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November 11th, 2004


What the frell is this?!

Boohbah: Worse than Teletubbies?

I report; you deride.

What the trask has happened to American children's TV? Just by surfing channels and watching TV commercials, I can feel the bile rise in my throat.

zengeneral, masaga, and I just had a discussion about the sad state of cartoons. Now, as you can imagine, it started with a discussion of Jem (a Josie and the Pussycats knock-off) and how, as pre-teen boys (well, I was 12) we could be convinced to sit through 7 minutes of a girl-band-a-la-Barbie cartoon to get to 7 minutes of numbingly violent Inhumanoids. Evil scientists having the living flesh eaten from their bones by biocontaminant sludge, then being reanimated by a 100' demonic creature that turned random soldiers and workers into giant undead huorns with his ichor! A master demon imprisoned at the core of the earth, who escaped to the surface to wreak the apocalyptic return of the Elder Days... ahh, good times, good times.

The discussion turned briefly to The Transformers, and how the organic phase made Optimus Prime into a monkey (for the sheer gratuity of calling him Optimus Primal, as far as I could tell from the 20 seconds I looked at that abomination). Then I raised the spectre of Barney and how apparently de-anthropomorphization of cartoon beings is in vogue. First a purple dinosaur; then semi-humanoid kewpie doll-faced creatures with tuner antennae on their heads; and now semisentient dancing blobs. I told the students that I had not believed autism an inducible condition until I saw the above foray to new depths of mindless escapism. It's one thing to be politically sensitive or even "politically correct"; it's quite another to divorce our children's learning minds from any rational awareness of human society or reality.
Children are a perpetual, self-renewing underclass, helpless to escape from the decisions of adults until they become adults themselves.
    -Orson Scott Card, Introduction to Ender's Game

Take animated series for older kids as an example. Whereas GI Joe used to be a literate, gripping drama in animated form, with a few intelligent gay characters (e.g., COBRA Commander), I hear tell that everyone is now a caricature of his or her old self. Everyone who's even on the show: apparently Serpentor and Sgt. Slaughter are gone. Or perhaps they have been renamed to "The Herpetic-American Autocrat" and "Sgt. Collateral Damage"? The kind of rot-your-brain bad science and implausible strategy and tactical outcomes that we stayed glued to the little 17" TV set for is just... gone. I loved that show! I learned the word fraternization from that show when I was 12!

GI Joe was not the only animated television show for children that told it like it was, and did not pussyfoot around real issues. The first on-screen dramatic deaths I ever saw were on Star Blazers (anyone know the Japanese name of this weekday morning anime?) and Speed Racer (a redeemed criminal who asked Racer X to relate his living will as an organ donor). As O. Sharp, author of the excellent He-Man Page, notes:
... the show didn't stay typical for long. The scriptwriters for the series, most notably Paul Dini, took the simple characters and began exploring them as people... often with surprising results. Prince Adam begins to worry that his father, King Randor, has more respect for He-Man than for him. "More than anything, I want to give up that disguise and make my father proud of me," he says in one episode. Later on he renounces He-Man's powers at a critical moment, with tragic results. In another episode Orko, the comic relief for the show, stops joking long enough to question his own usefulness... and finding himself to be basically unimportant, he tearfully leaves the kingdom. In "The Dragon's Gift", He-Man strikes a bargain with a dragon to save a friend's life... but discovers later that his side of the bargain is to take the life of another. And so on.

Perhaps the most extraordinary of these was "Teela's Quest", where Teela - Captain of the Royal Guards, and adopted daughter of Man-at-Arms - despairs of her adoption, and resolves to discover who her true mother is... regardless of the personal cost.

Then you have the undisclosed transgression that the nameless Duke in Gummi Bears committed against his king.
(I speculated that he was Gavan's father. As far as transgressions go, however, he could well have been Calla's father. Darth Vader or Lancelot du Lac, take your pick.)

Real life, people. That's what I'm talking about.

zengeneral: This is why I'm glad I'm not having kids.
masaga: If and when I do, I'm keeping them in X-Men, Spider-Man, and Gargoyles.
banazir: ... that's right. Go-Bots, Transformers, maybe a little of The Tick.

That's it. A computer, BitTorrent/Azureus, reruns of Gummi Bears and He-Man (ETA: and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, maybe a little Square One TV and The Electric Company) - they'll never know it's not the late 1980s any more.




Edit, 12:35 CST: Chinese-American historical author Iris Chang found dead, apparent suicide (seen in asian_american)
Iris Chang, a graduate of the University of Illinois and Johns Hopkins University, was the author of The Rape of Nanking an acclaimed book on the Nanjing Massacre and its role in the Sino-Japanese War and the post-invasion holocaust in China.

--
Banazir

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