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Cartoon Houses


Real estate is all about the bubble these days: will it burst, will it leak, will it be available in lots of pretty colors? But even if some of the most hideously expensive U.S. markets become only painfully expensive, the real question is where you fall on the “Arthur” making-good scale.
“Arthur” is a cartoon, which I obviously watched too much. But hey, it’s OK, it’s PBS! It’s also based on books! I also occasionally catch it here in Spain.
The star character is a human-like aardvark in the third grade, although the animal is irrelevant, because I defy anyone to identify Arthur as an aardvark on sight. What’s important is that he has a bunch of human-like friends of different species and they all live together in this town where, if you’re cartoon real estate obsessed, you can catch glimpses of a PBS-modified socio-economic scale.
Arthur’s mother is an accountant, and his father a caterer. (Note the PBSesque reversal of traditional sex roles in jobs. Compare to Blondie.) They live in a single-family home.
One of Arthur’s friends is Muffy, who lives in a gated mansion. Her father, who’s a jerk, owns a car dealership. Muffy is a spoiled rich kid, but she’s given sympathetic moments, because, hey, no one’s irredeemable on PBS kids’ shows, especially if it’s pledge-drive time (someone’s gotta promise enough to get those book-dvd sets sent out).
Now Muffy the rich kid is friends with Francine, as is Arthur. Francine lives in an apartment and shares a room with her sister. Her father’s a garbage collector, and not a big jerk. I don’t think Francine’s or Muffy’s mothers work. Francine’s definitely a more sympathetic character than Muffy, but she can still be obnoxious. But that’s good – she’s a feisty tomboy, so you know she’ll grow up to do a traditionally male-dominated job like bond trading and move up the economic ladder.
For now though, they’re all friends and at the same school. Would that happen in your average U.S. town? I don’t know. An article (sorry, subscribers only) in the Atlantic this month says the educated elite are separating themselves out geographically, going to a small number of cities and regions to gather together and inspire each other to make money. And one proof is the way housing prices have taken off in some places, pulling away from average prices. Certainly the educated elite do like to analyze how they’re different, but it’s still something to think about.
It’s clear from “Arthur” that you don’t need to worry if you haven’t made it to mansion level, because you’ll be a jerk, and it’s also clear you don’t want to be squished into an apartment. Aim at least for that single-family home, if you’re not priced out of it by all the dotcom or banking or whatever crowd clustering together.
And if you do want a home, can I direct you to “Caillou“? He’s a cartoon character, four years old, and lives with his family in a big traditional-style, single-family home, eat-in kitchen, big yard, walking distance to the subway and stores. His parents seem to have low-key jobs that don’t take up too much of their time. Of course, Caillou is based on Canadian books, and things might be different there.
Which would be good to know, because too much TV watching is not exactly conducive to mansion buying. Unless, perhaps, you’re the cartoon’s creator.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 2:10 AM | Permalink

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