Summary: Anthropomorphic crabs and snails living in a shell community teach each other the importance of independent bookstores, and rejoice in the downfall of corporations. With Mr. Crab’s business failing, the children of Shell Town rush in to save their beloved childhood bookstore, setting up a book signing and sending the owner into a schizophrenic episode in the process. Yay Saturday morning television!
On occasion, I am awake early enough to watch Saturday morning cartoons. When I am too busy to change the channel because I’m getting ready or when “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” isn’t on, the television usually sits on NBC and occasionally I will glare in horror at a show called “Shelldon” until “The Magic School Bus” comes on. And yes, the old “Magic School Bus” you grew up with, they didn’t retool it for a younger generation… Yet.
Last Saturday before Ms. Frizzle, the progressive science teacher with the pet chameleon came on, I gazed in horror at the frightening sea monsters that were teaching America yet another lesson. Two weeks prior, I learned about the importance of not getting lost, which occurred to Shelldon and friends when they left school after wandering away from their sea turtle teacher. Have I mentioned that “Shelldon” is a really poorly conceived Finding Nemo set in a shell exclusive community? What are we teaching our children with this drivel!?! To be racist against sea cucumbers because they don’t have any shells!?!
Despite the fact that it’s populated with creepy monsters who make me uncomfortable, last week’s “Shelldon” had a pretty darn good message for kids: support independent bookstores. You heard me right, this episode wasn’t about sharing or not talking to strangers but HELPING SMALL BUSINESS. It’s a pretty strong message for a children’s show, especially when children probably can’t understand the underlying message the show is trying to teach them. Being nice is a little more in their scope, but I enjoyed the moral nevertheless. With the internet abuzz with discussions of Amazon being evil and destroying independent business, it was interesting to see how sea creatures would tackle the idea of corporate greed. Hint: no dolphins were involved and nobody jumped a shark.
What follows is what I vaguely remember from watching twenty minutes of CGI monstrosities float around. Names and details may not be 100% accurate. The story starts with the shell children visiting Mr. Crab’s bookstore, which is in pretty poor shape. They reminisce about the various books they bought as shell toddlers and come across one in particular called The Wish Machine, which was conveniently written by their teacher under a pen name. It will also act as a deus ex machina later on in the narrative. I know, I know, I’m thinking way to much about a crappy children’s television show.
Anyway, in order to bring Mr. Crab more business, the kids clean up their store in what is the lamest montage ever (no fun music or exercise or anything!), and prepare for a book signing to be held for The Wish Machine to help bring in more business and remind people not to shop at the corporate bookstore Krakens. Unfortunately, on opening day, Kraken the owner is advertizing free gifts with purchase and he inexplicably has early copies of Barry Flounder and the Deathly Shallows for half price! Mr. Crab’s loyal customers can’t help but go with the better option, despite that it could put their local shop out of business. They are bought with the promise of free gifts, not a better business model or, you know, loyalty to their friend and neighbor.
This is a common problem. We know it’s important to support local businesses, but the prices of their online competitors and corporate stores save you so much time and money. They have bigger locations, more affordable pricing, and will ship to you in a timely manner, all things local businesses cannot keep up with. Independent stores can only buy so much wholesale. You might want to support independent business exclusively, but economic decline not only made smaller business go under, but forced shoppers to be more frugal. It’s a horrible catch 22, but even the middle class citizens of Shell Town are drawn to Krakens world of cheaper and easier to access products. That’s what she said.
With the loss of his customers, Mr. Crab makes a wish on The Wish Machine to go back in time and never open his bookstore, so he wouldn’t experience the loss of his life’s ambition. When he leaves his store to get some fresh air, Mr. Crab experiences a psychotic breakdown. He keeps asking people about his bookstore and they claim not to know him and deny the fact that he ever owned a bookstore. OH NOES! If this were a movie, Mr. Crabs would be experiencing all of this from inside a mental institution and the townspeople only let him pretend to own a bookstore to cure his insanity. Also he murdered his wife.
In a plot line a la It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Crab sees all the lives ruined by his nonexistence. Because his bookstore never existed, a hermit crab never learned how to ride a skateboard, and a police officer doesn’t understand how the law works (both of them learning from books sold to them by Mr. Crab). Finally, in something out of the “Twilight Zone”, Mr. Crab sees Krakens, which has a monopoly on books, choosing to sell only one- the autobiography of CEO Kraken- because it has no competition. Without other businesses to regulate it, Kraken saturates the market with one book, simply because he can. Worst business plan ever.
Of course in a happy turn of events, everything goes back to normal when Mr. Crab realizes the error of his ways and the re-opening of his store is a smashing success. The audience learns the importance of supporting local business, how books can make the fantastical come to life, and that the internet doesn’t work under the sea, but you can read books made of paper. I’m calling shenanigans on that one!
The moral of the story is simple: support small business whenever you can. No one wants only one option, even in the business world. If Amazon took over, I doubt they would sell only one book because they could, that’s a gross exaggeration used to show children and a psychotic crab a point. But it would greatly limit the ability to browse before we buy, smell that wonderful book smell, meet authors at reading/signings, and chat in person with fellow book lovers. The world isn’t expecting miracles, not everyone can afford full price all the time, but when you can, do. Visit an independent bookstore, a used bookstore, buy from them when your wallet can afford to. And most importantly, don’t support communities that only allow shelled residents. Won’t somebody please think of the sea slugs!?!