Plot: Suzie’s Great Aunt T comes to visit after Christmas and makes plans to celebrate Kwanzaa with the family. After learning that part of Kwanzaa is about celebrating the great people in your family, Suzie laments that she has done nothing great like her siblings and parents have done. Wanting to partake in Kwanzaa, Suzie tries to do great things with the help of the babies, but continuously falters. Will Suzie really be left out of Kwanzaa or is she greater than she thinks?
Breakdown: So we’re at the second of two of the seemingly only animated Kwanzaa specials in existence with Rugrats. I praised Rugrats very highly for their venture into another seldom explored-on-screen holiday, Hanukkah, and I was disappointed to say the least with The Proud Family’s version. Does Rugrats bring some light to the kinara this year?
Yes and no.
While this rendition is definitely miles above what The Proud Family spewed out, I’d still be a bit hard-pressed to say it’s really all that great as a true Kwanzaa special.
Like I mentioned in The Proud Family’s Kwanzaa special review, there are seven days of Kwanzaa to cover, each with their own meanings and particular celebrations. You can’t just shove all of that to the wayside for something else and think it will still give the same weight.
Rugrats gives Kwanzaa more respect as a holiday, giving us more insight into its true meaning and a slight look into its history, but the whole Kwanzaa aspect is again shoved to the side for a plot about Suzie trying her best to be a great person. Not only that, but later on they delve into why Suzie’s ancestors, despite not having awards or fame, are great in their own right, such as her Great Uncle Charles being a very sweet man whose kindness actually led him and Aunt T into meeting Martin Luther King Jr., Suzie’s mother Lucy braving her stage fright to sing at church, and Aunt T giving Lucy her college tuition for Harvard Medical School when her financial aid fell through.
It’s true that part of Kwanzaa is celebrating your ancestors in various ways, and Suzie trying to find what’s great about her is a realistic way a three-year-old might approach this. This plot, as a whole, is solid enough. Not particularly great episode material, but good. My problem is that is takes up nearly the whole episode, once again pushing the Kwanzaa festivities aside.
Probably the worst aspect of this is that the special treats Kwanzaa like it is indeed a one-day event. They only cover the first day, Umoja, without even mentioning the fact that it’s a seven day event with six other principles to cover. And the special doesn’t even focus on that, really. It focuses more on being great in your own way and recognizing greatness in others in various ways. That’s a great lesson to learn, but it has little to do with unity.
If I wanted to go the extra mile, I might even say this special wasn’t even intending on being a Kwanzaa special at the start. You could almost take all of the Kwanzaa stuff out and the episode would not really be all that different.
It’s just really disappointing because they did such a phenomenal job on their Hanukkah special that I was expecting something at least nearing such quality for their Kwanzaa special.
There are also weird parts of this episode like….what are the babies even doing there? Why are they at the Carmichaels the day after Christmas? I wouldn’t be so bothered by this if any of their parents were there, but they’re not. The only parents who make an appearance besides Suzie’s are Phil and Lil’s and they only make a brief cameo.
Another weird thing is where the hell is Dil? This is season seven, and Kimi is there. Why would Tommy be babysat by the Carmichaels but not Dil? Angelica is also noticeably (and thankfully) absent, but she might have an excuse to not be present whereas I can’t think of a damn thing for Dil.
I love how Mrs. Carmichael is so flippant about leaving a house full of children. She doesn’t even mention that she’s leaving to anyone and no one notices that she’s gone either. Oh yeah, a parent in Rugrats not being irresponsible. Silly me.
I guess I appreciate that they didn’t end the episode with Suzie revealing some great hidden talent, even though it has been established that she’s a fantastic singer like her mother (send up to Cree Summer.) They just appreciate what she tried to do out of the kindness of her heart (making a gift for Aunt T, which ended up getting ruined.)
I also like how they included all of the babies in the festivities for Kwanzaa instead of making this a purely Suzie and the Carmichaels episode. I would’ve liked it a little better if they included all of the parents too, though, but I understand if budget or story constraints would prevent that, though.
I could make an argument that this episode does, subtly, include all of the principles of Kwanzaa.
Umoja, unity, is shown in all of the family finally getting together at the end during the power outage and spending time together.
Kujichagulia or self-determination is reflected in Suzie’s determination to do something great to be a part of Kwanzaa. Lucy also shows this in her determination to get over her fear and sing in the choir.
Ujima, collective work and responsibility, is reflected in the babies doing everything they can to help Suzie achieve something great. Additionally, Charles stops to help MLK Jr. with car troubles.
Ujamaa or cooperative economics is shown when Aunt T uses the money she and her husband have saved over the years for the tuition money to help Lucy become a great doctor.
Nia or purpose was touched upon when Aunt T was talking with Suzie about discovering what truly makes her great as she grows up.
Kuumba or creativity was shown when Suzie tried to hand-make a gift for Aunt T.
Finally, Imani or faith may be a difficult one, but it could be reflected in Aunt T telling Suzie to always be proud of who she is and where she came from. I could also make the stretch in merely the fact that there’s a scene in the church with Lucy singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’.
I’m basically reading something into nothing, but I find it kind of neat that you can apply all of the principles of Kwanzaa to the episode, more or less, even if they don’t even mention the others.
This special certainly did more things right than The Proud Family did. They weren’t talking down to anyone, bad-mouthing Christmas for no reason, making you feel like crap or giving mixed messages that contradicted themselves or were bad messages anyway. They were respectful of their audience, didn’t even mention Christmas outside of showing the tree and some gifts, made you feel fairly good for having watched it, and gave a clear and concise message that was actually good.
I really like Suzie as a character anyway. She’s always been a great foil for Angelica, which just makes it weirder that Angelica’s not here. Though, I guess, she really couldn’t have been given a decent spot in the plot.
She’s not being greedy for gifts, though she doesn’t understand the significance of her scrapbook gift when she gets it and is disappointed that it’s not something she can play with, at least she’s not slamming it on the floor and making a sarcastic comment about how it’s not a better gift like some Pennys I can think of. She’s just trying to be a part of the holiday and wants to make her family proud. Hehehhehehe, Proud Family. Hehehe, that’s funny for some reason.
All in all, this is a good episode, but just an okay Kwanzaa special. I just don’t think they had the same direction, inspiration and drive for this special as they did for the Hanukkah special.
Happy Kwanzaa everyone!
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