ScreenTime: How “Spirit: Riding Free” Saved Me $38,760 (Approximately)

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ScreenTime is not an educational column. Sure, sometimes you learn something, like Which Paw Patrol Puppy Is The Worst, or How Barbie: Life In The Dreamhouse Prepares Your Kids For The Apocolypse, but today you will learn something even more valuable: How to save $38,760 with nothing but a basic Netflix subscription.

This Friday, November 17, 2017, marks the release of Season 3 of the Netflix/Dreamworks Original Series Spirit: Riding Free. The surprisingly controversial spin-off of the 2002 movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has many admirers, but my daughter and I will not be returning to it. This is the story of why.

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When my daughter first pointed at the title screen for Spirit: Riding Free and screamed, “NEIGH!!! WAMMA WATCH NEIGH,” I clicked with no small amount of trepidation. Netflix’s kids programming isn’t exactly Stranger Things-quality, and given the lackluster approach content makers often take when it comes to shows aimed at young girls, my expectations were at rock bottom. But I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, so we gave it a shot.

If you watch the show’s title sequence, you might think my apprehensions were well founded. The theme song is a country-pop tune blander than a Kidz-Bopped Florida Georgia Line and the animation is ripped straight from the cut-scenes of an early 2000s PlayStation 2 RPG about horse grooming. The particularly savvy amongst you may have noticed aspects of the aforementioned controversy. But you, like me, are focusing on the wrong aspect of the sequence. The key scene, the scene that unlocks the true heart of the show, is the one of the girls dodging flying boulders as they charge down a narrow canyon.

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It is here that we see the first hints of what this series is all about: putting humans and horses in legitimately, unnecessarily terrifying situations, over and over again.

The first season of Spirit: Riding Free only has six episodes in it, but it is not until the second episode that it reveals to the unsuspecting viewer its harsh message. The pilot is inoffensive and straightforward: girl arrives in town, makes some friends, makes some enemies, the scene is set. We are introduced to our protagonists, Lucky and her horse Spirit. Yeah, along the way she witnesses a horse being wrangled in a somewhat unnecessarily traumatic way, but it’s a minor blip.

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This lulls the viewer into a false sense of security. This is going to be a nice show about a girl, her friends, and their horses. Then Episode 2 begins and the facade starts to slip.

“Lucky & The Treacherous Trail” starts with Lucky’s horse Spirit going nuts and smashing through the walls of a barn, and climaxes with a set of scenes in which Lucky and Spirit ride through a dangerous trail about which we have previously been given dire warnings. First they mess up a jump and we see the deadly results of one false move. Then the unstable cliff edge gives way causing Lucky to trip, nearly plummeting to her death, with poor Spirit hurting his ankle trying to save her. I’m not too proud to admit, my heart was in my mouth.

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The show presents the lesson of the episode as one of listening to your friends and not being too proud, but the true lesson it seeks to impart is this: Don’t Fuck Around With Horses. You Will Die.

I had learned my lesson, and was ready to move on, but my daughter is made of sterner stuff than I. I have seen her sit through scenes like Tai Lung’s escape in Kung Fu Panda, or the final battle in How To Train Your Dragon, that have made lesser children literally shit their pants. So we persisted.

As if Episode 2 hadn’t put Lucky, Spirit, and my nerves through enough, Episode 3, “Lucky & The Mysterious Map”, opens with exactly the kind of terror-inducing vertigo that drove me to drink at the end of Episode 2. Here, Lucky, her father, and her two friends, Pru and Abigail, are ascending a steep and narrow canyon pass when Spirit freaks the fuck out and causes their wagon and all their possessions to careen off a cliff. The wagon nearly takes two horses and Lucky’s dad with it, and it’s only because Lucky’s dad is some kind of super-powered acrobat that he survives.

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Already I was concerned: If this is where “Lucky & The Mysterious Map” starts, at what fearful pitch will it end? Sure enough, it isn’t long before Lucky, Pru, and Abigail are TRAPPED IN A DARK CAVE BY A WILD BEAR. And this isn’t some friendly, picnic-stealing Yogi Bear type. It is made clear that this bear is trying to maul and eat these preteens.

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It was Episode 5 that finally finished me. Specifically this scene, in which an abused and terrified horse is trapped and panicked. Our heroes can’t go near him for fear of getting a hoof to the solar plexus. Meanwhile, a dam is about to burst, unleashing a tidal wave that tears down trees and crumbles rock. Just look at this damn horse. I can’t take it.

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Maybe one day my daughter and I will return to Spirit: Riding Free, but we will return to it humbled, our lesson learned: Horses are terrifying.

And in years to come, when my daughters’ friends gaze longingly at horses galloping majestically in open fields, or bring home flyers for riding lessons, or for conveniently-located stables, my children will remember “Lucky & The Mysterious Map”, and, fearful of the inevitable bear mauling and near-death experiences that accompany horse-related activities, search for some safer, cheaper hobby.

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So enjoy your approximately $38,760 in horse activity-related costs, parents who haven’t seen Spirit: Riding Free. My daughter and I will be over here on the couch, breathing into brown paper bags, resisting flashbacks of “Lucky & The Treacherous Trail”.

Pee-Wee Football Player Gets Pumped Up on the Sidelines

Jim Gaffigan Has Something to Say About Beer

(Getty/master1305/Tom Briglia)

A general rule of thumb when making small talk: Don’t talk about religion, politics, or beer preferences.

All three are bound to erupt into heated debates. In the dad community beer in particular tends to be an extremely touchy subject. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what makes a beer amazing or downright sacrilegious, and comedian Jim Gaffigan is no different.

You’re either in full agreement with Jim’s purist perspective or cracking your knuckles to write a scathing comment touting your superior craft beer palate.

But that’s the great thing about beer, nay… America. We all have individual tastes. Just because some guy doesn’t share your affinity for a specific brew, that doesn’t mean he’s wrong (even though he is!) It just means you get to connect with someone with a differing perspective, while drinking beer!

So, if you see Jim in a bar, don’t make fun of him for his taste in beer. Instead, buy him a round, and make fun of his age – like an adult.

Cheers, Jim!

Back To School Photo Fails

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Parents love to capture the moment on the first day back to school, but sometimes that moment isn’t what we envisioned. Check out these hilarious back to school photo fails from The Dad community.

(Instagram.com/cheeksmagee)
(Facebook.com/KellySmith)
(Instagram.com/abbyjmccoy)
(Instagram.com/instagramycohen)
(Facebook.com/DaveHannem)
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(Facebook.com/KristenMadral)
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Dad Grades – Hal from Malcolm in the Middle

(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Years before his dark turn as meth kingpin Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston starred as Hal on the criminally under-appreciated sitcom, Malcolm in the Middle. While his sadistically overbearing wife, Lois, was perpetually at wits end with their four mischievous sons, the much more care-free Hal happily took the passenger seat in their parenting roles.

DAD STRENGTHS

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Hal is a loving husband and father. He shows Lois affection through raw animalistic passion and utter dependence. He even admits to it, once telling Lois that he and their boys are not smart enough to function without her, and in return can only offer his total obedience.

He takes a much calmer, more sympathetic approach to parenting than Lois. She has a short fuse, at the end of which is a barrel of dynamite eager to ground someone for the rest of their life. Hal, conversely, seizes any opportunity to bond with his boys by having a sit-down and doling out fatherly words of wisdom.

(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

He’s far more lenient, but will raise his voice and put his foot down when necessary. He’s often creative in his punishments. For example, when Malcolm told him “[bleep] you,” Hal sat him down in the backyard and forced him to look him in the eyes and read aloud a comprehensive list of every vile swear words, teaching him their power.

His biggest strength, however, is his laid-back, often immature attitude. It serves as a refreshing palate cleanser for Lois’ incessant shouting. He is truly the yin to her yang.

DAD WEAKNESSES

He’s more permissive than his wife. In one episode, Hal surprises the boys by letting them skip school to accompany him at some stock car races.

Hal’s lax approach to parenting is, regrettably, his biggest weakness. His spontaneity and often childish behavior sets a bad example for his sons. Case in point: the steamroller. After winning some money on a scratch-off, Hal secretly rents a steamroller.

(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)

When Dewey catches him, Hal agrees to let him steamroll over Reese’s bike. Ultimately, Hal goes mad with power and Dewey must talk him down from steamrolling a row of cars. Surely this gave Dewey license to misbehave in the future. His impulsive nature is typically harmless, but still sets precedent for the delinquency of his kids.

VERDICT

Despite shortcomings at the cost of his need to be the parent his sons actually like, Hal is a great father. Sure, all four of his sons are rambunctious hellions, disobedient and destructive at every turn, but that’s predominantly the result of their stubborn, temperamental mother. He’s a big-hearted working stiff, determined to provide for his family however dysfunctional they may be.

FINAL DAD GRADE: A-

Dancing Dad Embarrasses Daughter at Baseball Game [VIDEO]

Being a dad involves a lot of anxiety, drudgery, and stress. Sometimes you get to enjoy the perks of parenting, like embarrassing your children on television. Or in the stands at a Cubs game.

Or both!

This dad knows what’s up. He ignores his daughter’s attempts to get him to stop dancing and then doubles down on the silly moves.

Father Figures: Be Positive

“My twin girls (Faye and Felicia) are both autistic.

Felicia was diagnosed before she was three; she’s non verbal and loves life in her own wee bubble. Once she lets you in, it’s amazing. That’s her circle of trust.

Faye is her total opposite, always singing and chatting up a storm. Once they started preschool, we found out that Faye was showing signs of autism that we perhaps overlooked because she was so advanced.

My wife and I, with the assistance of Faye’s teachers, pushed hard to get her assessed, reassessed and diagnosed. Faye is very smart and fooled the specialist in the first assessment regarding extra help in school. We were very lucky when she was diagnosed, because the specialist ASD doctors could still recognize her traits.

It’s been a long journey and no two days are alike. Through it all we’ve learned that Faye is just a younger, female version of her older brother. From her diagnosis, we were able to recognize the ASD traits in Jordan. He is now beginning the diagnostic process.

But long story short, both our girls now attend an autism unit in a special school. It’s a God send and they are both doing great! They turned 6 in August and Jordan will be 11 this December.

Be positive and always make sure your child gets all they need. Raising a child with special needs definitely puts into perspective what’s important in life!

Everything for the kids!”

– Nic Young

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

8-Year-Old Girl Stuns Crowd at Harlem Globetrotters Game [VIDEO]

(YouTube/Harlem Globetrotters)

When the Harlem Globetrotters called Samaya Clark-Gabriel onto the court at halftime of their game, the crowd at Madison Square Garden wasn’t sure what to expect. But at this stage in a Globetrotters game it would certainly take a lot to impress them.

First she just started dribbling.

But then she started dribbling two basketballs at once. And then she started dribbling two basketballs at once while wearing a blindfold. And then she started dribbling two basketballs at once while wearing a blindfold and DOING A SPLIT.

Wow. Did they sign her yet?

Big Dad Rides Small Bike as a Tribute to Late Daughter

(JustGiving/Peter Williams)

Peter Williams of Penzance, England is showing incredible strength after the loss of his daughter. On Friday at 10am, he began a 211-mile ride to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.

In 2015, Peter lost his 7-year-old daughter, Ellie, to a rare form of brain cancer, only six months after she was diagnosed.

To honor his daughter he decided to begin his ride at Bristol Children’s Hospital where Ellie was treated. He’s also making the entire trip on her little pink bike, which is only 20″ high. Given Peter is 6 feet tall, that’s going to make for an additional challenge, but he’s up for it.

Aside from a small modification to the bike’s seat, he’ll be riding the bike as-is. “My knees clear the handlebars by about half an inch so it’s going to be really tight, but it’s a great bike,” he told the BBC. When he factors in his unique mode of transportation Peter estimates the ride from Bristol to Land’s End will take him a week to complete.

Ellie loved cycling and impressed her dad at age three, when she was able to ride without training wheels.

(JustGiving/Peter Williams)

The bike he’ll be riding was her pride and joy – a present she received for her last Christmas.

So far Peter has raised £23,349 (roughly $30K US) through his JustGiving campaign, already doubling his £10,000 target.

What a guy! What a dad! Go, Peter, go!

If you’d like donate to Peter’s campaign, visit his JustGiving page.

If you want to learn more about where the money is going, check out The Brain Tumour Charity.