cailou

Why Dads Fucking Hate That Bald Bastard Caillou

The easy answer: all of his whining. The not-so-easy answer: what all the passionate hate for his whining represents

Casey, a 34-year-old in Virginia, loves his two sons more than anything in the world. “I’d literally do anything for them,” he tells me. “And that includes protecting them from dark, awful things that they, being children, think they want.” 

What’s an example of such a dark, awful thing? Vaping? Booze? TikTok? 

“Caillou,” he says. “That sick little shit.” 

Wait, Caillou from Caillou? That seemingly innocent kids’ TV show with the little bald boy?

“Boy, do I hate that bald-headed bastard of a child,” says Lucas, who, while not a dad himself, is an uncle who frequently babysits his sister’s kids to help her out. 

At 20, Lucas is young enough to have grown up watching Caillou, and even recalls enjoying it at the time. But eventually, he aged out of the show. Then, his niece was born. “I helped babysit for a few months while my sister worked, and sometimes Caillou would be on,” he explains. “And as I watched it with her, a feeling of intense hatred came over me as I saw Caillou, episode after episode, getting his way by whining endlessly and manipulating ‘mommy’ to his will.” 

Like Casey — who says he might do what he’s heard some other dads have done and “ban” Caillou from his household — Lucas’ hatred of Caillou is strong. It’s pervasive, too. In fact, an entire, 6,300-member strong subreddit exists where parents, teachers and other adults wish death upon Caillou, continuously refer to him as a “little bitch” and pinpoint specific scenes of the intro song that make their “blood boil.” 

The part of the opening that makes my blood boil from caillouhate

FUCK CAILLOU AND HIS LITTLE DUMBASS CAT from caillouhate

Elsewhere on Reddit, you’ll also find plenty of dads venting about the “bald-headed freak” — for example, in r/daddit, a subreddit dedicated to dads helping other dads:

Nor is there a shortage of Caillou hate on Twitter (but of course):

The same goes for parenting blogs — and parents who write about the perils of parenthood in the media. “[What] child wouldn’t want to indulge in a universe where their every whim is catered to by a community of scared, jobless adults?” writes Tristin Hopper in his National Post article, “Caillou Is an Aggressively Bad Show Ruining the World’s Children.” “[Caillou] is a Faustian bargain with which [parents] distract their children for a few minutes, [which makes the show] a child-silencing narcotic. And like all harmful drugs, it plunges the user into a netherworld of selfish, tweaked-out behavior that’s destructive to themselves and those around them.” 

And yet, despite all the hate, the show ran for 13 years, aired 144 episodes and continues to rake in millions of views on YouTube. So what’s the disconnect? Or better put, why do parents hate the show with such an unrelenting passion but kids love it? 

To answer that, let’s start with the latter portion of the question, which isn’t necessarily as clear-cut as one might think. Namely, Susan Rvachew, a communications professor who has specifically studied the psychological response Caillou triggers in children and adults, says her research on how kids react to Caillou — whether in book or TV form — is largely gendered. 

Boys, she explains, tell researchers that “they used to watch Caillou on TV, but now that they’re in school, they’re likely to say that the show is too babyish. And the teachers often agree when the boys say this.” Rvachew adds that no girls feel the same way, which is especially interesting when you consider the larger gender roles in the show (while “Mommy” is the primary caretaker at home and “Daddy” is the breadwinner, Daddy also works from home and is very involved in “feminine” domestic roles). 

Even his fucking house looks like its gonna start bitching like the little shit it is from caillouhate

So what’s the connection between 5-year-old boys’ reaction to Caillou and parents — particularly dads — hating the show? 

In the immortal words of Dril:

“It’s worthwhile exploring whether there is a gendered aspect to the negative reactions,” says Rvachew. “[Caillou] is a little boy who behaves like a little boy and who lives in a little-boy environment — that is, a completely domestic realm.” Not to mention, she continues, the stories have no traditional plot: “He gets up and has breakfast, perhaps a mess is made and must be cleaned up. Some adults may find something ‘inappropriate’ about this especially since Caillou’s father is also placed in this domestic environment alongside Caillou.”  

In other words, since Caillou is a boy, perhaps the expectations are that he should be doing more masculine things outside of the domestic realm — a la, per Rvachew, “going to the moon, climbing Mount Everest or digging a hole to China.” Thus, when Caillou breaks down and cries because of a mess he’s made, dads respond that he’s being a whiny baby and a bad example for their kids. Would they, though, do the same if Caillou hurt his arm playing football? 

Either way, Rvachew explains, “[Caillou] is a fairly good representation of a young child. His concerns are centered on his efforts to understand his world, his own experience of it and his own emotions. He requires the help of adults to regulate his own emotions and to understand simple concepts such as how many days there are until Christmas.”

In fairness, too, for all the hate you see about Caillou online, there’s also a not insignificant amount of people who talk about how much watching Caillou manage his emotions helped them figure out their own: 

And so, parents’ negative reaction probably comes from frustration with how Caillou’s parents handle the boy versus how they would. “His parents are unusually tolerant and quite successful at helping him with these small challenges, [so] I’m surprised that the parents who hate it don’t focus more on them,” Rvachew says. “It’s often said that Caillou is a bad role model for children, but the parents are an almost impossible role model for parents — perhaps that’s the real problem.” 

Rvachew also believes that the Caillou hate is overblown — the classic case of a loud-and-online minority. “I don’t know if parents hate the show as much as is claimed,” she says. “Articles making the exact same claims [that] he’s too whiny and that the theme song is horrible are made over and over again, and often the same tweets are shared and re-shared across many articles. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen any objective polls that indicate how many parents or which parents hate Caillou, though this obviously interests me.” 

To that point, of the nearly 40 redditors I reached out to for comment, only six responded with interest. One was Casey, one was Lucas and the other four were 18- to 20-year-old men who grew up watching Caillou, and told me they posted in the forums because they “thought it was funny to hate on a kids’ show to such a ridiculous extent.” 

When I tell Rvachew this and show her r/caillouhate, she sagely responds, “The comments there tell you more about the young men than the television series.” But she also (again, probably sagely) mostly ignores it: “That isn’t a representative sample of young men.”