As a mom, I want the entertainment my children consume to be both truthful (it should say what is real) and inspirational (it should say what is possible and what we should strive for).
Sadly, much of what is offered to kids, especially on TV, falls far short of this ideal. Either a show doesn’t tell the truth about actions and consequences, or it inspires kids to aim for lesser, emptier, worldlier goals. Parents are portrayed as dumb. Kids are sneaky. Families aren’t friends with one another. The idea of romance and “having a crush” is introduced far too early and is central to the characters’ everyday lives.
But there are some resources that swim against the tide. One consistent contributor to our family has been Randall Goodgame of Slugs and Bugs music. From the time they were small, my children could be “reset,” seemingly by magic, by this music. Perhaps more miraculously, a work could happen in my own heart as well. Goodgame’s kind, easy manner, the biblical lyrics, and the musical excellence combined to help us wage war against the selfishness that rears its head so easily in families.
From the time they were small, my children could be ‘reset,’ seemingly by magic, by this music.
Now Goodgame has translated that same humble and kind approach to the small screen. The Slugs and Bugs Show tells the truth and tells what is possible—and does so in a humble way.
How Does the Show Tell a Better Story?
It’s no surprise to me that there’s been a recent return to shows like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I grew up watching Fred Rogers daily; I remember the slow, easy, conversational nature of the show and how the host invited his young viewers into the topic of the day. Mr. Rogers rose above the din of silly cartoons and talked to you effortlessly about how crayons are made and why your friend with dark skin is worthy of respect and love. There was an intentional slowness and courtesy to his speech that dignified whomever he spoke to—most often the viewer. It was clear that he knew children could understand and process important matters, even at a young age.
What I love about both The Slugs and Bugs Show and Mister Rogers is that they give children credit for understanding. They assume that kids can comprehend complicated ideas. So often our culture talks down to kids and hides complex stories, when in fact children can navigate (yes, with a trusted adult’s help) deeper waters. Goodgame expresses this assumption as telling the whole story: “If you’re going to tell a story, you should tell the whole story, even if it’s at shallow depths.”
The Slugs and Bugs Show tells the truth, tells what is possible, and does so in a humble way.
One example of how The Slugs and Bugs Show explores deeper ideas at a healthy level for children is the episode covering adoption. Adoption is a story that plays out in many families’ lives as a mingling of joy and grief. While there is much joy at the discovery of a new home and family, the original, profound loss of a child’s birth parents is also part of the story. At one point in the episode, an adopted child expresses her grief: “Is it weird that I miss [my birth parents] even though I never knew them?” This episode exemplifies how children can be equipped to handle a hard topic with tender skill.
The Slugs and Bugs Show is also inspirational. Goodgame addresses the show’s other characters with earnest kindness. The universe of this show is one in which it’s okay to ask questions, have doubts, and be sad. Goodgame and his steady parade of guest stars (including Andrew Peterson, Sally Lloyd-Jones, Russell Moore, Jason Eskridge, and many others) dignify the younger characters on the show by talking easily and humbly with them.
Silliness Means Humility
A recurring theme in the Slugs and Bugs franchise is the idea that it’s okay to be silly—in fact, it might be spiritually healthy to be silly. Being able to laugh at a silly circumstance, even at yourself, is a good antidote to pride. When we’re thinking too highly of ourselves to see how ridiculous we might be, we’re in a bad spot.
One of my kids’ favorite features of the music and the show is that Goodgame occasionally picks up on Bible verses that are a little bit funny. For example, the Old Testament law, especially in the King James Version, refers to strangers as “aliens.” To a kid today, that word has an entirely different meaning—one that might include spaceships or little green men! Goodgame, with the help of Sally Lloyd-Jones, explains the word to his young audience, while still giving them the opportunity to sing at the top of their lungs about aliens. That’s a skillful dispatch of silliness. It’s funny, while still giving the Bible the respect it deserves.
A recurring theme in the Slugs and Bugs franchise is the idea that it’s okay to be silly—in fact, that it might be spiritually healthy to be silly.
One appeal of shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation is the inane situations the characters get themselves into. Viewers can see themselves; the challenges portrayed are common to man. If we can laugh at the characters, hopefully we can laugh at ourselves too. Parents will see this brand of clever humor in The Slugs and Bugs Show. There are talking heads, offering us a little more insight into what Doug the Slug thought about a particular situation. These asides were a highlight for our family. They’re downright funny and even made my teenage sons laugh out loud.
Goodgame’s music is the centerpiece of the show, and as always, it’s done with excellence. He had a long career writing for adults before he began the Slugs and Bugs franchise, both as a solo artist and also a writer for Caedmon’s Call. The music in the show isn’t your typical cutesy—can I say annoying?—music composed for children. If you look carefully, you’ll see some of Nashville’s finest musicians helping out with the music: Buddy Greene, Ben Shive, Jeff Taylor, and others.
As a mom, I’m thankful for the example set by Randall Goodgame in this TV show. Not only does he dignify children by speaking the truth to them, but he’s also made a quality show from beginning to end. It’s clear from the content and method of the show that Goodgame believes the youngest among us are still worthy of our best efforts. Shows like The Slugs and Bugs Show have the potential to “train our palates”: to help both us and our children desire the right things, done well.