Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Morning Cartoons? Or indoctrination?

In the '70's, my brothers and I watched Saturday morning cartoons every week.  We looked forward to getting up before dawn, sitting in our P.J.'s in front of a glowing TV screen in a dimly lit living room.  We often crunched on sugar laden cereal, sometimes straight from the box. 

Our parents were up before we were on every other morning of the week, but they usually slept in for a couple of hours on Saturdays.  The coziness and laid back way we started the day was a relief after five days of hurrying to get to school each morning.

Some of our favorite cartoons were Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny/Road Runner, The Jetsons, and The Pink Panther.  My older brother liked Johnny Quest, which I wasn't a huge fan of, but watched anyway.  I was never too big on Underdog, either.

The commercials were always aimed at us kids--either cereal commercials, or ads for snack foods, or something about toys.  The toy commercials were what inspired our Christmas lists.  Those ads could make almost any toy seem like the answer to all our prayers!  G.I. Joe (remember kung fu grip?) was a hero like none other!  And Spiro Graph--hours and hours of joy and fun!  Lite Brite, a very boring concept, seemed to be the epitome of excitement when we watched little kids using the light up toys. Saturday mornings were a virtual playland that oozed from our TV screen.

After the cartoons ended, we ran outside to play.  We spent most saturday afternoons and evenings outdoors with neighbor kids, running, plotting, imaginative games, and bicycles.  Even on the coldest days, we donned leggings, boots, mittens and hoods to get out into the fresh air that we craved and didn't get enough of during the school week.

So, in what way did Saturday morning cartoons harm us?  Did the sugary cereal make us fat?  NO!  We were so thin, we looked like we could blow away in a stiff wind.  Did watching cartoon characters dropping anvils on one another cause us to become violent?  NO!  We are a generation that holds onto basic civility and good manners. (For the most part.)

Did the ads harm us?  NO!  We never got everything we asked for at Christmas, usually one item out of 20, but we were always satisfied and happy.  We didn't get to eat fast food or Hostess Ho-Ho's just because we enjoyed the commercials.  Mom and Dad had control over the grocery list, and we were lucky to get a dime or quarter every month or two.  No one handed us money, except for our bachelor uncle, who occasionally pulled some change from his pocke to divvy up between us. We couldn't just buy everything we wanted.  

I've been raising my children since Ian came along in 1986.  When he was old enough to watch Saturday cartoons, John and I set forth to renew that childhood ritual.  He woke up at the crack of dawn from his early years to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Muppet Babies, and Winnie The Pooh.   During this era, cartoons were transitioning from entertainment to 'educational'. 

As each of our kids was born, I noticed that the ritual was becoming less and less important to them.  They rarely cared about watching cartoons.  That's when I began to realize how poorly made the modern cartoons were: they weren't entertaining and fun like they had been in my childhood.  They became too preachy!  No more fun, kids, now everything you watch will have a lesson for you to learn!  Be tolerant.  Exercise.  Eat wisely.  Blah, blah, blah.

Therese, being my youngest, and on the verge of becoming a 10 year old, woke up today and I urged her to put on the TV.  She was like a ball of energy and I woke up with a migraine.  I wasn't ready to jump feet first into my day, and was hoping for a small reprieve.

The TV was on for a few short moments when I realized Therese was completely disinterested, and then she put on her clothes and was out the door.  The TV stayed on for awhile, and I began to pay attention to it.  The ads that John and I have been making fun of for the past several years suddenly took on a sinister cast--and it wasn't because of 'Simon Bar Sinister', who no longer graces our TV's on Saturdays!

No, this darkness was the commercials themselves!  EVERY single ad was a government sponsored indoctrination attempt!  One was about how to get more exercise.  Another one was about how to eat right, informing young mind's about their dietary needs.  I suddenly thought about the past five to 10 years of ads during children's programming and it dawned on me that the government has sneakily taken over.

There is the ad I see over and over that is about accepting each other, all people of all races and creeds.  There are the ones about bullying.  Do I have a problem with kids being overweight, and for bullying, or for discrimination?  Of course I do.

But I have a bigger problem with the government using propaganda in the form of 'feel good' ads mainly aired during children's programming.  I know what they're up to.  Parents need, more than ever before, to do their job right!  If we don't teach our children the values we hold dear, they become 'programmed' fools as adults, who buy every line the government hands them.

If you don't have youngsters, put on cartoons and watch the ads.  Become informed!  I do not have cable/dish, so I can't say what is being shown there.  I imagine that everything I see during limited (network) children's programming is exaggerated to the NTH degree on Disney/Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network.

To those who say these changes needed to happen, I say, 'Rubbish'!  My generation didn't have all the social issues that today's kids do.  We grew up just fine.  We didn't have every aspect of our lives scrutinized.  We were raised with common sense! Remember the 70's ad that featured a young boy who watched his dad smoking?  Heaven forbid that his father was a bad influence on the child...but did it help?  NO!  Most of my peers smoked or still smoke.

People!  Wake up!

Young people smoke more than ever.  Why didn't they get the message?  The same thing for drinking!  Ian grew up going to D.A.R.E. classes at school.  About 99.9% of his classmates eventually took up smoking, drinking, and drugs. I shudder when my younger kids tell me what they hear and see from their peers.  Things are getting worse with every passing year!   

The way kids learn right from wrong, healthy from unhealthy, etc., is primarily from their parents.  When I was growing up, and tempted to do anything outside of my moral compass, guess what the deciding factor was?  I couldn't bear the thought that I could let my parents down.  I wasn't worried about some ad I might have seen on TV.  I thought of how much they loved me, and I wanted to stay obedient and faithful to these people!

I believe in passing on that thing called integrity.  I hope my kids have been learning this from my example and my relationship with them...

I don't want some Big Brother meddlers to be the big influence in my children's minds.