If teachers in certain states today were to mention during class that Mississippi once banned Sesame Street in the state for being too racially integrated, those teachers might get fired. All it takes is one parent objecting to kids learning about inclusion and it’s a wrap—even if the kids were just learning about the forces historically preventing kids from learning about inclusion.
It is into this chaotic educational environment that reactionary platform The Daily Wire just launched its new kids-show streaming app Bentkey, a corrective to the scourge of too-woke children’s programs like Sesame Street that continue ramming inclusion down kids’ throats. More specifically, though, it’s meant to be the Anti-Disney.
“Walt Disney loved America,” Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing said in a press release for the launch on Oct. 16, the centennial anniversary of Disney itself. “The company he founded seems to think America is systemically racist, and beyond just their content, Disney as a corporation pushes all the worst excesses of the woke Left.”
He goes on to add that Bentkey—the press release says the name is “a nod to the bent key Boreing has worn around his neck every day for the past 28 years,” without ever saying why he would do that—is not about teaching kids The Daily Wire’s politics. Instead, it will merely offer them a teeming library of content “that parents can trust.”
The reasons parents apparently can’t trust Disney anymore are difficult to parse. Mostly, though, they boil down to the fact that the entertainment conglomerate cast a Black woman as Ariel in its live-action Little Mermaid remake back in May and featured a same-sex kiss for one second in last year’s Lightyear. The Daily Wire gloated over both films underperforming at the box office and claimed it was empirical proof that audiences are fed up with so-called wokeness.
The promise of Bentkey is not necessarily the presence of quality but the absence of something nobody seems quite able or willing to articulate in one sentence. It’s a smart business move, considering how much The Daily Wire has cultivated anti-woke hostility over the past several years. In order to fulfill its core promise, Bentkey’s initial wave of offerings wouldn’t have to be particularly engaging or sticky; it would just have to not promote racial equality, show any children with same-sex parents, or in any way flick at gender identity. (Though an episode of Cars-knockoff Truck Games is, in fact, dedicated to making rainbows, which may be pushing it.)
So, just how ideologically neutral are these shows? What does Daily Wire co-founder and editor emeritus Ben Shapiro, recently seen setting fire to several Barbie dolls, want to teach your children?
Not as much garbage as his critics might think. The shows on Bentkey, for the most part, offer nothing the average Pod Save America Dad would object to.
Together, they form a kid-focused counterpart to The Daily Wire’s shockingly competent cinematic output. What they mainly have working in their favor is that right-wing propaganda outlet PragerU’s educational videos, which are now a part of Florida’s K-12 public school curriculum, are infinitely worse. Climate denialism, for instance, isn’t depicted in any Bentkey show as a brave act of resistance along the lines of the Warsaw Uprising. Instead, the threat of climate change—much like the threat of homosexuality or diversity—simply does not exist in this atmosphere.
Of the 17 shows currently available on the app, a baker’s dozen are licensed from other production companies, leaving four Bentkey Originals. The licensed shows include Yeti Tales, a French-made, puppet-populated show about a Yeti in a bookshop; Runes, an also French-made animated hero’s journey about an unlikely prince in 12th century Normandy; and Gus Plus Us, a legit charming and well-produced musical show, which also happens to feature an unmistakably dong-shaped puppet named Karrot.
The only one of these programs that might raise any eyebrows is How Ridiculous, a YouTube-originated show featuring a trio of hot Australian dudes in their early-30s breaking stuff in outlandishly expensive ways. It’s essentially Boring Jackass. Why anyone would want their six-year old potentially imitating it is beyond me.
And then there are the originals.
A Wonderful Day with Mabel Maclay is 75 percent Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and 25 percent Pee Wee’s Playhouse and should be 0 percent offensive to 100 percent of viewers. The first two episodes are structured around the topics of Creativity and Curiosity, so even if the show never gets around to woke ideas like Kindness and Compassion—frequent subjects in shows like Bluey and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood—it’s still teaching its impressionable viewers important ideas in a sweet and gentle way.
A pair of the other originals were created by the incredibly named Bubba Fulcher and produced with the help of his family. Anyone waiting for a show that finally teaches children what High Intensity Interval Training can do for an engaged core will fall in love with Kid Fit Go. The show claims to traffic in “funified fitness,” which I figured meant the trio of young hosts would teach viewers fun activities that incidentally sneak in some exercise. Instead, they just demonstrate proper form and technique for planking and burpees, while shouting encouragement like, “Alright, guys, give it your best effort” over and over again.
Kid Explorer, on the other hand, could stand to be a little less fun. The second Fulcher show is ostensibly made for six-year-olds, but the winking style of its busy history lessons seems more geared toward the millennial parents seated next to them. Will first-graders have some innate understanding of the standup comedy brick-wall backdrop in the show’s Mic Drop segments? Will they be able to correctly identify Zack Morris from a photo, and will they care after their mom explains who that is? And will they recognize the Joe Rogan announcer meme when it inexplicably pops up during an episode on Abraham Lincoln? If so, this child could probably just bypass an anti-woke kids’ TV streamer and graduate to Netflix.
The show that most resembles what most folks might expect from a Daily Wire children’s program—at least on paper—is Chip Chilla. It’s an upbeat cartoon about a family of chinchillas, co-created by a former creative director for The Babylon Bee and co-starring SNL alum turned B-movie actor turned anti-woke comedian Rob Schneider. In execution, however, Chip Chilla somehow comes across like just about any other kids’ show.
When the mother chinchilla pretends to be a reporter briefly in the first episode, I braced myself for a crack about fake news or the lamestream media. It never came.
When the second episode focused on the family putting out a newspaper, I thought surely this would be it. Instead, Schneider’s Chum Chum Chilla teaches his children about using good judgment to understand which stories are worth telling—“someone in danger” and “something that’s really unfair”—and I had to begrudgingly admire their restraint.
In fact, the biggest objection I had to this show—and to any show on Bentkey—came during an episode about presidents.
After Chum Chum teaches his children that what made George Washington a great leader is that he “was offered a ton of power but didn’t take it,” he lets each be president of the house for a bit. During daughter Charla’s turn, though, she becomes addicted to power and refuses to give it up.
If the obvious lesson here is that such behavior is unbefitting a leader, why is Rob Schneider, who was a Trump fan until jumping on the RFK Jr. train recently, teaching it to an audience composed almost exclusively of the children of Trump superfans? And if anti-woke conservatives don’t want to teach their children the things they actually believe, uh, why on Earth do they need their own children’s programming?
Boreing and Shapiro have some lofty goals for Bentkey. They want to hit 10M subscribers. They want their forthcoming non-woke update of Snow White to make a bigger splash than Disney’s, which they are already mad about. They want to beat Disney in general.
None of those things are going to happen, but they need not happen in order for the app to be a success.
It ultimately doesn’t matter if some of Bentkey is ideologically incompatible with its target demo’s parents, or that some of it is kind of crappy.
Bentkey is intended to be the Black Rifle Coffee Company of kids’ entertainment, where the whole point isn’t that it’s especially good or especially anything, just that it’s an alternative to what the people whom its users hate tend to consume. It doesn’t have to beat Disney in order to win; it just has to be there.
The Daily Beast