If you’re of a certain age, you remember Dinosaurs. It’s a show about a family of dinosaurs — the Sinclair family of Robbie, Earl, Fran, Charlene, and the baby. The Sinclairs live in a world that bears a strong intolerance and ignorance for itself, while also blatantly abusing its natural resources. Because of this, most episodes of the show deal with social issues overlaid by typical sitcom fodder. Dinosaurs is a show that provides a social commentary in the guise of children’s television; among other topics, they’ve dealt with divorce, drug abuse, feminism, gay rights, and the environment — one of the more prominent being feminism.
This theme is the focus of the episode ‘What Sexual Harris Meant,’ which focuses on both sexism and women’s rights. Monica gets a job as a tree pusher with Earl, only to have the foreman repeatedly hit on her. When she turned him down, he fired her. She brings him to trial, only to be called a prostitute and told she deserved it.
This is a dark and topical turn for Dinosaurs; it’s a very real subject with a very real place that typically isn’t discussed in ‘children’s shows’. Perhaps the biggest message of the episode is Charlene changing her apathy of how her sex is treated and starting to care.
Things never quite get better, despite the push for change. Fran makes an allusion to the fact it will take a long time — one that works doubly well because we know it’s still a struggle modern day. It leaves questions — if the dinosaurs didn’t die, would it still have been a struggle of thousands of years? Was the death of a society what pushed us back?
Dinosaurs is a show that disappeared into memory of Generation Y until recently. With the advent of Netflix and DVDs, these shows are taking a new life of their own as the children that grew up with them watch them again and see the underlying themes. The advent of these shows coming back into popularity is ‘Near-Term Nostalgia’, or nostalgia for recent (all things considered) events. People who are in their late teens or early twenties are nostalgic for their childhood, in the same way that someone in their 30s or 40s would be.
In the midst of all this, they relate to our current time by showing that even millions of years ago, there were the same social problems that we have. Dinosaurs is not a show for kids, despite the puppets and jokes. It’s different than the shows that make claims to be political or social; Dinosaurs made no such claims. Instead, it is unapologetic in what it represents. The fact that a show that is represented as a children’s show can make such statements — and get away with it — is a testament to the show itself.