We all remember Caillou from when we were little kids, right? Yeah, that was one of my favorite shows. One thing that had always bothered me, though, is that he was bald. Not that I had anything against bald people, my 9-year-old mind was just always curious. It's actually been something that I had been wondering about even today.
For a time, I believed the commonly told story. The original books had Caillou as a baby and they aged him for the show, but didn't want to change his appearance too much, so they left him bald. The problem with this, however, is that in the books, he ages. The artist left him bald even as he aged. When I realized this fact, I was slightly confused.
I began re-watching the series and discovered the truth.
Caillou has cancer. It's impossible for a child to become bald naturally without first going through puberty. It doesn't make sense for his parents to shave his hair, kids are brutal and a bald child would easily be picked on. Caillou is bald because his parents put him through several different treatments to treat his terminal disease.
Notice that his little sister Rosie has red hair. Now look at Boris and Doris-both brunette. That's because Rosie is adopted. His parents feared that they would pass on the virus and couldn't bear the thought of possibly losing another child, so they sought out adoption. They treat Rosie like one of their own, they're just happy to have a healthy little girl.
Caillou just tries to live a normal life in spite of his illness. "You're growing up to be a big boy!" Mommy says hopefully, thankful that he's lived another day.
But the story doesn't end as a bittersweet children's show about a little boy fighting cancer and hanging in there, with supportive friends just living a normal life. No. If only that were the case.
One day, little Rosie was about eleven years old, staying over with Grandma as her parents went out for a date night. She sat down in her grandmother's lap, and asked her who that boy was in the picture on her dresser. She had vague memories of this boy, but she was only two at the time, and didn't quite remember.
"I think you're old enough," grandma says, just barely fighting back the tears.
The entire show is a flashback, narrated by grandma telling the stories of her now deceased grandson. She's telling Rosie about her long dead brother, who died shortly after the series was cancelled. His parents didn't want to plague Rosie with the thoughts of her dead brother, and decided to wait until she was much older to tell her about him, if even at all. In truth, it helped them cope. It was easier to think he never existed than to remember the painful memories of their firstborn.
Notice each episode is surrounded by the cloud typically used for flashbacks in other shows. Notice the melancholy voice used by the narrator throughout the show, even in joyful circumstances. Notice Caillou is almost never disciplined. His parents just can't stand saying "no" to their child with who knows how long left in his life.
Still don't believe me?
The original artist of Caillou, who was also the character designer, had a child who also died of cancer and designed the family as a tribute to him. I wonder if even the author or creators of the show realize this.