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Songs in Children's Shows and How They Can Educate

Much of what has been discussed within this class so far largely concerns rather serious genres. The choice of a song from a children’s show was, then, an attempt to break down something that I assumed would have a bit more levity to it. The genre of songs within the recurring situations of episodes of children’s cartoons and even in the much broader entertainment scene is fairly common. So for this analysis, I chose to look at a song named “Here Comes a Thought” from a currently on-air and rather popular children’s show called Steven Universe. This song, written and composed by Rebecca Sugar, who is also the creator of the show, surprised me in the fact that, despite my initial thoughts, it is rather serious in its purpose. It is clearly meant to further the story, as well as drive character development, much like every other song produced for shows. Yet, it is also an effort to teach the audience something that can be very helpful to people of all ages, which suggests that overall, as a genre, songs in children's shows have the potential and ability be highly educational- and for more than just learning the alphabet. That being said, the audience for this particular show isn’t restricted only to children. Rather than strictly focus on the one audience you’d expect a kids’ show to focus on, Steven Universe eagerly welcomes people outside of the traditional audience for kids shows.

Despite Steven Universe being primarily marketed towards kids, it has a large following of all ages and is well known for exploring important themes, with the creator herself stating in an interview that she’d "“really like to talk about identity and individuality, and self love”" ("‘Steven Universe’ Creator Rebecca Sugar Talks LGBT Themes and Season 3.") . As a result, people of all ages and demographics are invited to partake of the show itself and the messages it provides. However, what’s unusual about this specific show, which extends into some of its other songs, is that it while everyone is invited to watch and take part, it specifically seeks to include LGBTQ children and members of the audience, something that, frankly, could be considered rather revolutionary in the world of children’s television.

“Here Comes a Thought” attempts to, as its purpose, promote at least the beginnings of self-acceptance and love by exposing the audience to some of the basic principles of mindful meditation. “Here Comes a Thought” plays within a specific episode of Steven Universe titled “Mindful Education”. Between this episode’s name and the lyrics of the song, urging the listener to “take a moment and find yourself”, the mentor figure of the series, Garnet, is seen teaching the technique of mindfulness, also known as mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness, according to UC Berkeley, deals with acceptance through having "“our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future”" ("What is Minfulness?" 1). This song is designed to show that these techniques can help with self-acceptance and forgiveness, which is something that people of all ages can have trouble with. Through this, for the first time in the episode, the young girl, Connie begins to accept and acknowledge her own emotions concerning her accidental injury of another student. The tone of this song is very much that of a mentor trying to impart an important lesson, with a repetitive structure reminiscent of repeat-after-me lessons. Despite Connie’s initial panic when confronted with what she did, with Garnet’s reminder to, once again, "“take a moment and ask yourself if this is how we fall apart”" ("Mindful Education"), as well as her own use of the repeated mantra "“but it’s not”" ("Mindful Education"), she begins to calm down and accept her own remorse over what happened, allowing herself to cry. Only after this strong moment of catharsis do the swarming, troubling thoughts blow away, signifying that taking the time to calmly examine your own thoughts can allow you to step back from the edge of panic and stop yourself from overreacting. This segment visually draws people in and, for older members of the audience perhaps, asks them to revisit their own similar experiences and reconsider how they handled it. As a very public piece of media, there is no surefire way of determining the kinds of uptakes different members of the audience will make.

Even the visual storytelling on screen for the duration of this song suggests to the audience that the principles of mindfulness meditation aid in self-acceptance and love. As "Here Comes a Thought" fits in the genre of a song in a children's show, many members of the audience likely expect that any message it attempts to send will be positive. The visual choreography, in conjunction with the words of the song itself, builds on top of this preexisting supposition in order to further promote the aforementioned ideas of mindfulness. Through the first half of the song, Ruby and Sapphire, two charcters who physically and mentally combine to form the mentor, Garnet, are shown struggling with their own troubled thoughts and emotions. While those problems remain vague and aren’t displayed, it lends credibility in the eyes of the audience to the practice of mindfulness by demonstrating that it is something that a cherished and respected authority figure also uses. By clearly showing that these characters have managed to find greater peace with themselves and their past actions through mindfulness meditation, the episode very openly seems to attempt to suggest that it is something that the audience sitting at home could try, even without blatantly naming the technique. By demonstrating the methodology of mindfulness meditation and displaying it in a very positive light, the show attempts to at least create an uptake involving a positive reaction to the technique and its principles, in the hopes that doing so may aid audience members.

Although I initially made the assumption that songs from kid’s shows would mostly be lighthearted and educational, this particular song, in addition to a few of the others from the same show demonstrate that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Additionally, this specific show at least, defied another of my expectations by expanding its audience beyond the realm of just children, and specifically making a point to include LGBTQ themes. Intended uptakes are also aimed at the extended audience, not just the core audience that the show, Steven Universe, is marketed to, kids, which seems to be quite unusual for the genre. However, given that I don’t watch that many kid’s shows and listen to songs within them, it is rather difficult for me to say whether this is the norm or not within the scene itself.

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