Sunday, October 22, 2006

They Just Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

My kids were watching cartoons Saturday morning, a rare and coveted activity for them. I'm not a fan of the Saturday morning cartoons scene for two main reasons.

First, I can't stand all the advertising that goes along with them. My kids drool over each and every toy and junk food item that is paraded before their eyes. Oh, I want that! and Mom, can we get that? at every new commercial break. Watching Saturday morning cartoons, it becomes terribly obvious that the advertisers are the driving force, the main event. The TV shows are only a hook to get kids to watch the commercials. I hate that. I am trying to teach my kids to be smart consumers and to take advertising with a grain of salt, but I just don't think it's right that a six and nine year old should have to learn to be this saavy and self-controlled in order to survive watching a little TV.

And second, I think most of the shows out there right now are total crap. It seems like every thing I see is violent and dark, and filled with attitudes that I wouldn't tolerate in my home. Revenge, greed, arrogant bravado and even sexual attraction are prime motivators and adult authority is mocked at every turn. I just don't like it. I don't want my kids to fill their brains with it.

But back to yesterday. The kids were allowed to watch a little TV, mostly because I was working on something else and being lax in my parental supervision. They were watching a show I'd never seen before, so I was listening to the dialogue from across the room to check it out. Although I didn't recognize any of the character voices, something in the dialogue kept catching my attention. Occasionally, I would hear phrases and one-liners uttered that were strangely familiar, but I couldn't quite place them. They didn't seem to fit with what sounded like another laser-filled shoot-em-up space alien good-guy/bad-guy drama.

When my curiosity finally got the best of me, I turned to watch the show for a few minutes with them.

What I saw made my jaw drop. I sat there in disbelief, stunned at what I was seeing.

Tonight, I decided to check out the cartoon's website to find out more about it. Below is a summary of one of the episodes, as found on a WB website. Again, a far cry from the shows I used to watch.

Danger Duck is assigned to guard Sypher, Massive, Weathervane, and Mastermind to an inescapable prison. But the four supervillains are suddenly sucked into a wormhole. They end up on another planet, where they meet the alien villain who sent the first two meteors. He invites them to join forces with them against the Loonatics. Meanwhile, Zadavia fears the alien is coming for her. She sends Danger and Rev to locate the escapees. The other Loonatics find them and fight them, but are beaten and captured. Danger and Rev find them and rescue them, but then, the villains are once again sucked into the wormhole. Unfortunately, so is Danger Duck. While the others try to figure out what to do, Zadavia shows up, and reveals the alien villain is her brother.

And here are some images from the show--not the worst I've seen, at all, but not really what I want my six year old soaking in, either.

But this sort of plot-line and these sorts of images are almost standard for Saturday morning. I don't like them and I don't generally let my kids watch most of them, but they are everywhere.

What stunned me, what made my jaw drop, was the set of characters. I didn't recognize their names, but their faces were oddly familiar.

Recognize anyone in this photo?

Yes, the show was called Loonatics Unleashed.

Looney Tunes?

It is the latest incarnation of the Bugs Bunny gang. Apparently, they are not intended to be the actual original characters. Rather, they are the descendants of the old timers, retaining a small amount of their original personality and characther traits, but hyped up with plenty of crime-fighting muscle and super powers.

In an interview with a big wig at the WB, Neil Cohen of NPR was told simply, "It's a new cartoon for a new generation of kids."

Am I just getting really old, or what?


So while I am ranting on TV media, I can't leave out this little tidbit:

Of course you know I have been watching the baseball playoffs (Go Tigers), with baseball and the Olympics being the only reason I don't throw the TV out the window altogether, oh and the fact that Andy does watch it. I suppose he would have some say in the matter.

The FOX network, responsible for the World Series programming, has been aggresively advertising their fall shows at every commercial break. This is no surprise, of course. One of the shows that they are promoting at every turn is The O.C. , now in its second or third season; I don't remember exactly.

In one of the two ads they are running currently, a teenage girl asks matter-of-factly, "What's a Donkey Shot?" There is a silly rapid-fire succession of clips of other characters saying, "What?", followed by the conclusion, "That's a question for your mother."

I thought very little of this, assuming that it was some type of drink or drinking game. You know, a shot glass thing.

But on a whim, I decided to look up the term in my little on-line urban dictionary that I use when teenagers throw out slang terms that I don't recognize.

You can look it up for yourself if you would like, but I will warn you that it is not rated PG, or PG-13, or perhaps even R. In fact, most of you would do better to NOT look it up, but just know that it is a disgustingly perverted sexual term that does not have any place at all on network TV, particularly not in advertisements during a family-oriented sporting event at six o'clock in the evening.

Is the media just spiralling out-of-control, or am I just increasingly out of touch? If it's just me, then I don't think I want to be IN touch.

I sound so old.

Is that so bad?


Sheila said...

Agree, agree, agree. I hate the commercials, the greed that so easily comes out of my innocent children, the violence, the dialogue that seems more appropriate for teens than elementary age . . . . for this reason, I love the TiVo. My friend goes so far as to teach her kids to fast forward the commercials - they lose tv time if she catches them watching commercials at all. Also, love the nick jr cartoons - more for the little ones than Saturday morning ones.

AmberJ said...

I'm with you on this one! We, too, are watching the WS and Calvin LOVES baseball. The movie previews are what caught my attention. I don't want my 2 year old seeing visions of a little boy pushing his mother down the stairs or a ghost girl coming out of the walls. The only cartoons he watches are on PBS channel(and one or two on early morning Disney) for that precise purpose: I hate the violence on the other shows and I hate the commercials.

If you're old because you don't want your kids watching violence then I'm as old as you are!

mrsfish said...

I would say not old, but conscientious. Its the Petra - garbage in, garbage out thing. We didn't have cable when we lived in the desert - which meant no reception. We only watched tapes. Emily never saw a commercial until a few months before her fourth birthday and she was confused - thought the program was over. I saw a huge difference in her awareness and wanting of things, in grocery stores and toy stores (the kid has always been spoiled, but before that her wants were driven by interests and my guidance not marketing).

Em probably watches way more TV than your kids, but we have certain rules - no cartoon network, no WB or CW as it is now called here. Disney channel with approval (I don't like the show Raven, though its not a cartoon). Cartoons on Maryland Public TV OK - curious george and Clifford the big red dog mostly - Noggin is OK - its very preschool, but she likes it. I do let he watch Jimmy Neutron on Nick, his father is a doofus but his mom is really smart and Jimmy needs more supervision but he is required to be respectful to his parents. OH, and spongebob when I can tolerate it. Thats how it works. But since we are not home on Saturday Mornings and no TV till after homework on the weekends - it seems since September she gets 1/2 hour of Hannah Montana or Phil of the Future on Disney Channel and then its off to bed.

The "cartoons" on regular TV are all very dark, taking that and non of the creativity from the Japanese cartoons (which are scary but for different cultural reasons). I don't like any of the regular TV channel cartoons and Em doesn't watch them.

Sherry C said...

I used to be where you three moms are, choosing a handful of more wholesome PBS/Nick Jr. type shows. But my biggest problem is my son right now. He gags at the thought of Nick Jr., Clifford or Curious George. To him, those shows have joined the ranks of Barney and the Teletubbies. His friends at school "all" watch endless hours of CrapTV daily, and their interests clearly lie in the evil robot, space alien, laser-shooting genre, or the disrespectful kids with cool clothes and an attititude camp.

The kids don't watch very much TV at all, rarely ever on school days and only occasionally on weekends, but I don't like the shows he wants to watch, even in small doses. I steer him toward science and nature shows as a general rule, but the kid just wants to watch a "cool" show from time to time, I think mostly so he can join in on the conversations at school and doesn't have to admit that his mommy doesn't let him watch those shows.

If Andy didn't watch TV so much, I would be thrilled to just chuck it.

I can get baseball scores and Olympics highlights on the internet and I'd rather read a book than watch a movie any day.

mrsfish said...

You are right -that is a tough one, not being able to even comment on what is being talked about at school. I stopped by Em's school for lunch one day and was surprised at the depth of the Star Wars talk.

My step mom used to approach the situation where you find yourself with at least if she let them watch stuff, you had a discussion afterwords about what was against God, your beliefs, family mores and why. So that if they had to ingest it, at least you help them digest it with some context and critical thinking skills. We kids hated it though (I was a teen by then and not living in her house so I thought of it as minorly annoying, her kids hated it with a passion)

Hopefully it won't be too long until Cartoons are a bit babyish for him and you will have a whole new arena of can't watch and acceptables :)

Plus it sounds like Tano is a good kid with a compassionate heart and a good head on his shoulders.