Sally Watches…Kids Incorporated!

For Terence’s 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, I was originally going to write an editorial on an episode from Highway to Heaven. But the more I thought about that decision, the more I realized the shows I’ve reviewed so far have one of two things in common: the shows are darker in tone or they cover heavier, real-world subjects. Because of this, I decided to change things up a bit. I have never watched a full episode of Kids Incorporated, but I have seen two performance videos from the show. Since I liked what I saw, I thought reviewing the show for the blogathon would be a good idea! Its light-hearted, joyous tone is definitely different from the other shows I’ve talked about. This will also be the first time a musical show has been covered on 18 Cinema Lane. Like some of my previous TV show reviews, I have chosen four random episodes. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about this episode, what I didn’t like about this episode, the musical numbers, the other factors from this episode, and my overall thoughts. I wasn’t able to find a consistent record of when these episodes premiered, so I will not be listing premiere dates this time. But I will share my final assessment of the show toward the end of my review.

The 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon banner by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts.
Episode Name: Peter Pam
Season 3
 Episode 63
What I like about Kids Incorporated is each character’s preferences and personalities are showcased in subtle ways. Seeing which books the cast was reading is a perfect example of this. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.

What I liked about this episode:

When you have a television or movie series that revolves around a group of people, that group needs to consist of actors and/or actresses who have good on-screen camaraderie with one another. With this episode of Kids Incorporated, I immediately took notice of how well these young actors and actresses worked together! The fact this cast also appeared in season two gives the impression they are familiar with each other’s’ talents, which helps make their on-screen relationship convincing. My favorite moment in ‘Peter Pam’ was when Gloria is talking to Stacey about Stacey’s lack of excitement for a new sibling. This conversation came across as sincere and believable, almost like Gloria assumed the role of an older sister looking out for her younger sister. It was a sweet moment that definitely added heart to this story!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

With this episode’s run-time clocking in at a little over twenty-two minutes, there is only so much content that can be included in the project. Because of this, I thought Stacey’s story was rushed. The “Peter Pam” part of the episode was not given the amount of time I expected, with that part of the story taking place in a small handful of scenes. Stacey’s change in perspective from being against the idea of a new sibling to being excited about growing up happens a little too quickly, which causes that resolution to feel unbelievable. I wish more time had been devoted to Stacey’s/the “Peter Pam” story.

The musical numbers:

I actually enjoyed most of the musical numbers in ‘Peter Pam’! They not only sounded good, but the overall presentation was fun to watch! A big surprise was how most of the musical numbers were unrelated to the ‘Peter Pam’ story. Because Kids Incorporated aired on Disney Channel and because this episode retold the story of Peter Pan, I’m shocked the cast didn’t perform a cover of ‘You Can Fly’. Personally, I think that was a missed opportunity.

My favorite musical number was ‘Yo Ho Ho’! It was so whimsical and imaginative, from the colorful costumes to seeing who portrayed which character. Creative changes from the Disney film, like giving Captain Hook’s sidekick more confidence, give the number and story its own voice.  The choreography was fantastic, almost like I was watching a Broadway show! All of the dancers were in sync with one another and there was never a dull moment. The weakest musical number was Stacey’s solo, ‘Take Me Home’. She sang slower than the song’s tempo, which caused her to sound like she was singing out of tune. Stacey is a good singer, but ‘Take Me Home’ did not do her singing talents justice.

The other factors from this episode:

  • While Stacey gave a good acting performance overall, her portrayal of “Peter Pam” was weaker than her portrayal of her “real world” character. Despite this being the first episode of Kids Incorporated I’ve seen, I get the sense that Stacey is a more emotional actress who uses expressions and emotions in subtle ways. Based on her stage presence, Martika is a more dramatic and expressive performer. With that said, I wish a role like “Peter Pam” was given to Martika instead.
  • My favorite costume from this episode is definitely Stacey’s “Peter Pam” costume! It maintains the iconic look of the Peter Pan character, making the costume recognizable. Subtle sparkles on the pink sleeves and collar add a girly twist. Even though I’m not familiar with Stacey’s character, this costume seemed to compliment her personality. I could see this costume standing the test of time!
  • In shows like Kids Incorporated, at least one young character will be fascinated by the idea of getting older. Hijinks then ensue, which causes the character to realize growing up is not what it’s cracked up to be. With ‘Peter Pam’, a new take on this kind of story is presented, focusing on a character wanting to stay young. Instead of showing the downsides of staying young, it highlights how growing up in not always a bad thing. The way this message was executed served as one of the stronger points of this episode!

My overall thoughts:

‘Peter Pam’ was a fine episode. I could tell the creative team had their hearts in the right place, especially when it came to the overarching message. However, I wish the majority of the episode and musical numbers had revolved around the “Peter Pam” story. The parallels between Peter Pan and the desire to remain a younger sibling are an interesting concept. But with all of the content that was included in this episode, Stacey’s story was rushed, with the discovery of a resolution happening a little too quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by how well ‘Peter Pam’ has aged! Having a relatable and timeless message certainly helped its case.

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

I love how colorful these costumes are! They feel consistent with tone of the show! Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.
Episode Name: I Love You Suzanne
Season 2
 Episode 30
Suzanne, wearing a yellow shirt, is dancing with the cast of Kids Incorporated toward the end of the episode. I apologize for the quality of this picture. But I just wanted to say this is one of my favorite moments from this episode! Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.

What I liked about this episode:

After Ryan is caught off guard by the fact Riley’s cousin, Suzanne, is blind, Riley reminds Ryan that Suzanne is no different from anyone else. He also points out that Suzanne has feelings and interests similar to Ryan’s. When Ryan is telling Renee and Stacey that Suzanne is blind, they act like her disability is no big deal. Even The Kid quickly befriends Suzanne before breaking out in song. The attitudes and beliefs of the characters highlights this episode’s overarching message: our differences bringing us together instead of holding each other apart. It’s a sentiment that is just as important today as it was in 1985.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Ryan and Suzanne’s first encounter was awkward, as this is the moment when Ryan learns of Suzanne’s disability. I know this moment was intended to be awkward. In fact, I felt embarrassed for both characters. But the fact that it took Ryan a while to realize Suzanne is blind was somewhat unbelievable. He ends up figuring this out when Suzanne says she hasn’t seen the sights in the neighborhood. I guess you could use the excuse of Ryan being so infatuated with Suzanne, that he didn’t notice this detail at first. However, in reality, I feel like Ryan would have caught on a little bit sooner.

The musical numbers:

Unlike ‘Peter Pam’, all of the musical numbers in ‘I Love You Suzanne’ directly correlated with Ryan’s story! It felt like they were effortlessly woven into the episode. Suzanne was included in two of the musical numbers; performing a simple dance and handshake in ‘New Attitude’ and joining the Kids Incorporated cast on stage during ‘I Love You, Suzanne’. This brought home the message I talked about earlier, of our differences bringing us together. Stacey’s solo, ‘Premonition’, was much stronger than ‘Take Me Home’ from ‘Peter Pam’! It showcased her singing talents well and the pace of the song matched with the pace of her voice. The most interesting musical number was Martika’s solo, ‘Too Late for Goodbyes’! Her performance did not take place on stage, but she was edited into the scene through the use of greenscreen technology. Martika appeared in various places, from the wheel of Ryan’s bicycle to reflections in Ryan’s sunglasses. Despite this episode being filmed in the mid-‘80s, the technology holds up pretty well!

The other factors from this episode:

  • After Ryan leaves the P*lace, The Kid finds Ryan trying to fix his bike. The Kid then asks Ryan if he still plans on going to the movies, with Ryan replying how he is tired of them. Even though ‘I Love You Suzanne’ aired in Kids Incorporated’s second season, that scene felt like it was foreshadowing the season four episode, ‘When Movies Were Movies’. It should also be noted that Rahsaan Patterson and Ryan Lambert star in that 1987 episode.
  • This episode was funnier than I expected! While I know this show is meant to be light-hearted, I did not expect ‘I Love You Suzanne’ to contain as much humor as it did. The Kid threatening to leave the room if things got too “mushy” was one of the funniest moments. It contained on-point comedic timing and Rahsaan gave a good acting performance. Comedy definitely prevented this episode from becoming too dramatic or serious.
  • At the beginning of the episode, Riley is performing a magic trick while waiting for Kids Incorporated to start performing. He’s also practicing a magic trick during his shift at the soda shop stand. Riley’s attempts at being a magician fail both times. But it made me want to see a story where Riley creates his own act. Though I haven’t seen a lot of Kids Incorporated episodes, I wonder if a magician ever paid a visit to the P*lace?

My overall thoughts:

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”. ‘I Love You Suzanne’ is the embodiment of that bumper sticker. Ryan’s story is a simple one, but it ends up working. This is because the overarching message of togetherness feels organic and believable. Even the way the characters talk about Suzanne comes across as realistic. It also helps how all the musical numbers directly correlated with the story. Each one was equally enjoyable; I honestly can’t choose a favorite. Similar to ‘Peter Pam’, ‘I Love You Suzanne’ has also aged well! Everything about it has stood the test of time.

Rating: A 4.1 out of 5

Here is an image from Martika’s solo, ‘Too Late for Goodbyes’. The special effects are impressive, even by 1980s standards. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.
Episode Name: Russian 101
Season 4
 Episode 73
This is the final shot of the musical number, ‘That’s America’. I’m sorry if the image isn’t the clearest. But, as you will read in this part of the review, this was my favoritte musical number in this episode. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.

What I liked about this episode:

You can tell the character of Ryan has grown up over the course of two seasons! I like how these characters change during their time on the show instead of remaining stagnant. As he expresses interest in a Russian ballerina named Katrina, Ryan takes the time to learn more about her country and culture, as well as ballet. This is very different from “I Love You Suzanne”, where he displays more consideration and respect for his crush this time. ‘Russian 101’ also explores the reality of long-distance relationships, especially when both parties are from different countries. I was not expecting this topic to be addressed, as it is more mature than what you’d usually find in a show like Kids Incorporated. However, it was handled with a sense of honesty.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

When one thinks of the ‘80s from a historical context, the Cold War will come to mind. At the time of ‘Russian 101’s’ release, the Berlin Wall hadn’t fallen yet and some movies and TV show episodes covered this particular conflict in history. But programs like Murder, She Wrote and the original Red Dawn were created for an older audience, people who were aware of what was happening in the world. With Kids Incorporated, I wanted to see how the Cold War was addressed to a younger audience, those who were not as educated on that subject. Unfortunately, the Cold War was glossed over throughout this story. Sure, Russia was mostly referred to as the Soviet Union (a term that is of its time). But the conflict itself was never brought up by any of the characters.

The musical numbers:

Similar to ‘Peter Pam’, I liked most of the musical numbers in ‘Russian 101’! However, my favorite musical number was ‘That’s America’! Not only was it entertaining to listen to, but it was also well choreographed. Some of the dancers were dressed in traditional Russian attire and performed Russian dances. Katrina even participates in the musical number. This highlights a similar message to “I Love You Suzanne”; how our differences can bring us together instead of keeping each other apart. The only minor critique I have is how the Kids Incorporated casts’ costumes should have been red, white, and blue. Also similar to ‘Peter Pam’, the weakest musical number was a solo. But this time, it was Ryan’s solo, ‘I Can Dream About You’. At some points in the song, Ryan sang faster than the music’s tempo. I found this to be, at times, distracting. However, I did like seeing Katrina perform a ballet solo within that musical number.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Toward the end of ‘Russian 101’, Katrina gives Ryan a record of her favorite Russian band. Even though this was a nice gesture, it brings up the question: if Katrina is temporarily in the United States with a traveling ballet company, how was she able to acquire a Russian record? Did she happen to take one with her on the trip?
  • During a conversation with the Kids Incorporated members, Renee compares ballet to basketball. While she doesn’t refer to ballet as a sport, she does acknowledge how, like basketball, ballet requires strength and skill. This stance on dance actually sounds ahead of its time. More people would now consider competitive dance a sport, recognizing the athleticism associated with it. Also, ballet was featured in the Sochi Winter Olympics, even though it was only included in the opening ceremonies.
  • While giving Katrina a tour of his neighborhood, Ryan takes her to the P*lace. He briefly explains the P*lace’s history, expressing his enthusiasm about one of his favorite spots. Because this episode aired in season four, it is to be assumed this history was thoroughly explained in, as least, season one. I liked how this script referenced earlier episodes, as it maintains the show’s overarching continuity!

My overall thoughts:

Out of the three episodes I’ve reviewed so far, I’ve noticed a consistent element. Each episode has aged fairly well, despite premiering four decades ago! I didn’t like how the Cold War was glossed over in ‘Russian 101’. But I do appreciate the episode’s message of our differences bringing us together instead of tearing each other apart. Between ‘Russian 101’ and ‘I Love You Suzanne’, I’d pick “I Love You Suzanne”, as I found that episode to be stronger overall. However, there are aspects of the 1987 episode I liked. One of them was most of the musical numbers. Like the other two episodes, they were fun to watch and were the highlight of the story. ‘Russian 101’ became a nice piece of entertainment that was worth the twenty-one minutes!

Rating: A 3.9 out of 5

Even though ‘I Can Dream About You’ was the weakest musical number in this episode, I did like Katrina’s inclusion in the number. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Tammy Coleman.
Episode Name: When Movies Were Movies
Season 4
 Episode 74
Here’s a picture that was featured in the episode, ‘When Movies Were Movies’. It shows how this musical number was meant to look like a movie from the 1920s. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.

What I liked about this episode:

When I read the synopsis for this episode, I was expecting a completely different story. In ‘When Movies Were Movies’, I expected the episode to revolve around the cast’s day-off, with the musical numbers taking place at a movie theater. Each musical number would be based on each member’s cinematic preferences. For example, Renee might want to see a romantic movie, so her song would be a slower tune with a romantic tone. However, this episode was about the early history of cinema, as well as Laurel and Hardy’s contributions to the world of film. Since about a third of this episode showed the cast traveling back in time to the 1920s, an imaginary conflict was created in correlation with the story’s discussion on film. I liked the direction this story took because it was a creative subversion of expectations! Because the topic of film is so broad, it was nice to see the show’s team think outside the box!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Even though Kids Incorporated is somewhat grounded in reality, the locations within the characters’ world are clearly sets in a filming studio. Because of this, I was curious to see what a movie theater would look like in this world. Unfortunately, no movie theater was shown in this episode. In fact, we never see the cast go to the movies. Another thing I didn’t like about this episode was how the cast either didn’t mention a movie’s title or said a fake movie title when suggesting which film they should see. As someone who is interested in ‘80s pop culture, I was looking forward to hearing which films each character would bring up. Like I said before, Kids Incorporated aired on Disney Channel, so I’m surprised no Disney affiliated movies were included in this script.

The musical numbers:

I mentioned earlier how a third of this episode showed the cast traveling back in time to the 1920s. These scenes were presented as a skit where each character is given a role at an imaginary movie studio, trying to figure out what the next big picture will be. Within this skit, two musical numbers directly associated with this part of the story. The first one was Ryan’s solo, ‘Forever (Like Heroes and Fools)’. For a show of this nature, this was a mature number because it brought up feelings and thoughts that might come to mind for people around Ryan’s age or older: failure, self-doubt, and the figurative cost of a dream. The way the overall musical number sounded reminded me of ‘One More Try’ by Timmy T. ‘When Movies Were Movies’ was the second musical number. Even though there was singing and some dancing involved, the number itself was presented as a skit. It was shown in black and white, like a movie from the 1920s. This was the most creative musical number from the four episodes I saw!

I liked all the musical numbers in this episode, but I don’t think Connie, Stacey, and Renee’s number, ‘I’m Still Standing’, fit in its moment of the episode. It should have been a group number placed as the finale. If ‘I’m Still Standing’ had been the last song of ‘When Movies Were Movies’, it would have represented two ideas: the cast finding a solution to their problem in the imaginary world and movies remaining a pastime since the 1920s. ‘The Finer Things’, the musical number that was this episode’s finale, should have been the second number.

The other factors from this episode:

  • According to a comment from Youtube, Kids Incorporated was filmed at Hal Roach Studio. This particular studio also filmed silent comedies from the 1920s. The decision to take a movie-centric episode and using it to pay tribute to the history of the studio shows the creative team put a lot of thought into this story. It also makes me appreciate the efforts made when it came to this episode.
  • In ‘Peter Pam’, Stacey portrayed “Peter Pam” while the rest of the cast portrayed either lost children or pirates. While I liked the musical number, ‘Yo Ho Ho’, I feel there are other roles the Kids Incorporated cast could have portrayed. For example, Martika could have portrayed TinkerBell and Renee could have portrayed Wendy. With ‘When Movies Were Movies’, the roles the cast were given in the imaginary world were more diverse. While Ryan portrays the executive leader of a studio, The Kid and Connie are given the roles of directors. Meanwhile, Richie is portraying an actor from the Western genre and Stacey and Renee are portraying glamourous actresses.
  • Even though there was an overarching message in ‘When Movies Were Movies’, it wasn’t in the center of the story like the previous episodes I saw. This episode primarily focused on the exploration of the early history of cinema. The message came after this history was explained; when it comes to entertainment, sometimes older is better. It’s a message that seems to be relevant today, as I have heard people say they choose to turn toward the older films than the modern ones. In fact, I have found myself doing this on my blog.  

My overall thoughts:

‘When Movies Were Movies’ is my favorite episode out of the four I’ve seen! It not only covers a topic I’m interested in, but the concept was executed in such a creative way! I am disappointed a movie theater wasn’t shown on-screen or any real-life movies weren’t brought up. However, the episode has more positives than negatives. The majority of the musical numbers had a strong connection to the story. ‘When Movies Were Movies’ and ‘Forever (Like Heroes and Fools)’ were the only two that correlated with the cast’s trip to the 1920s. These numbers were interesting for various reasons. It gave the cast different material to work with from a musical and acting perspective. ‘When Movies Were Movies’ serves as a good introduction to movies for a younger audience. How entertaining this history lesson is also helps!

Rating: A 4.2 out of 5

It was interesting to see which characters were given which roles, as it gave the cast new material to work with. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Kids Incorporated.

My final assessment:

I was not expecting to like Kids Incorporated as much as I did! Even though there are episodes I liked more than others, I had an enjoyable experience watching this show for the first time! By this point, I’m going to sound like a broken record. But I was surprised by how well the episodes and their messages held up.  Each episode’s story was simple yet interesting, with a message that was timeless and relatable. These elements work in Kids Incorporated’s favor, as they help the show live on past its prime. Entertaining musical numbers also make this show as enjoyable as I found it! Most of the songs were likable and the musical numbers were a joy to watch. I liked seeing the creativity in some of these numbers, like ‘Yo Ho Ho’ and ‘When Movies Were Movies’. Witnessing imagination come to life is what stands out when I think about this show. I’m actually considering watching all of Kids Incorporated’s episodes and ranking them. Since I don’t create rank posts often, it would be something different from the content I usually publish.

Have you seen Kids Incorporated? Are there any episodes you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the P*lace!

Sally Silverscreen

Bucky Barnes and Matthew Rogers: Paralleling Stories of Disability

As I was trying to come up with ideas for what to write about for the 2nd Disability In Film Blogathon, I came across the book and movie, Wonderstruck. While reading the story’s synopsis, I discovered that it was about two children who go on an adventure in two very different time periods. Even though these characters lead very different lives from one another and are unique individuals from each other, they both have something in common: both of these children are deaf. The idea of these characters having similar life experiences and stories of disability, despite existing in separate time periods, is what inspired me to create this editorial. My favorite superhero from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Bucky Barnes and Matthew Rogers is my favorite character from Little House on the Prairie. After watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the first time, I started to notice that Bucky and Matthew shared more in common than one would think. Like the protagonists in Wonderstruck, Bucky’s and Matthew’s story takes place in two very different time periods: the late 1800s and the present day. Also like the protagonists in Wonderstruck, Bucky and Matthew have a disability: Bucky is an amputee and Matthew is non-verbal. In my post, “My Top 5 Dream Double Features at the Cinema”, I talked about how I would want to discuss the similarities in Bucky’s and Matthew’s story if I paired both episodes of “The Wild Boy” with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now, I finally get the chance to explore these similarities in honor of the 2nd Disability In Film Blogathon!

2nd Disability in Film Blogathon banner
The 2nd Disability In Film Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Robin from Pop Culture Reverie. Image found at https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/announcing-the-2nd-disability-in-film-blogathon/ and https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/announcing-the-2nd-disability-in-film-blogathon/.

The Introduction of Bucky and Matthew

Bucky Barnes and Matthew Rogers are introduced into a series that already had an established story prior to their appearance (the Captain America trilogy/MCU and Little House on the Prairie). When they make their official appearances in these series, Bucky’s movie and Matthew’s episodes were centered around them, even though they are not one of the main characters. Though this movie is a part of the Captain America trilogy, the title of this film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier because the movie explores Bucky’s story. On Little House on the Prairie, the episode where Matthew makes his debut is titled “The Wild Boy” because, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Matthew’s story is the primary focus. Because this episode is told in two parts, it allows for Matthew and his story to have a meaningful impact on the residents of Walnut Grove.

When Bucky and Matthew first appear on screen, the audience sees them carrying dangerous and violent identities. At the beginning of “The Wild Boy” Part 1, Matthew is introduced as The Wild Boy, a young, unkempt boy who reacts violently when Dr. McQueen, a traveling medicine man, tries to get his attention. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky is known as The Winter Soldier, a dangerous antagonist from Hydra, a criminal organization, who causes chaos and destruction. At first, the protagonists in each story see the personas of The Wild Boy and The Winter Soldier for face value, believing that these individuals are truly as violent and dangerous as they appear. This also allows the audience to share similar thoughts and beliefs with the protagonists, with the delivery of the truth about The Wild Boy and The Winter Soldier being executed as a surprise for the audience.

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The unmasking of The Winter Soldier: a moment that shocked the Marvel fandom. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The Truth about Bucky and Matthew

As their stories go on, the truth about The Winter Soldier and The Wild Boy are revealed. When Steve Rogers removes The Winter Soldier’s mask during a confrontation in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he discovers that The Winter Soldier is really his friend, Bucky Barnes. After that scene, the audience is given the opportunity to learn about how Bucky ended up with Hydra. While Bucky has his prosthetic arm repaired by Hydra members, a flash-back montage is shown. This montage shows the audience that after he fell off the train in Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky lost his left arm while he was falling. He was then kidnapped by Hydra and kept against his will. During this montage, the audience discovers how Bucky receives his prosthetic arm, but also sees Bucky getting mistreated by members of Hydra. The audience also learns that Bucky had The Winter Soldier persona forced upon him and was brainwashed by Hydra to hurt other people. When the story returns to present day, Bucky is still getting mistreated and abused by Hydra. Alexander Pierce, the head of Hydra, feels that the mistreatment toward Bucky, such as unexpectedly slapping him in the face and having Bucky involuntarily go through electroshock treatments, is justifiable. Brock Rumlow, a fellow Hydra member, witnesses the abuse toward Bucky, but chooses not to do anything about it. Steve Rogers finds out about Bucky’s traumatic situation after Captain America: The Winter Soldier but before Captain America: Civil War.

Like Bucky, the audience gets to learn more about The Wild Boy in “The Wild Boy” Part 1. Toward the beginning of this episode, The Wild Boy is shown getting physically abused by Dr. McQueen (he hits his hand with his cane) and being neglected (Dr. McQueen refuses to feed him). Dr. McQueen is also verbally abusive toward The Wild Boy, referring to him as “creature” and “animal” as well as saying he “acquired” him. Luther Abbott, the assistant of Dr. McQueen, recognizes that The Wild Boy is being mistreated, but doesn’t really do anything about the situation. He even assumes that The Wild Boy has a small amount of intelligence and doesn’t understand what’s going on around him. When Dr. McQueen visits Walnut Gove, Jenny Wilder, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s niece, suspects there’s more to The Wild Boy than meets the eye after she and her friends sneak into the tent where The Wild Boy is kept. The next day, when Jenny finds The Wild Boy hiding in her family’s barn, she discovers the truth about The Wild Boy. She not only learns that The Wild Boy is really Matthew Rogers, but also that he is non-verbal. The audience learns in the Little House on the Prairie episode “Hello and Goodbye” that Matthew became non-verbal due to having Lye forced down his throat by a farming couple who only wanted to adopt Matthew as a work-hand, not as their son. The audience also learns, later on in “The Wild Boy” Part 1, that Matthew developed Morphinism due to Dr. McQueen using the morphine laced elixir he was selling to control Matthew’s behavior, causing him to act “wild”.

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Why the heck would Dr. McQueen think this “Wild Boy” idea is ok? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Bucky and Matthew Break Free

Fortunately, Bucky and Matthew find a way to escape their abusive situations. Despite Luther assuming that Matthew has a lack of intelligence, Matthew figures out how to dismantle his cage, giving him a chance to run away from Dr. McQueen’s capture. While Steve and Bucky fight each other during the Triskelion Battle in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve rescues Bucky from Hydra’s capture by reminding Bucky of who he is and of the friendship they have. These reminders help Bucky break through Hydra’s brainwashing and escape their clutches. It’s also important to point out that after their initial escape, Bucky and Matthew never return to their captors’ control. Dr. McQueen comes back to Walnut Grove in an attempt to reclaim Matthew in “The Wild Boy” Part 2. This causes a judge to be called in and a hearing to take place in order to determine who should be the guardian of Matthew. Because of Luther confessing the truth about Dr. McQueen’s abuse toward Matthew and that he was bribed by Dr. McQueen to lie about Matthew’s situation, the judge decides to revoke Dr. McQueen’s guardianship but also decides to have Matthew sent to an asylum. After some convincing from Matthew and Mr. Edwards, the judge decides to grant guardianship to Mr. Edwards. Because a large portion of Hydra’s members were killed during the Triskelion Battle or went into hiding after that battle, Bucky has been able to live a life free of anything Hydra related.

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Why is Bucky, sometimes, still referred to as “The Winter Soldier” when he’s no longer the Winter Soldier? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Bucky’s and Matthew’s Support System

Because their families are mostly absent from their stories, Bucky and Matthew have to build their support system from scratch. In each support system, there’s at least three key individuals that are present throughout Bucky’s and Matthew’s journey. For Matthew, these people are Mr. Edwards, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Jenny Wilder. In Bucky’s story, these individuals are Steve Rogers, T’Challa, and Shuri. The people in these support systems approach their roles in their own ways, but their goal is the same: helping their friend or loved one and keeping their best interests in mind.

The biggest role in both of these support systems is the advocate, the person who spends the most time with their friend or loved one and makes sure their best interests are met. These roles are given to Mr. Edwards and Steve Rogers. After Matthew escapes from Dr. McQueen’s capture, he ends up having no place to go. Mr. Edwards volunteers to be his temporary guardian and takes care of Matthew. When Matthew faces the threat of being sent to an asylum, Mr. Edwards makes a speech before Sunday Service, with all the residents of Walnut Grove present, about how Matthew is no different from the other members of Walnut Gove. During this speech, Mr. Edwards was advocating for Matthew to stay in Walnut Grove so he could live in a stable, loving, and supportive environment. This speech convinced the judge to allow Matthew to live in Walnut Grove with Mr. Edwards. In Bucky’s case, Steve has been his friend prior to the events that caused Bucky to become disabled. During Bucky’s time in the MCU, Steve Rogers not only rescued Bucky from Hydra’s capture, but he also defends Bucky throughout Captain America: Civil War. When Bucky is wrongly accused of committing murder, Steve tries to explain to the members of “Team Iron Man” that not only is Bucky innocent, but that he also experienced a very traumatic and violent past. During the final battle between Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man, Steve puts Bucky’s needs before his own by giving up his shield and choosing to help his friend.

The other two roles in this support system are the resource gatherer (the one who finds the resources for their loved one or friend) and the understanding soul (the one who, through understanding, comes to accept and appreciate the person they are going to help). The role of resource gatherer is given to Shuri and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Bucky comes to Wakanda to receive the medical care that he needs, wants, and deserves. Not only does Shuri help Bucky overcome his trauma, she also creates a new prosthetic arm, using Wakanda’s vibranium, for Bucky at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. In Matthew’s situation, Laura teaches him sign language so he can communicate with the people around him. For Jenny and T’Challa, they have taken on the role of the understanding soul. In Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa assumes that Bucky killed his father because Helmut Zemo, the film’s villain, was dressed up as Bucky when he murdered several people in Vienna. After T’Challa learns the truth about how his father died, he accepts Bucky into his social circle and helps him receive the resources he needs and wants. T’Challa also discovers Bucky’s past and realizes that he has been a victim of abuse and trauma. After she stops Nancy Oleson from tormenting Matthew and, later, finds Matthew hiding in her family’s barn, Jenny discovers that Matthew’s “wild boy” persona was forced upon him by his captors. She also learns about Matthew’s disability and agrees to become his friend.

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Laura teaching Matthew, Jenny, and Mr. Edwards how to say “coffee pot” in sign language. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

An Assistive Tool for Bucky and Matthew

After breaking free from their traumatic and abusive life, Bucky and Matthew are able to surround themselves with people who truly care about them and strive to meet their best interests. One way that their best interests are met is when they each receive an assistive tool that will help them live as independent and productive of a life as possible. As mentioned earlier, Laura teaches Matthew sign language in order to help him communicate with the people in his life. She also teaches Mr. Edwards and Jenny sign language so they can understand what Matthew is trying to say. This assistive tool of language helps Matthew to form friendships and make his wishes and thoughts known to others. Without it, Matthew would probably feel excluded from the community, feeling like he had limited opportunities to contribute to any conversations.

Even though Bucky received his prosthetic arm during his time under Hydra’s capture, that arm was created and controlled by Hydra, meaning that Bucky couldn’t use his assistive tool in his favor. After he was rescued from Hydra’s capture, Bucky was able to have more control over his prosthetic arm, being able to use his assistive tool the way he wants to, such as picking up plums from the market and fighting alongside “Team Cap” in Captain America: Civil War. During the battle between Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man, Bucky’s prosthetic arm was destroyed after a failed attempt to remove Iron Man’s arc reactor. He not only receives a new prosthetic arm at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, but this prosthetic arm has no connection to Hydra, meaning that Bucky can have total control over his assistive tool. It’s also important to point out that throughout Avengers: Infinity War, Bucky seems comfortable with his new prosthetic arm, that he was given enough time to get used to his assistive tool and operate it the way he wants to.

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Bucky and Bucky being invited by Thor to a screening of Avengers: Infinity War! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The language used toward/about Bucky and Matthew

When Bucky and Matthew start their new lives, the audience gets to see how others interact with them. During Bucky’s time in the MCU and in both parts of “The Wild Boy”, Bucky and Matthew are welcomed into their communities. There are never bullied, made fun of, treated differently, or judged because of their disability. While looking at Bucky’s and Matthew’s stories, however, there was language used either toward or about them that could be seen as problematic. In both parts of “The Wild Boy”, some of the characters refer to Matthew as a “mute”. This is the only example of problematic language I could find within Matthew’s story. Because Little House on the Prairie takes place sometime between the 1870s to 1890s, I found this language to be more reflective of that time-period. Throughout Bucky’s time in the MCU, I found three instances where language was used either toward or about Bucky as a person with a disability that one could find as problematic. Below are the list of these instances and how they could be perceived as problematic.

  • “You have a metal arm?! That is awesome, dude!” – This is what Spider-Man tells Bucky during their fight in Captain America: Civil War. What Spider-Man said could be seen as problematic for two reasons. The first is by Spider-Man pointing out Bucky’s prosthetic arm, it seems like Bucky’s disability is being acknowledged before Bucky as a person. The second is if Spider-Man knew how Bucky acquired his prosthetic arm, he probably wouldn’t sound as enthusiastic as he did. Personally, I don’t have a problem with what Spider-Man said because his compliment truly sounded genuine and he appeared excited to meet and interact with people that were different from those he interacted with on a daily basis.
  • “Great! Another broken white boy for us to fix.” – Though Shuri doesn’t explicitly say who she’s referring to in Black Panther, it is assumed that the first “broken white boy” is Bucky. Implying that Bucky, a person with a disability, is broken and needs to be fixed is very problematic because this would suggest that, by having a disability, something is wrong with him and he should feel ashamed or embarrassed about being disabled. Because Shuri volunteers to help Bucky overcome his trauma and joins Bucky’s Support System, I don’t believe Shuri meant to be hurtful toward him. However, I do think that any screenwriter of any Marvel movie should be a bit more mindful when referring to any character with any type of disability and how their audience might perceive what is being said about a character with a disability.

 

 

  • “Okay, how much for the arm? (Bucky walks away) Oh, I’ll get that arm” – During Avengers: Infinity War, Bucky and Rocket teamed up in an attempt to stop the threat against Wakanda. The aforementioned quote is what Rocket said toward the end of his interaction with Bucky. Even though I think this moment was meant to be hilarious and what Rocket said is more in line with his sense of humor, I can see why someone would think that what Rocket said was problematic. By Rocket implying that he wants to take Bucky’s arm away from him, it would make Rocket appear is if he wants Bucky’s independence to be taken away from him. As I mentioned earlier, Bucky’s prosthetic arm is an assistive tool, which helps him live as independent and productive of a life as possible. Suggesting that Bucky, an individual with a disability, shouldn’t be able to use his assistive tool is very demeaning.

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Jenny and Matthew teaching their friend, Jeb, how to say “friend” in sign language. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The Future of Bucky and Matthew

Though Bucky and Matthew experience positivity throughout their stories, their journeys are far from over. They may never be able to fully escape their traumatic pasts, but the audience can see that Bucky and Matthew have the strength and resilience to continue to move forward to a better and brighter day. Even though they had horrible identities forced upon them by horrible people, Bucky and Matthew never became the person that their captors tried desperately to turn them into. When Mr. Edwards suggests that he and Matthew run away in order to prevent Matthew from getting sent to an asylum, Matthew refuses and tells him that following the law and respecting the judge are more important than keeping their temporary family together. Because Matthew truly cared about Mr. Edwards, he sought out the best interests of Mr. Edwards and stopped him from making one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Shortly after Bucky was rescued from Hydra’s capture, one of the first things Bucky does is save Steve from potentially drowning. Because of what Steve did for Bucky, he realizes that Steve still cares about his friend and wants the best for him. Bucky’s act of kindness shows the audience that he is expressing his gratitude toward his friend by helping him out in a dire situation. Both of these situations are an example of, when given the choice, Bucky and Matthew consciously choose to be good people despite the terrible hands they had been dealt in the past.

Because of where Bucky’s and Matthew’s story leaves off in their respective series, it makes it unclear of what exactly will happen to them. In the Little House on the Prairie episode “Hello and Goodbye”, Matthew reunites with his biological father, Philip Rogers. Since this episode was not only Matthew’s last appearance on the show, but also the final episode in the series, it is assumed that Matthew received a happy ending when he chose to live with his father. At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Bucky disappeared as a result of Thanos’ plan being successful. Because ‘Avengers 4’ is listed on Sebastian Stan’s filmography on IMDB, it is assumed that Bucky will return in the next film. Some people even speculate that he could become the next Captain America if Steve Rogers were to step away from the title. No matter what happens to Bucky and Matthew, the most important thing to remember is that their disability is a part of their story. They do not let the past define them, but instead use it as a source of strength and perseverance. Bucky and Matthew are, more often than not, given opportunities to show others what they are capable of, especially when they set their minds to it. They never let their struggles or their hardships get in the way of achieving their goals and following their dreams. Within their respective series and even in the world of pop culture, Bucky Barnes and Matthew Rogers are just as significant and meaningful as the other characters surrounding them.

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Bucky’s ready to make his return in ‘Avengers 4″! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

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Matthew gives Mr. Edwards a hug as the credits are rolling. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen