#3. Because Your Daddy Loves You
From award-winning children's book author Andrew Clements, Because Your Daddy Loves You is a sentimental father-daughter tale that has been praised by School Library Journal and the American Library Association. It's all about a cartoon dad who is the patron saint of patience and loving support.
The Horrible Message:
In case you were wondering how much of a jerk this awesome dad isn't, the story helpfully contrasts all of his loving reactions with the petty, impatient thing he could have said but didn't. In fact, Dad never once says "No," or "You could do that yourself," or otherwise actually teaches the child any self-sufficiency in the slightest. The girl's every whim is obeyed unquestionably by the slave/father, whether reasonable or not. Sure, it starts out harmlessly enough, with Dad not being a total dick about story time:
"... even words like 'the' and 'palimpsest' and you should probably start reading on your own now."
But soon he's carrying her around like Cleopatra on a palanquin with basically no provocation ...
And if you wake up frightened of the dark, he doesn't reassure you that those are just dreams -- after all, they scared you, and you're the super-importantest in the whole world, so Daddy is going to take your bad dreams very seriously and hold your hand until you nod off safely.
And you're going to sleep with a nightlight for the rest of your life to ward off the terrors because of it.
He doesn't teach you to value your stuff, or how to clean up after yourself, or how to treat people like human beings with compassion and empathy; he teaches you that you're the only thing that matters and Daddy is just a drone ant in a form-fitting sweater.
"I don't know why you want this portable stripper's pole packed."
Why, a less saintly man might start to resent the spoiled, entitled child he's inadvertently raised ...
Yes, dear. Daddy may drown for your ball, but he will never speak a word of warning to you about the dangers of the ocean. In fact, Daddy doesn't want you to worry about the big bad dangerous world at all. He wouldn't want you to fret about things like riptides or looking both ways in traffic or feeding yourself; Daddy will worry about that for you. Why, if something happened to you, Daddy wouldn't know what to do with himself. He'd be left all alone, with only his sweet, sweet freedom for company ...
"He doesn't, because he's sharpening his knives."
#2. Maggie Goes on a Diet
"... and finds an awesome magic mirror guarded by some dude with a face in the back of his head."
Poor Maggie is an overweight teenager with bad hair and no friends. Self-conscious, teased at school and clumsy at sports, this girl needs to somehow get healthy and learn to love herself. And because this is America, it's time for a workout montage! So after four months of sensible diet and exercise ...
In which she pulls down the Iron Curtain ...
Maggie gets herself a badass body upgrade ...
The Horrible Message:
Wait, what the hell? Four months and she lost a whole other person? The girl looks to have dropped at least 100 pounds. Is this realistic? Is it even safe?
"We're worthwhile people now!"
Maggie looks amazing. Even her stupid hairstyle looks cute now, and everybody is her friend (now that she looks good). Besides, the story itself explains that she only shed a mere 30 pounds -- well within the safe guidelines. And if the kids -- who probably do not have a concept of weight by pounds, but only by appearance -- get confused about how much they should drop safely, so what? We are in an obesity epidemic. With so many 14-year-olds one bag of fried Oreos away from Type 2 diabetes, it's time for some tough love. There's nothing wrong with a little superstar body image incentive to help husky teens get those pounds off.
Oh wait, teens?
You thought this book of simple language and colorful pictures is supposedly for teens? Or even pre-teens? Ten-year-olds would feel talked down to by these cutesy rhyming couplets.
"And she peed all over the floor. And then she paused, and peed some more."
So unless we're trying to tackle that oft-neglected demographic of overweight semi-illiterates, this is clearly meant for a much younger reader. While the character in the book is 14, the target audience is nowhere near that old.
That's right: This is an inspirational diet book for grade schoolers.
The lazy eye demographic.
A diet book. For 4-year-olds.
Put down that juice box, you fat fucking toddler; it's high time you learned to count calories, even if we have to teach you to count first.
#1. Arthur's Nose
A hammer and bone crunchingly awesome adventure!
From the schoolroom to playtime to life at home, Arthur the Aardvark's cumbersome nose gets in the way of everything. So he decides to see a plastic surgeon. But wait, don't change yourself, Arthur! You need to love who you are!
The Horrible Message:
And he does!
We lied to you, there's no horrible message here. Much to his friends' relief, Arthur decides that he wouldn't be himself without his nose. He thanks the doctor for her time and leaves intact, resolved to love life the way he is.
No, the only thing seriously wrong here is that the dangly-nosed Arthur from this story ...
His sniffles take 30 seconds and exhaust the oxygen from the room.
... is the same wildly popular Arthur from the PBS children's television and picture book series. You know: The cute, bespectacled, anthropomorphic third grader considered one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time.
Cargo pants! He's leveled up to a Bro.
Did you know he was an aardvark? No? Why would you? He doesn't have a dang nose! He looks more like a deformed clementine than any aardvark we've ever seen.
So he didn't go through with the procedure in the first book, but he clearly had it done at some point. We accept that cartoon characters get revised over time -- early Homer Simpson looked like a seizure drawing of a jaundiced penis -- but if the first book in the whole series is specifically about your character's long nose and the consideration of surgery to remove it, you can't just phase it out later without comment. Because if kids starting from the beginning read that 1976 debut all about loving what you are, then read the rest of the books in order, they're going to watch Arthur nurture a massive, decades-long, unhealthy obsession with drastic cosmetic surgery.
We don't like making comparisons, but someone should really check his police record.
The message is pretty clear: Kids, you have to learn to love yourself just the way you are!
And then you can change it completely, until everybody else loves you, too.
For more horror that we fed to our children, check out 7 Horrifying Moments from Classic Kids Movies and The 13 Most Unintentionally Disturbing Children's Toys.