I watch quite a bit of Baby TV these days, defying the hysterical warnings about its dangers: “Your child’s brain function decreases every minute that s/he watches TV!” Oh please. I call bull shit on such nonsense. I am not going to leave the TV on indefinitely, but my son will not be harmed by exposure to 10-15 minutes of Baby TV every day. In fact, he needs to develop critical visual skills in relation to television, so that he can eventually distinguish between different genres, understand the role of commercials in promoting neo-liberal values, and turn a skeptical eye toward stereotypical representations of women, people of colour, and Aboriginal individuals, among others. Whenever the TV is on, I make sure to inform the young Sebastian of the many obvious truths that the sparkly and alluring flat screen belies. Women do not really have romantic relationships with their mops. Missy Elliott is far more talented, hot, and flexible than Katy Perry. You get the picture. At the same time, I insist that my son watches mostly “positive” programming, which is why the feature called “Eggbird” on Baby TV is a favourite. It offers a clever analysis of contemporary identity formation.
See for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYeGXUCcrmk
My interpretation: The eggbird community marches forward with a clear purpose. Despite their differently coloured shells, the oval birds form a unified group. One egg nevertheless risks getting left behind. Embarrassingly enough, he is naked. Eager to join the others, the blank slate runs to catch up, both literally and figuratively, by participating in a public ritual. The gay-pride master of ceremonies starts things off, standing on a washtub podium to announce the impending transformation. The liminal eggbird slips behind the curtain of the stage/clothesline, suggesting that accessories produce identity. It then emerges triumphantly, longing for recognition. The others contemplate and try to categorize the neophyte bird, but its identity remains unrecognizable. Once again the egg creature disappears behind the curtain and alters its appearance before resubmitting itself to the collective gaze of the community. This looking determines the eggbird’s status, acting as a social mirror. Finally, one excitable shaky elder eggbird has a spiritual vision. S/he knows what the young eggbird truly is before anyone else, including the liminal supplicant. In the end, identity formation is revealed as a carefully staged, predetermined activity. It takes time to accomplish, changes with every social appearance, and relies on an audience to determine it. Identity is not merely chosen by the individual in question; nor is it entirely imposed by powerful others. It is negotiated within narrow confines, and must be repeated ad nauseum.
Genius. Now I know what Judith Butler watched as a kid.