I've written so much about shows for adolescents I think it's about time to post something for younger children.
Handy Manny is a Disney Cartoon, targeting preschoolers, about a young man who, with the aide of his trusty tool friends, goes around his town helping his friends, family, and neighbors. At first blush, I was skeptical of this program because it reinforces the stereotype associating physical labor (especially construction work) with Mexicans immigrants. However, having watched a few episodes, I heartily approve of this show.
While Manny and some of his tools do have Spanish accents, many of the secondary characters in the show do as well. The show does not reinforce a stereotype, it portrays a culturally diverse town. Considering the current make-up of America's population (especially in urban areas), the show is accurate. Since part of the purpose of the show is to teach a few words of Spanish, the diversity makes a lot of sense. I also like that the show's main character is male, since most preschool boys I've met would not be interested in watching a show starring a girl (Dora the Explorer).
As for Manny's occupation, I think he promotes behavior and knowledge that need to be more popular in general. It's a good idea to know how to be self-sufficient, to be able to fix things, to be active in your community, and to be eager to help. Most young children want to be able to do all of those things, but that desire needs to be nurtured with knowledge.
I really like that Manny and his friends are very polite characters, and in ways that seem to have gone by the wayside in many parts of the country. They say "Mr." and "Mrs." and "Please" and "Thank You." They make a point of knowing their neighbors. And like I said above, I really like that Manny knows how to do things for himself and is eager to help people. Moreover, the people he helps are grateful for the help, value his work, and also try to do things for themselves.
My only reservation about Handy Manny is that transactions at the hardware store do not include Manny paying for anything. While some might say that such a detail is too complex for the preschool set, I think it is important for young children to see that from very early and have the monetary value of objects ingrained young. But of all things, I think that is a very small complaint.
I really feel good about this show, and highly recommend it for young children. Any kid who is willing to watch it should not be discouraged from it.