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YMMV / The Berenstain Bears

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  • Accidental Aesop: In keeping with Mama and Papa's Parents as People portrayal, the stories contain quite a few parenting lessons spliced in with the ones meant for children. Examples include "Don't hit your children," "Don’t scold them for bad habits," "Don’t indulge their tantrums," and "You can inform your children about the dangers of the world without scaring the shit out of them."
  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Trouble at School delivers the moral "It's never too late to correct a mistake." It's supposed to mean "even though you've put off correcting your errors, a new attempt to apologize and atone for them can still be appreciated", but it could easily be misread as "if you commit a crime, don't apologize for it until it's convenient, upon which all will be forgiven." The story also has shades of "if you're briefly incapacitated for health reasons beyond your control, your passions and successes will be yanked out from underneath you and your life will spiral into depression."
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Is Mama Bear an example of "mother knows best" or is she really an arrogant jerkass who enjoys insulting and humiliating her husband?
    • Some have speculated that Papa Bear's racism towards the panda bears in "New Neighbors" is due to him being a Vietnam War veteran.
  • Angst? What Angst?: In the TV version of The Trouble at School, Mama and Papa show almost no concern when Brother confesses all of his misdeeds, which include ignoring all his homework when he was sick, facing the consequences when it turns out he has a test the day he goes back and subsequently getting a zero on it, hiding it from his parents when he was instructed to have them sign it, and skipping school the next day. Yet, when he finally confesses, his parents have maybe two sentences worth of "scolding" him (if you could even call it that) before pulling an Easily Forgiven and switching into a more positive and upbeat tone. In fact, they show more concern in The Homework Hassle where Brother only does one of those things (letting his homework pile up).
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  • Anvilicious: The entire reason for the series' existence is to impart moral lessons. The PBS Kids version seems to be a lot better about this.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: Many readers were turned off when The Berenstain Bears entered the Living Lights arc and introduced heavy Christian morals, especially since The Berenstain Bears started off as irreligious.
  • Author's Saving Throw: The 2003 series is this for the controversial aspects of the books. Particularly, Papa being less of a Bumbling Dad.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • In The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Eggs, Sister Bear finds that there are no major holidays in March. Ever heard of St. Patrick's Day?
    • In the TV version of Trouble At School, after being absent for a week because of illness, Brother is expected to take a test the same day he goes back to school. Most (if not all) schools in the USA would give Brother at least a day to make sure that he understands the lessons before making him take a test.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing:
    • Many people think that the "junk food" in ...and Too Much Junk Food looks colorful and delicious, despite the Aesop of junk food being bad for you. To quote one Real Life child looking at the inside cover:
    "Mamma bear sad. Mamma Bear needs to eat some candy."
    • The sleepover party that got Sister Bear in trouble in one of the books (a chaotic mess where the cubs destroyed the house and had the police contacted) looks pretty awesome.
    • The In-Universe nightmare-inducing Space Grizzlies toy line and movie from The Bad Dream actually looked like a pretty cool franchise (sort of like Monster in My Pocket meets Star Wars).
    • In ...Get the Gimmies, Brother and Sister actually get some really cool knick knacks.
  • Epileptic Trees: There is a bizarre theory that those out there who recall the name as being "the Berenstein bears" are actually transplants from an alternate universe (This is actually because a surprising amount of material, such as VHSes and TV guides, used the misspelled name instead of the actual name).
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop:
    • The Bully really has a Family-Unfriendly Aesop if you think about it... Getting beaten up by a bully? Don't bother contacting the school authorities because Adults Are Useless. Get beaten up, and finally fight back? Then and only then will they get involved. Also, Sister gets off scot-free, only being given a slap on the wrist. While this was written before Zero-Tolerance became the norm, kids wouldn't be given just a slap on the wrist for punching someone, even if it was in self-defense.
      • Similarly, all bullies have bad home lives. Many people will tell you that this isn't the case.
    • Bad Habit says that if you develop a bad habit, your parents will bribe you with money to end it. This may be the reason why the PBS kids adaption of this decided to avoid this.
    • The Aesop of The Berenstain Bears Clean House seems to be "if you have a bunch of old junk sitting around your house, stuff it in the attic and put off the cleaning until another day."
    • The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room (possibly on accident) gives the moral that not cleaning your room can cause your parents to throw out your toys, which seems to resonate more than the actual advantages Brother and Sister get from cleaning their room. Lampshaded by the opening poem: "When small bears forget to pick up, store and stash, some of their favorite things end up in the trash."
    • The intended moral in The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies is that you can't always get what you want in life, and Brother and Sister spend the entire story selfishly screaming and fussing for treats and toys at every turn, much to the embarrassment of Mama and Papa. After they do this again to Gran and Gramps, they decide the best way to end the gimmies is to have the cubs decide ahead of time what treats they want before they go to the store. While they do suggest that bad behavior means going home without treats, Brother and Sister still get what they want after an entire day of embarrassing their parents. Once again, the 2003 series changed the Aesop to "it's much better to give to others than to receive".
    • The intended moral for "The Berenstain Bears and the Dinosaurs" was that you shouldn't get way too obssessed over something you like up to the point it starts negatively affecting your family, yet the whole book treats Brother's interest in dinosaurs and prehistoric animals in a negative light and accidentally leaves the readers with the impression that one should just "stop liking things!". A later book, "The Berenstain Bears' Dinosaur Dig" seems to be an Author's Saving Throw for the previous book, as it seemingly retcons the aforementioned entry out of existence and has Brother and Sister sharing a healthy interest in dinosaurs which is encouraged by their parents and is portrayed more positively.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: One episode of the 1980s cartoon involved Weasel McGreed creating a flower that traps bees in order to cut off the town's honey supply. This was before Colony Collapse Disorder became a major problem with consequences more disastrous than low honey supply.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The book version of The Slumber Party opens up with the story explaining that you never know who is on the phone until you answer it. Needless to say, that's no longer true with the rise of caller IDs. Then again, there's no guarantee that it's who the caller ID says it is...
    • The Berenstain Bears and the Attic Treasures, released in 1990, has the Bears going through their attic to decide what to sell (and wind up not selling any of it). At one point, they find their old baby furniture and are initially sure they can get rid of it, until the cubs object - what if they wind up having another baby and needing it then? Ten years later, Mama was revealed to be pregnant again in the 2000 book The Birds, the Bees, and the Berenstain Bears, with baby Honey Bear being introduced in The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five the same year.
    • In The Big Road Race, Brother, the protagonist, drives a red race car and is antagonized by one of his competitors, the driver of a green car, a sneaky cheater who also antagonizes the driver of a blue car. Sound familiar?
  • I Am Not Shazam: The bears' surname is Bear, not Berenstain. And, despite the common mispronunciation, it's not "Bernstein", either. Nor is it "Berenstein," despite what some people will tell you.
  • Idiot Plot:
    • "The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree" would've lasted a few minutes if Papa Bear went to Gus instead of dragging Brother and Sister in search of the perfect tree.
    • "The Slumber Party" relies on every single parent in Bear Country being completely clueless for the sake of having a responsibility moral. Essentially, Lizzie hosts a sleepover and invites Sister alongside two of her friends, which is the plan before it quickly spirals out of control when word spreads to all the other girls (and Too-Tall's gang) at school, which leads to a giant party full of uninvited guests. Considering how many other girls get involved, it's a bit of a stretch to think that none of their parents bothered to check with the Bruins about it (While Mama and Papa do acknowledge the mistake on their end, it still leaves the issues with every single other parent). On top of that, Lizzie's parents aren't even home when it takes place; they just leave Lizzie with a babysitter and apparently had enough faith that Lizzie would be perfectly safe and responsible on her first sleepover and a babysitter would be all they need to keep her under control. How were they shocked that it turned out as it did?
    • "The Messy Room" hinges on the fact that Mama and Papa never thought to provide their cubs with a toy box, yet are somehow surprised when the room gets buried under a mess.
    • A ton of the episodes from the 80s cartoon hinge on the fact that nobody ever seems to learn that Raffish Ralph is untrustworthy. In fact, the cubs are the only ones to ever warn anyone that he may be up to something, whereas the grown-ups seem to either blindly believe him or leave him alone when he's showing blatantly suspicious tendencies.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Moral Event Horizon: Weasel McGreed crosses this in "Hot Air Election" where he straight-up tries to kill the Bear family by having them fall from a great height in a rigged hot-air balloon. Even Raffish Ralph thought his plan was too evil and refused to go along with it.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: Berenstain Bears Camping Adventure for the Sega Genesis stands out as a pretty solid and surprisingly well-designed and challenging Platform Game starring Brother and Sister Bear.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The Game Boy Color game Extreme Sports With the Berenstain Bears. Lazy graphics, bad sound effects, and one-note and unmemorable sports mini games.
  • Retroactive Recognition: In the PBS series, Brother is voiced by none other than a young Michael Cera.
  • The Scrappy: Lenny in the 2003 series. He often brags to Brother and Sister but has no problem pointing out the shortcomings of others.
  • Seasonal Rot: Beginning in 2008, the books started to focus more on explicitly Christian morals and teachings, which had never been present in the earlier stories. Titles such as "The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers" and "The Berenstain Bears Follow God's Word" have been met with much mockery and confusion.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect has the cubs acting bratty by contradicting their parents and grandparents when the family is looking for a picnic spot. However, a lot of their comments are quite valid. For instance, Mama suggests a spot by the pond because that's where she and Papa had their first date. Brother responds with "That's was ages ago. It's full of mosquitoes now." While he could have said it in a more polite manner, having picnics where there are lots of mosquitoes around is dangerous.
      • The entire family treat the grandparents as though their picnic spot suggestions are awful until they're called out on it, at which point they let them have the final say. Gramps proceeds to lead them...back to the house, to eat in the backyard. While it's easily accessible and not mosquito ridden, this defeats the entire purpose of going on a summer picnic.
    • In the animated special The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise, Boss Bunny retires from his role as the Easter Bunny. When he is confronted about it by his son and Brother Bear, it's clear to see that he's too old and out of shape to continue the job. While all it takes to get him going is some fresh air, considering everything he has to do to make Easter possible, it's still taxing.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: At least, how one writer for The New York Times put it: in a review for the 1980s show, the author expressed disdain for the cast as a whole, but particularly paid attention to Mama Bear being overly stern and seemingly caring more about how her house looks than the well being of her children. Thus, he saw the cubs demolishing the lamp in The Truth as one of these moments.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • In "Lose A Friend", Sister's goldfish dies. It's really quite sad to see Sister so broken about its death.
    • In "Too Much Pressure", Mama becomes so overwhelmed with driving Brother and Sister to their activities that when the car stalls on their way to one, she breaks down and cries. Since Mama is generally the most level-headed of the family, this is very upsetting to see. To push it further, the 2003 TV series adaptation of said story has the cubs crying along with her.
    • Sister getting upset and crying in the stories "Too Much Birthday" (due to all the mishaps at her birthday party overwhelming her) and "No Girls Allowed" (due to the boys intentionally excluding her from their new clubhouse, even if she was acting like a Jerkass to them when beating them at games), especially so in the 1980s cartoon adaptations.
    • In the 1980s cartoon episode "The Cat's Meow", Cousin Freddy growing increasingly desperate to find his dog Snuff can hit home hard for anyone who has had a pet go missing. Fortunately, it turns out Snuff was protecting a fox from some hunters and after succeeding in doing so, returns to his owner, giving the episode a happy ending.
  • Unfortunate Implications: As this article points out, the new, overtly religious stories sour one of the consistent charms of the bears, namely that they were fallible characters who strove to better themselves not because religion told them to, but simply for decency's sake.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Brother and his guy friends in the book version of No Girls Allowed are written as sexist jerks who kicked Sister out of their hangout at the swamp after she outdid them in many activities. However, it's inevitable to sympathize with them more than Sister when you learn that the whole reason they excluded her from their hangout in the first place was because she kept on rubbing her victory in their faces. The fact that she even did the same exact thing to them when she discovers their hangout certainly lost even more sympathy points for Sister, and it isn't really easy to blame Brother and his friends when they decide they had enough of her. The TV adaptation does fix this by making Brother an unsympathetic jerk to Sister by mocking her on her inept ability to perform in the activities she participates in along with Brother and his friends though, thus giving Sister a more justifiable reason to rub her victories in the faces of Brother and his friends.
    • Brother for failing the test in Trouble with school. We are supposed to see that Brother fell behind in Math because he never learned how to divide... and the school was operating under the assumption he would learn it from homework alone. On top of this, he returns from an extended sick break... and is expected to take a test on division. Regardless of whether or not Brother was expected to do homework, his teacher never gave him an opportunity to even learn division or show he could do division.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • One of their very first books was "The Bike Lesson", which was published in the 1960s and teaches bike safety but never says a word about helmets, allowing Papa to keep suffering Amusing Injuries. The much later book "Safe and Sound" made up for this.
    • The Berenstain Bears and the Bully (published in 1993) has Sister punching the titular bully in the nose and only getting let off with a warning. The book was intended to teach kids self-defense but it was published before many American schools adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy. Under those circumstances, a kid would likely be punished along with their aggressor or possibly face suspension/expulsion.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: Some of the attempts to keep the Berenstain Bears up-to-date come off as being dated nowadays. This is true of the books written in The '80s and The '90s. Some specific examples are:
    • "Trouble with Money" (1983) has Brother and Sister spending money on a game in a video arcade back when arcades were more common than today.
    • "The In-Crowd" (1989) has the front cover with number of girl cubs break-dancing in front of a boombox.
    • "The Bad Dream" (1988) and "Mad Mad Mad Toy Craze" (1999) have the toys in the books resembling Masters of the Universe in the former and Beanie Babies in the latter.
    • "Lost in Cyberspace" (1999) still has the bigger bulky computers, a contrast to the more sleek and thinner models used today.
      • Similarly in "Computer Trouble" (2010), the Bear family is still shown to use big, bulky and boxy desktop computers, complete with CRT monitors, something very hard to find in real life the time the book was written, in favor of said sleeker and thinner computers. They even go as far as using Pawbook and eBear on said computers!

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