Thursday, July 13, 2006

saturday morning fever

While cruising around at work some pretty random thoughts can just pop into my mind. Being the random guy that I am, I always follow them
to the end of the thought chain and end up missing a turn and pondering whether or not it was the pills or the peanut butter and banana sandwiches that did Elvis in on the toilet that fateful day. Just the other day as I was at work recovering from the Independence Day celebration I attended, a couple of these thoughts dropped into my otherwise hollow dome. One of these thoughts was about Saturday mornings. I'm not too terribly old, but I'm old enough to remember waking up on Saturday morning in the early 80's and watching some
good cartoons from about 7 to 12. (If I got up at 6 I could've caught a
little more time with my animated pals but I had to draw the line
somewhere.) Five hours solid of great shows like Charlie Brown and Snoopy, the Hair Bear Bunch, Shirt Tales, and the Wacky Races just to name a few. I even watched that show with Hulk Hogan and all the wrestlers. You know the one. It was hosted by Captain Lou Albano and locally it came on right before Mr. T. I'd sit there and eat my generic Cheerios in awe of the TV commercial kids who looked as if they experienced almost orgasmic sensations each time they shoveled a spoonful of Cookie Crisp into their gullets. Every so often I got to see what new He-Man or G.I. Joe action figure I could bug my mom about for months to come. I remember going back to school on the Monday after and having great discussions with the other kids about all the trucks and gadgets we saw advertised. Saturday morning was an event. It wasn't just the cartoons. It was the commercials. Where did that form of programming go to? I wouldn't even leave the house to brutalize my action figures with the kid down the street until one o'clock and that's saying a lot. These were epic G.I. Joe battles. I still remember the satisfaction I felt when my all-time favorite ,Snake Eyes, activated the home made catapult I had loaded with a rotten mushroom and struck a bull's-eye on my buddy's Destro taking him off of his dirt and bark built fortress. Somehow the programmers and advertisers held me back from the beloved violence of plastic verses expired vegetation for several hours each week.
When I see the Saturday morning programming of today I wonder what kids look forward to all week at school and talk about on Monday in home room. News programs, live action pre-teen dramas and car commercials? In my best Jerry Seinfeld all I can say is: up....with that? Virtually every show and commercial was purposely geared towards kids when I and many others were young. For cryin' out loud, they even advertised for the prizes you found in your box of Cap'n Crunch! This was a 'no adults allowed' style of programming and I loved it. Now it almost seems as if TV execs have given up on the formerly sacred handful of hours. Some may argue that if kids have too many good things to watch, they waste their Saturday morning and get no exercise. Well I say that's grade A poop. Sure I spent my whole morning watching TV, but the rest of the day was spent hard at play recreating the episode of Johnny Quest or Dungeons and Dragons I had just seen. To top it off, that style of programming got me up at 7 AM which is a feat my parents never mastered in my 17 years at home. I counter with the fact that with this garbage our kids have on the current Saturday mornings,
they may as well sleep until 12 and mope around all afternoon saying 'What do you want to do today?....I don't know. What do you want to do?' . It's a cycle of nothingness.
This is very dangerous. Their minds may become listless from lack of animated moral instruction and demographic specific bludgeoning
from toy manufacturers. You know Saturday morning used to be a great time or parents as well. Kids just got up and made cereal before sitting down to take in some Gummy Bears action. All the while parents could stay nestled into their beds at least until 10 with a comfort of mind from the knowledge that Gargemel never gets to eat a Smurf and that Shipwreck or maybe even Lady Jane will tell your kids that knowing is half the battle. These are all things of the past. Why? Why did TV execs throw Saturday to the dogs? Cartoons used to be a great escape but at the same time taught you lessons in morality. There are plenty who say that cartoons shouldn't be teaching our kids. Parents should. I very much agree, but I sure appreciate when the shows they watch reinforce the character my wife and I try to instill into them. They can definitely help. My parents always told me that stealing was wrong, but it didn't hit home until I watched Mr. T's team of gymnasts take
down some thieves and Mr. T himself pointed from the TV and said, "Stealing is wrong!". Is that the best way to learn our socially accepted behavior?
Probably not. Is it wrong to have your parent's wise instructions confirmed by the Fraggles? Probably not. So what's the explanation for major networks not supporting this type of programming? I would completely support a revival of a retro Saturday toon movement. I'd rather my sons watch that than some of the borderline mature anime stuff that's out there now. I think it would encourage our kids to be kids; and decent kids at that. The same thing has happened to comic books. I've never been a hardcore comic book guy, but I've been a fan of the Archie series since I was a kid. I remember going to get a comic book and seeing that there were just as many kid's comics as there were serious super hero books. I went into a comic store recently and was totally in shock. There was one small section where you could find a kid's style comic book but it was dwarfed by a couple walls of comics with blood and gore and scantily clad women in suggestive positions
on all the covers. This was not a place for kids. It's been hijacked!! I love nostalgia and so do plenty others from mine and earlier generations, but these things are not what we knew and loved. I've even noticed that a mainstay for kids, McDonald’s, doesn't really even market to children anymore. It used to be that kids were the driving force behind the popularity of everyone's favorite disturbing clown. Since McDonald's has become one of those businesses that could probably print their own money, they've forgotten the kids. Being an adult, I understand the need for less TV and more activity and less fast-food and more good-food. At the same time I understand the need for our kids to be kids in order for them to become proper adults. In our society's quest to raise the perfect child prototype, we've forgotten to add in a childhood. Does your child really want to play soccer, baseball, and piano with practice every day year round or is it the parent who wants it with their loving child only trying to impress and please their parents? I don't know. I guess we'll find out in the years to come when we see the adults they have become. I'm not one of these guys who live in his parent’s basement and still collect action figures. I'm just concerned for my children and their childhood. This also involves the post written earlier on this site about the suspended state of animation. My father did what he could to show us kids the things he watched as a boy and as a result I love the Three Stooges, Marx Bros., Looney Toons,and other things from his day. These combined with what I watched in my time to develop my sense of humor and even my outlook on life. Why do WB and those like them refuse to allow us to buy their classic cartoons to pass on to our children? I don't want Yu-Gi-O aiding me in my child's development. I want them to watch droopy and see that the little guy has a chance. I want them to watch Woody Wood Pecker and see that no matter how out-gunned you may be you can always out-smart your opponent. These may all be ramblings to you and yes it is random, but in my mind it makes me think of one thing: If we think our world is bad now, what will it be like when it's being run by
adults who never really got to be children?

Feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

Time for Timer!


brewjoe said...

Dungeon and Dragons was always one of my favorites. Too bad there aren't many cartoons on TV that I can trust my kid to watch by herself.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know how old you are, but I remember getting up early in the 60s and 70s and watching great classic Hanna Barbara cartoons, which was well into my middle school years. I was in high school in the late 70s and watched them with my little brother sometimes. I'm not very familiar with the shows you mention except for Charlie Brown (but I thought those were only on during holidays), but I know very well the feeling you are talking about. My kids are fairly much out of cartoons, but when they were kids there weren't many on after the mid 90s anyway. It is sad that our culture pushes kids to grow up so fast, perhaps so we don't have to accomidate them anymore. How sad. Hopefully, you and others will continue to remind us, and maybe those that be will hear you. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I watched cartoons in the 80's. I remember, if you woke up early enough, you could see a movie made specifically for kids. Then you'd have the Smurfs or Gummy Bears.

And the commercials were great. There were the ones where some animated character would tell you how to make a healthy snack, like homemade fruit juice popsicles in your icecube tray. Not to mention the commercials for cereal that would tell you what prizes you could get in which boxes. Boy did that make grocery shopping fun!

I am completely with you that we're making kids grow up too fast. We need to encourage them to pretend that their bikes are trains, that potholes were created by dinosaurs, and whatever else their imaginations cook up. They need their playtime as much as their school books. We're ending up with a generation of kids who don't really know what they think or how to come up with new ideas. To add a scary spin to that, where will we be scientifically with a group of people with no imagination to start thinking "what if"?

Let kids be kids, and everything else will follow. We all have to grow up and face reality soon enough.


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