Carmen Sandiego Is All About Education

Alex Mell-Taylor
6 min readJan 25, 2019

Including the political and moral kind.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Jakarta, Indonesia?

Mumbai, India?

San Francisco, USA?

The eponymous character based-off the educational video game series is about a thief gallivanting across the world to steal priceless, historical artifacts. Along the way, we learn about geography, history, and spelling! Where in the video game series Carmen was the villain the player character had to stop, in the show, she is recast as a hero figure that steals from another more evil organization called V.I.L.E. (Villain’s International League of Evil) in order to protect the artifacts from being sold off to fund the organizations more malicious goals. This makes her a Robin-esque figure; if Robin Hood wore fashionable black boots and a stunning red coat.

While the educational roots of the game are still in the show (I know so many facts about Durians now), the series places an equal emphasis on moral and political education. Carmen Sandiego exists in the shadows, and the evils of the world, the show argues, do as well.

Even if the writing is sometimes clunky, the show demonstrates how evil really works in the real world. It’s not a villain building a bomb or some other such doomsday nonsense, but a rogue entity manipulating things under the cover of established institutions.

By using these corrupt forces very tools against them, Carmen provides a vital education on activism and resistance that’s actually applicable to our times. This is an important message given how young the shows intended viewers are.

Carmen Sandiego’s fight with V.I.L.E. is personal. She grew up with the organization when they found her as a baby in Argentina. She was adopted by V.I.L.E in much the same way a sword-wielding princess of power was raised by a “frightful” organization in another Netflix show (I am sensing a pattern here Netflix). Consequently, Carmen has wanted to be a thief her entire life and has never once questioned her indoctrination.

This all changes on her first mission, which she tags along secretly to prove herself after failing her thief exams (Yes, she went to a Hogwart-esque school for thieves, and…