Throughout my lifetime, I’ve been exposed to much in the way of cartoons and their characters. Some of that was by choice; some was by circumstance.
In thinking about all that, though, I’ve come to a conclusion about the difference between those of my innocent youth and today’s offerings.
Today’s aren’t funny.
Many of them are social commentaries or attempts to espouse a point of view. And while I do appreciate the power of the pen over that of the sword in trying to form or sway public opinion (since fewer people are hurt by a pen than by a sword), I’m like the Statler Brothers in their song, “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?” There’s a line in the lyrics that says, “Everybody’s trying to make a comment about our doubts and fears.”
I prefer cartoons that just entertain. What’s wrong with that?
But today, it’s not just the cartoons but movies and comic strips, as well. I think the shift started when some of the censors determined that Saturday morning cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were “too violent” and that some impressionable youth might try to duplicate some of their antics. Never mind that what took their place were not only cars and trucks that “transformed’ into fire-spitting androids, but also shooters and shootees that shed blood — but always managed to rise from the dead. I’m pretty sure that’s been done only a time or two in the last 2,000 and only at Jerusalem in Israel, but that didn’t stop some impressionable youth from pulling out weapons and firing them randomly at large numbers of victims to see if real life imitated those cartoons.
Granted, there are some calmer ones today like “Paw Patrol” and “Bluey,” which my grandchildren have introduced me to. But often, they aren’t “funny,” at least to me, and they’re on 24/7 somewhere. Perhaps familiarity really is breeding contempt.
Long ago and far away when dinosaurs roamed the face of the earth and I watched Saturday morning cartoons, the lineup included Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jekyll, Merrie Melodies, Woody Woodpecker and a few other equally harmless offerings. You’d get up early in the morning, pull out a big bowl and box of sweet cereal and hunker down until noon or so when a ball game or dance party came on, then repeat it all again the next Saturday.
Today, few commercial networks show much of anything on Saturday mornings other than local programming, while the expansion of cable television has led to a bonanza of “infomercials,” which is fine if you want to order a truckload of pots and pans or artificial jewelry, but not if you’re yearning for Porky Pig.
Most of the death knell for the cartoons an be traced to changing morals of society, federal rules requiring television stations to produce three hours of educational programming weekly and limits on children’s advertising. Throw all that in with the increased amounts of computers, video games and other electronic devices, and there you have it. Add to that mix that many of today’s youth — and children — are far more “sophisticated” and hip than we “Baby Boomers” and cartoons are no longer good things, and you see and get what we’ve got.
Still in all, today’s viewers don’t know what they’re missing with that big box of cereal, even if most of it was sugar and not much nutritional value, as in Sugar Corn Pops or Sugar Smacks. Somewhere in a stack of CDs, I have a collection of a number of cartoons spanning the years, which is another reason they went off the air since countless other folks also have similar CDs.
Now my only problem is my CD player has bit the dust; if it were a horse, I’d have to shoot it. One day soon, I’m going to have to bite the bullet and buy another one. I hear the Road Runner beeping my name.
Only problem is, I can’t find any Sugar Smacks on the shelves.
Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.
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