Author Recalls Network's Vandalism of "Innocent, Funny Little Story"
Outrage: CBS Injected Feminist Virus Into “Hank the Cowdog” Program
By John R. Erickson
In the summer of 1984, I got a call from a man at CBS Television in Los Angeles. He said they wanted to make a thirty-minute animated cartoon based on one of my Hank the Cowdog books. I was thrilled.
At that time, I was self-publishing the Hank books on borrowed money, selling them out of my garage in the little town of Perryton, Texas, and trying to support a wife and three small children. There couldn’t have been more than a few thousand Hank books in the whole world, and I considered it an extraordinary piece of luck that one of them had ended up on a desk at CBS.
Hank was to be one of thirteen episodes, each based on an outstanding children’s book, in a series called “CBS Storybreak.” The series was part of an attempt by the network to “upgrade” its Saturday morning programming and would be hosted by a trusted name in children’s broadcasting, Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo.
The Hank episode aired on May 5, 1985, and Perryton was proud. The mayor declared it “Hank the Cowdog Day,” and we had a celebration at the local country club. I watched the Hank episode with two hundred kids from my hometown.
Removing the Family
My first impression was that CBS had stayed pretty close to my story. I tried to ignore that they had placed Hank on a chicken farm instead of a cattle ranch, and that the landscapes resembled the Arizona desert, not the Texas Panhandle. Those changes were annoying but not serious.
But after watching the episode three times, I noticed something more disturbing. In my book, Hank lives on a typical family ranch. Loper and Sally May are husband and wife, and Little Alfred is their son. Slim Chance is a bachelor cowboy who works on the ranch.
In the CBS version, Sally May had become the ranch boss. Loper and Slim worked for her, and it appeared that they all lived together in the bunkhouse. Little Alfred had vanished into thin air.
I was stunned. They had taken the family out of my story!
At first, I thought it must have been an accident, but then I watched the other episodes in the “Storybreak” series and noticed that in all thirteen of these so-called “high quality” stories for children, there was not one traditional family with a husband and wife.
What was going on here? I hadn’t read the other books in the series, but I knew what they’d done to my story. They had removed all traces of the kind of home life that had been a source of strength to me, my parents, my grandparents, and back as far as we could trace our family history.
Imposing Feminist Values
Why had CBS done this? Because someone at the network had decided to use a Saturday morning cartoon series (and my Hank book) as a platform for feminist ideology -- an ideology that viewed women as an oppressed minority, men as brutes, marriage as slavery, and motherhood as an insignificant waste of time.
They had vandalized my innocent, funny little story . . . and they had done it by stealth.
I was particularly outraged because the Hank books were always meant to be read aloud by families. If the television people felt such loathing for two-parent families, why hadn’t they chosen a book that said so, out in the open, where everyone could see it?
The reason, I suspect, is that such books don’t exist, or, if they do, they’ve become spectacular flops in the marketplace. What kind of parents would give such a book to their child for Christmas? What kind of teacher would read it aloud to her fourth grade class? What kind of librarian would recommend it to the children in her care?
Feminist crusaders can’t produce their own children’s book, because nobody trusts them. Deep instinct tells us that anyone who hates the traditional two-parent family doesn’t like children either. To them, children are noisy, messy little animals who interfere with a woman’s busy career . . . although they don’t mind selling the kiddies soda pop, sugared cereal, and toys on TV.
So they buy the rights to a trusted, successful book and inject it with their social viruses.
What qualifies these people to indoctrinate our children? Where is the proof that broken homes are a proper setting for nurturing children and passing along civilized values? There is no proof. None. In six thousand years of recorded history, no group of human beings has ever been arrogant enough or drunk enough to argue such hideous rubbish.
Until now. Today . . . yesterday . . . every day in modern America, someone is beaming that message into our homes. Sometimes it’s out in the open. More often, it’s hidden, disguised like a thief in the night.
Didn't Know I Was in a Fight
When I made my deal with CBS, I never dreamed they would use my story as a vehicle for mocking the values of my parents, church, and community. I’m ashamed that I was such an easy mark. I got whipped because I didn’t know I was in a fight. Now I know.
How about you? Do you let those messages into your living room? Are you allowing strangers to indoctrinate your children? Do you attend their movies and listen to their music, when you know in your heart that they despise the values we hold most sacred?
We do have a choice. We live in a secular, media-drenched society, but we don’t have to like it or accept its messages. As consumers, we can pay attention to media products and stop buying the ones that are toxic.
My simple rule of thumb is, “If your grandmother wouldn’t like it, stay away from it.” And listen to “Focus On The Family.”
But the job is bigger than that. Ultimately, we have to remake American culture and infuse it with the values that inspired previous generations. I’m talking about values that speak to something higher than ME and my momentary pleasure.
Did God put us on this earth merely to consume hamburgers, watch DVDs, and drive pretty cars, or is there more to it? If there’s more, we need to start talking about it.
And that means we must involve ourselves in the culture. If we don’t approve of what’s being offered in popular culture, let us create our own movies, television, newspapers, magazines, books, music, and publishing companies. That’s where Hank came from, a self-publishing venture in my garage.
People need great stories and inspiring music, just as we need food and water. The human spirit cries out for beauty and coherence. A vibrant culture can address those needs when it seeks answers to questions that David the Psalmist was asking three thousand years ago: “Where did I come from and why am I here?”
Popular culture doesn’t know where we came from. They’re not even asking.
John Erickson is author of the popular “Hank the Cowdog” series (about 7 million copies sold). His website address is www.hankthecowdog.com. This essay was first presented at a homeschooling convention last summer and is printed here with permission, Dec. 19, 2006. Copyright John Erickson, 2006.