Saturday Morning Melancholies

I swore I would never speak that phrase. Those five dirty little words snuck up on me and jumped out of my mouth before I could realize what I’d done. It happened as I was telling a friend about baby-sitting my toddler cousins.

"Children’s television today is just awful. It sure isn’t as good as..." And as I completed my sentence, it was as if I weren’t actually speaking, but instead watching someone else pronounce the words for me in slow motion. "when... I... was... a... kid."

And with that, my childhood was officially over. I was confused. I thought I would never meet a cartoon I didn’t like. I don’t even remember what show it was that brought me to this conclusion. It probably involved Japanimation. My first response was to defend my claim. I suddenly thought of my favorite programs from my youth. The Gummi Bears, Mr. Wizard, The Smurfs, Looney Tunes. Surely these shows were the established apex of children’s entertainment. I quickly theorized that television must have gotten worse since my cartoon watching days. It couldn’t be that I had (gulp!) outgrown kids’ shows.

I decided to root through an old box of VHS tapes I kept and watch a few episodes of the shows I enjoyed as a youngster. It was during this trip back into the television watching days of my youth that something horrible happened.

There was a time in my life when not a single Saturday morning passed without the Gummi Bears bounding into my living room. But as I now watched them chug their precious Gummi juice, bounce off the walls and foil the bad guys, I saw them for what they really were: alcohol abusing animals. Whenever trouble came their way, they never hesitated to turn to the bottle for a solution. What kind of a message was this?

Then there was Mr. Wizard. Dear Mr. Wizard. I thought nothing could tarnish the image of a man dedicated to educating children on the wonders of science.

I remember energetically leaping out of bed before 8am just to see what excitement Mr. Wizard had planned for the day. But as I watched through more mature eyes, I saw that he was just going through junk lying around in his kitchen.

"Pay close attention, boys and girls. When I apply a thin layer of Palm Olive to this dirty pan, the grease magically disappears due to chemical reactions happening before our very eyes. Go ahead. Now you do the rest."

That's not science. He was doing his chores. He was probably just trying to make a quick buck while keeping Mrs. Wizard off his back. What a crook.

Not even the Smurfs were free from my newfound criticism of classic television. One female in the entire village? And she was the "most generous" Smurf of all? It’s so clear to me now. Smurfette was a whore.

Even after I accept her as such, I realize there is still no way for this nymphomaniac sprite to please an entire village. Reflecting on my own experience in a prudish high school relationship opened my eyes. The blueish hue of the Smurf skin tone was not Mother Nature's doing. It seems that those boys were suffering from an extreme case of blue balls.

Yet more troubling, a new light shone from the TV glow as I watched an older alpha male spending his time alone in his private quarters, counseling the young and troubled, prefering to be called "Papa." Papa Smurf was just a dirty, old pedophile.

Drunks? Sluts and perverts? Blue balls? I was horrified (though it does explain most of my own eccentricities). The programs I had grown up with were turning out to be nothing more than support for deviant lifestyles aimed at impressionable viewers.

Suddenly, I saw the secret filth abundant in all the programs I once thought so innocent. Bugs, Daffy and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang were masochistic fiends who derived sick, sexual pleasures from torturing the innocent and the intellectually feeble. Wile E. Coyote practically gave a weekly How-To guide for overly elaborate suicide methods. It would not surprise me at all if it turned out that he proved to be the single biggest influence on a young Dr. Kevorkian.

I began to wonder about the potential messages of other shows. Was Spiderman a Peeping Tom? Were He-Man and She-Ra engaged in a power-hungry union based on incest? Did the Care Bears even give a shit about anybody else?

So I now find myself at a loss, trying to come to grips with a confused childhood by immersing myself in contemporary children’s programming. I’m only five minutes into my first episode of Sponge Bob, Square Pants and already I’m wondering if that manic depressive Coyote makes house calls.

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