. A commodity is an object full of ideological, and according to Slavoj Zizek, even philosophical and theological niceties. An actual toy for sale right now on the PGMall website is the Paw Patrol Concentration Camp. For the low price of $14.99, your child can play with Chase, Rocky and Zuma as they learn to, presumably, dig mass graves. The only conclusion one can possibly arrive at from this is that it’s satire. It has to be. Except, it’s not, and people really believe in this. We live in a world where the worth of an idea can be measured in dollars, and parents (presumably) spend around a billion dollars on Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise every year.
In a backwards, pompous and comically befuddled way, Scheer has a point. All capitalist and fascist behaviour is learned, but ideology isn’t just imposed. Ideology is our spontaneous relationship to the social world. Competition and obedience are indoctrinated into children systematically in order to ensure the continued survival of the upper class. Paw Patrol itself was designed to be sold as a commodity with the migration of children’s programming moving to streaming services like Netflix where kids are less exposed to advertisements—it worked. Paw Patrol merchandise routinely outsells almost every other television show in licensed merchandising according to data from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.
Is such an escape from ideology even possible in the real world where society is under near constant surveillance by corporations and the media? Where information and technologies and the corporations providing them can virtually “plug in” to consumers lives without their knowledge or consent?
World systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein already acknowledged this aspect of core-periphery theory. One political system, race, or religion becomes dominant creating a sphere of influence, dividing the world into a core, semi-peripheral and a peripheral in terms of their integration in the capitalism system. Reminiscent of Paw Patrol fan Justin Trudeau, the governing administration in Paw Patrol chooses to spend the vast majority of one episode building a solid gold statue of the Mayor’s ancestor. Remember, this is a world where adults can’t figure out how to operate a rowboat. Next time on Paw Patrol: the pups and a six-year-old child rescue a coal miner from what we can only assume are the dangers of excessive health and safety regulations.
Ryder’s Paw Patrol represents a monolithic core in a world that isn’t just ubiquitously occupied by the media but rather arguably is the media, all barking and panting with moralistic propaganda. Or as the Irish Times wrote, “an apawlling attempt to normalise state-sponsored thuggery.”
The premise of Paw Patrol is an almost comical Dr. Strangelove-esque scenario that allows for the emergence of a totalitarian form of government in order to restore security. CNN assuages that despite the rage and revulsion at this brand of “primary-coloured authoritarianism,” the id-driven brains of young kids perversely crave the kind of covert fascist order and even punishment of Paw Patrol. This wouldn’t be as controversial if it didn’t mirror many other wildly popular children’s shows. It’s not outrageous to indulge the blossoming Freudian minds of kids in a fantasy narrative of iron clad morality, maybe just do it without the white guy on top for once.
In the words of Neil Stephenson, “a lot gets lost in translation […] And that’s how they know what’s going on inside a person’s head—by condensing fact from the vapor of nuance.”