Monday, March 24, 2014

Are cartoons screwing up my kid?

On the rare mornings that my 4 year old wakes up before my 2 year old, we sit together and watch some TV. His choice. This morning he asked for "Ben Tenison." I honestly have no idea where he started watching Ben10 from. I'm betting he saw a preview and it looked bright and colorful and he wanted it, you know, like you do when you're a preschooler. Wait...that sounds like me with purses some days. But I digress.

I started Ben10 at episode 1 (did you know that shit's been on since 2005?) so we could see where exactly, you know, all his powers (eye roll) came from. At one point Ben (who is vacationing with his sister and grandpa in an RV) falls in a ditch and gets attacked by something that puts a bracelet on him (don't remind me if I'm terribly wrong, I was making my breakfast during this part) that gives him his powers.

So he's in this ditch yelling, "Grandpa! Help!" and the scene pans to Grandpa who stands there blank faced and doesn't move. "What's that Lassie? You think Ben's fallen in a ditch and some alien thing's attacking him? I don't know...let's wait and see." And dude never goes to help. As an adult and as a psychologist I'm thinking, "That's fucked up. Thanks Grandpa. You're the only adult we ever see on this show and you done screwed up in the 'I ask for help' department."

This got me thinking (watch out now, that's usually the precursor to something crazy). How do the cartoons we watched as a kid influence our perceptions of the world (other people, are they scary, adults, are they helpful, etc.) both as kids and as adults? I was trying to think of the cartoons I watched as a kid and what "messages" they left with me. The Smurfs. The Gummybears (bouncing here and there and everywhere). Jem. He-man and She-ra (Princess of Pow-errr). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Scooby Doo (and yes I hated Scrappy). My Little Pony. Gi-Joe (who was the real American hero). Thundercats (did they just call me a ho?). And these are just the ones that came to mind easily (and just the cartoons). Even as a kid I didn't fit gender stereotypes, geeze.

Let's think.

Smurfs: there are small blue people living under mushrooms that only wear pants and shoes (or maybe just footie bottoms); there's magic; cats and older men in black robes (wizards? Jews? clerics?) are evil; really big people are dumb (remember the giant?). Women are a commodity. Never have kids.

Doing awesome so far.

Gummybears: some idiot made a whole TV show out of a candy and made them do nice things for other people and they lived in a tree. Ditch that one.

Jem: Oh Jesus, I could have a field day. Girl empowerment! No adults (but they didn't seem like they were that young anyway but I think they were supposed to be 16 or so because they had a chauffeur who was "adult-like"). Girls can be rock stars. Being friends with girls is hard because they're so catty and moody (uh huh). Rock stars have funky color hair. Oh and GLITTER.

He-Man and She-Ra: Big man have big sword (Caveman ug). Are you my sister or do I think you're hot? Wait you're my sister. Damn. Weirdo skull guy with super creepy laugh. Magic and sorcery. Someone's always out to get you. Big animals can be your friends (and won't tear your face off). Oh and girls can have swords and kick ass but not as much ass as He-man.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Radioactive material is bad (but then, like good, because it made them, you know?). Teenagers skateboard and eat pizza (oh geeze that was my teen years...wait...I still love pizza). Older rat is very wise (I always knew I should have listened to that talking rat that I had). If you don't listen to your father figure you'll get in trouble but eventually it will be OK. Martial arts are where it's at.

Scooby Doo: Danger's everywhere. Everyone's a suspect. There are no real "bad guys," just bad costumes. Meddling helps you solve mysteries (even if nobody wants your help). We have to work together but split up (but when we split up someone will always disappear).

My Little Pony: Sparkles, again. Non-natural colored hair. Magic. Friendship (but don't get too close, some ponies only want one thing).

GI-Joe: Amerika! And big men with guns. Explosions. Bad guys are everywhere (and not American).

Thundercats: Team work. Animals with human behaviors. Swords, again, are awesome.

So magic, brightly colored hair, sparkles, don't trust everyone but work together (but just not with that guy), danger's everywhere....

Sounds like my life as an adult. Except the magic part. I was fooled!

Photo from "Fairytale Paper Frame" by AKARAKINGDOMS

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