‘Richie Rich’ Feels Bankrupt When It Comes To Portraying Positive Female Role Models

Written By kom nampuldu on Rabu, 25 Februari 2015 | 20.49

So, Netflix decided to reboot Richie Rich. I have vaguely fond memories of the early '80s Saturday morning cartoon version, and present-day fondness for a lot of the original work Netflix has been churning out, so I went into this with a relatively open mind and high hopes.

Perhaps I have only myself to blame, then, for the near-instant disappointment I felt while watching this new live-action iteration. Richie (played by Jake Brannan) is a self-described "regular kid" who somehow took all the vegetables he didn't eat and invented a new fuel source, which sold for a trillion dollars. Call me a total square, but this message as a starting point feels irresponsible. The fact that the explanation ends there is also troubling to me. Why assume that your audience is going swallow that kind of premise without even a hint of science to back it up?

And here's where I realized my problem: I've been spoiled. There are so many smart, imaginative shows for kids these days and this one just doesn't measure up. The gags are goofy without being funny, the production value is poor, and where the characters should exude creativity they instead revert to materialistic tendencies.

Also conspicuously absent from the mansion is a Mrs. Rich. In the three episodes I watched there was no mention of the past or present existence of Richie's mom – not even a sitcom-style emotional moment interrupted by trillionaire shenanigans. Which made me realize my second major problem with this show: where are the positive female characters?

There are three female main characters: his uptight, angry sister (not pictured), his friend, Darcy (pictured right), who exists solely to spend Richie's money, and his gorgeous "robot" help forever dressed as a French maid (guess which one this is). Taken together you've got a bitchy gold digger in heels and thigh highs. This cliché is so aggressively one-dimensional that I have to question the two guys who created the show. Knowing what we know about girls and media and the potential negative effects of putting these types of characters on the screen, I can't help but ask, "Why do it?"

In one particularly cringeworthy scene, Richie's friend Darcy ends up in a full body cast that—applied by the robot maid—after Darcy crashes through the ceiling (because of the vertical wind tunnel!) into Richie's gorilla habitat where gorillas attack her and break over 80 bones in her little body. Even after all that physical trauma, all she is really worried about is ordering a "custom couture body cast" so she "wouldn't look like an idiot." Instead of stewing in my own (admittedly bougie) headspace and getting increasingly agitated by the image of I'll just change the virtual channel.

To counter the lack of imagination on display in Richie Rich, I'll direct my kids to the laugh-track free land of Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street (available on Amazon Prime Instant Video). Like Richie, Gortimer is just a regular kid with one male friend and one female friend. Unlike Richie, his male friend is pretty funny and his female friend is strong and intelligent. Their adventures on Normal Street are fantastical and heartfelt but never taken too seriously.

I'd also recommend SciGirls, which originally aired on PBS and can now be streamed on Amazon Prime Instant Video. Each episode features a group of middle school-aged girls who are tasked with solving a problem using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)-based practices. The girls are real, the problems are staged, and the result is entertaining and educational. My six-year-old daughter has gone on a few SciGirls binge-fests and come out the other side talking about forensic investigations and the importance of teamwork. I'll take that over the phrase "custom couture" any day.

Angela Arsenault is a freelance journalist and a reformed cable subscriber. Feel free to follow her infrequent tweets with no discernible theme: @justthisbreath.

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