Strawberry Shortcake Wraps Sweetness Around Life Lessons

StrawberryShortcake_Glitz_180x300_1.jpgEverything about Strawberry Shortcake: Puttin’ on the Glitz is as sweet as the title character’s name – from the voices to the music to the almost Candyland-style village sure to captivate all little girls who like to play with dolls. But, hey, that’s OK – because, as Mary Poppins has famously pointed out, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” The medicine being, in this case, messages about right and wrong and getting along.

The DVD, which 20th Century Fox released March 20, contains three 20-minute “Berry Bitty Adventures.” None are separately titled, but the final one is obviously the source for the DVD’s title. Lemon Meringue has created a dazzling new manicure she calls a “glamicure,” with sparkly polish and a special gem that plays music customized for each girl. Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry, Orange, Raspberry and Plum are all thrilled at first with how the glam livens up their days, until the dazzle becomes a distraction and the constant music interferes with their regular activities. How can Plum practice in her dance studio when the glamicure music competes with her dance music? How can Blueberry relax with a book when every time she moves her hand, the glamicure music sounds off? And Strawberry Shortcake wonders if the incessant glamicure music is the reason no customers come into her pastry shop.

When they catch each other surreptitiously trying to get rid of the glamicure, they discuss whether to ask Lemon to remove it. The problem the girls wrestle with is whether Lemon’s feelings will be badly hurt if they tell her they’d rather be without the glamicure, and they steadfastly vow to put up with the annoyance rather than make Lemon feel badly. (By the way — kudos to the writers, who employ grammatically correct language throughout, and never lapse into such common malconstructions as “I feel bad.”) Strawberry has not been part of these discussions, but she catches on. And Strawberry also lends Lemon the ear to cry in when no one comes to her beauty salon any more. Strawberry — always the most mature among the friends — approaches the issue from two directions: First, she suggests Lemon overcome her timidity and ask everyone if they’re OK with the glamicure (“Could it be more terrible than what you’re afraid of?”). Second, she sets an example for the other girls, who notice right away when she shows up with plain fingernails (“Part of being a good friend is having the courage to give constructive criticism — telling the truth so they can do better next time” and “You can’t make her feel worse than you did by avoiding her.”).

Each of the other episodes has its distinct moral. In the first, it’s Lemon again who focuses the central issue: The need to feel useful (well, age appropriate: the need to make her own special contribution to the community and do something she has fun doing). The second tackles the sticky subject of rules: Plum disregards some of their community’s rules, and her actions cause difficulties for her friends. But when they try to make her understand, she retaliates with petulance and makes up some rules they must follow at her dance studio. The story makes a good case not only for observing the rules but for realizing that rules need to serve a good purpose rather than just an arbitrary whim.

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