- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A British blogger and mother of a toddler said she’s found “subversive messages” in the children’s television show “Thomas & Friends,” calling it racist and harmful to children.

The show about a locomotive on a mythical island was inspired by the Railway Series of books written by British minister William Awdry and his son. But instead of a fantasy tale of Thomas the Tank Engine and his trials and errors with other trains and with the conductor, Tracy Van Slyke sees an evil storyline that elevates railroad barons while squashing their underlings.

In a post earlier this month on The Guardian, Miss Van Slyke wrote: “If you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages.

“When the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke — and they are all pumping out smoke — it’s not hard to make the leap into the race territory,” she wrote.

The show “seems to be forever caught in British colonial times,” she said, complaining that Thomas and his train friends were continually kept in chains by Sir Topham Hatt, their “imperious, little white boss” and conductor.

She also complained that the show doesn’t have many female trains.

HIT Entertainment, the company that owns the show, sent Fox News a statement in response: “‘Thomas and Friends’ is enjoyed by both boys and girls around the world and the Island of Sodor represents a diverse community, which we know appeals to a global audience. Each character, whether engine, vehicle or human, is distinctive, and it’s these character traits that we know children learn from and respond to. We are constantly developing and evolving story lines to ensure that we create content that preschoolers will relate to and that is appropriate.”

Drexel University professor Charles Williams, a trained child and adolescent psychotherapist, was also baffled by Miss Van Slyke’s blog.

“Unless I’m missing something, The Guardian needs to re-evaluate its editorial decisions,” Mr. Williams told Fox News. “I could think of dozens of other popular children’s media and literature that, through the ages, have edified certain cultural, gender and racial stereotypes (from Fat Albert to Scooby Doo). However, Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t one of them.”