The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lessons From Cartoons

1. Performance Enhancing Drugs Are Your Friends.

Offenders: Underdog, Popeye, The Gummi Bears.

Many a world has been saved by the awesome chemical powers of Gummiberry juice, Spinach, and, the most egregious offender, the Underdog "Power Pill". At least the first two are organic in nature, and arguably supplements, although it is difficult to believe that Popeye's spinach is not the result of some serious genetic engineering, but is there any doubt that the same guy who was dealing "Power Pills" was also helping out Rafael Palmeiro?

All of these heroes are ordinary, and in some cases pathetic characters without their chemical aids, but the competitive pressures exerted by Simon Bar Sinister, Bluto, and Duke Igthorn, require them to risk their future health for the good of everyone else.

If you find your kid popping pills in the weight room, don't look to Mark McGwire. Look to humble Shoeshine Boy. Incidentally, it's also his fault that they like rap music.

2. Oil Dependence is okay.

Offender: Transformers

They truly were more than meets the eye. The evil Decepticons and benevolent Autobots came from the planet Cybertron, where the two sides have foolishly squandered their natural resources. They come to earth in search of a new home, and energy, which the Decepticons transform into "energon cubes" (through a tape player named "Sound Wave"). The Autobots are all cars, representing America's love affair with high-powered machines. The Autobot leader was Optimus Prime, a giant red semi-truck. Most of them were gas guzzlers, especially the popular guys. The most fuel-efficient of the bunch? Bumblebee.

On the other hand, the oil/energy craving Decepticons are all jets except for their leader, Megatron, who can transform into a gun. Read into that what you will.

3. Nunchuks are more dangerous than swords. But toxic waste is kind of cool.

Offender: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The four turtles use four different weapons. Leonardo uses kitana swords, Rafael uses the Sai, Donatello uses the Bo staff, and Michelangelo allegedly uses the nunchuks. However, if you are a careful observer of the Ninja Turtles, you will quickly notice that Mikey never actually uses this weapon. Instead, he tends to throw a hooked rope at his enemies, which, in defiance of all known laws of physics, flies in a circle around them and ties them up. I assume that they took the nunchuks away from Mike because they are fairly easy to construct if you are a small child, and they are also fairly hard to control, even if you are a large child. Many broken lamps and noses probably resulted.

But still, what a cop out. After all, when employed properly, the nunchuks look really cool, and the bo staff was at least as dangerous when in the possession of an eight year old. Moreover, recurring character Casey Jones beat people with a hockey stick. Then again they occasionally do this in hockey (McSorley) so I suppose that seed was already planted.

And, of course, toxic waste makes all sorts of neat stuff happen.

4. Contrary to what our president believes, animal/human hybrids rule.

Offenders: Thundercats, SilverHawks, Tigersharks, TMNT.

The Thundercats proved not only that animal/human hybrids were ok, but also that they need not where pants. And they had the guts to use the nunchuks (Panthero). Every Thundercat had some ability derived from a cat. Panthero was very strong. Which actually makes no sense. Since panthers, while possessing normal animal strength, have nothing on lions and tigers. And the tiger guy could turn invisible. Just like a tiger. Well, at least the cheetah was fast.

The SilverHawks were not only human/animal hybrids, they were also cyborgs. They probably used stem cell research in some way too.

The Tigersharks were part of a show called The Comic Strip that may have only been watched by me. Basically, instead of one Aquaman, there were five. And you know how cool Aquaman is.

5. If you have an incompetent relative, and the world may depend on that relative's ability to perform his duties, do not report him to his boss, but instead help him. Do this even if you are a nine-year-old girl.

Offender: Inspector Gadget

No one is quite sure how the inspector warranted the bionic adaptations installed in his body. Perhaps he was the only volunteer. Perhaps he was in some terrible accident. Or perhaps it is simply because his last name is Gadget. The bottom line is that without his niece Penny and her super-intelligent dog, Dr. Claw would have conquered the world several times over. That's pretty much everything that you can learn from this show.

6. Education can not, in fact, be fun.

Offenders: Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Histeria.

The former is probably one of the top ten worst cartoons ever produced. 5 multi-ethnic nerds with power rings (one of which has the power of "heart") can combine their powers to form Captain Planet, who probably lives a fairly miserable life waiting for 5 giant nerds to get in enough trouble to summon him.

Moreover, the good Capn' is invincible unless someone sprays him with sludge. Unfortunately, almost all of his enemies are either made of sludge, or command vast amounts of sludge.

At least we know that somewhere there is a landfill stuffed with discarded Captain Planet merchandise.

Histeria was an attempt by Warner Bros. to build on the success of Tiny Toons and Animaniacs by offering an educational show. All of the characters were humans, which is boring in a WB cartoon. One of them was a disgusting, drooling baby. One of them screamed all the time for no reason. It wasn't as pleasant as it sounds.

Shows can have educational messages if they are subtle. If they aid the advancement of the plot without being the plot. If you try to sell an educational show to 10-14 year olds, no one is going to buy.

7. If you have a weapon that will instantly kill your enemy, don't use it right away. Get pummeled for a while while using weaker weapons, and then whip it out to save the day.

Offenders: Voltron. All Voltron derivatives (Power Rangers.)

Two of the great mysteries of Voltron:

1. Why were their two Voltrons, one made out of lions, and one made out of jets, submarines, and cars, which could only remain Voltron for 5 minutes?

2. Why didn't Voltron just use the Blazing Sword immediately?

No one will ever know, but we do know that the Blazing Sword always worked, and that no matter how hard they tried, the bad guys simply could not come up with a Robeast powerful enough to withstand it. Alas.

8. Pants are unnecessary.

Offenders: Thundercats, Ducktales, He-Man.

He-Man was a very strange cartoon. He-Man had an alter ego named Prince Adam. You know how most super heroes have some sort of disguise to keep their identity secret? How Spiderman and Batman wear masks and Superman wears those stupid glasses?

He-Man wears a loin cloth. Adam wears tights. Otherwise, they look exactly the same. This is the most egregious abuse of a secret identity in history. It makes Clark Kent's glasses seem completely plausible. Disney's Ducktales is just keeping with longstanding pantsless Disney tradition. And if Ducks aren't going to wear pants, well, what do you expect from cats.

Speaking of secret identities...

9. As long as you are going to wear a mask, you may as well build weapons into it.

Offender: M.A.S.K.

Matt Tracker was a successful businessman. In his spare time, he built vehicles that could turn into other vehicles, built masks that would let the wearer lift up airplanes just by looking, or project holograms. And he fought evil. Specifically, he fought Miles Mayhem and venom, who just happened to be interested in the exact same hobby.

Matt Tracker was also very humble, as he took all of his crappiest inventions for himself. While some M.A.S.K. members got to drive motorcycles that became helicopters, or jeeps that became swamp boats, Tracker drove a somewhat sporty sedan. But it was no ordinary sedan. The doors on this puppy opened Lamborghini style, and by opening the doors, it would turn into a plane. Yep. A plane. By opening the doors.

And while his compatriots had cool masks, like Bruce Sato's "Lifter" (which could pick up a car) or Dusty's "Whiplash" (which sliced and diced) Tracker's mask, "Spectrum," let him see in infrared. Wow. And get this, he had a backup mask called "Ultraflash" which (are you ready for this?) produced a bright flash to blind the enemy.

10. If you have a bumbling, incompetent toady around, and he constantly screws up and almost kills everyone, keep letting him come along, for comic relief.

Offenders: Orko (He-Man), T-Bob (Mask), Snarf (Thundercats).

There are many others of course. Every show has its Gilligan, just to move the plot along if it becomes stymied. You need these people. They make everyone else seem less annoying by comparison, and that is a valuable skill.

11. Only one woman per village!

Offenders: The Smurfs, Thundercats, He-Man.

Weep now, or become incredibly jealous of, Smurfette, Tila, and Chetarah. They are alone, surrounded only by brawny men (or at least Handy and Brainy men).

12. We did not lose the Vietnam war, it's just not over yet.

Offender: Rambo

I don't know who thought that Rambo would make a nice children's show, but I applaud their vision. No one could be a better influence on a kid than a loner who lives in the woods, sets booby traps, and beats people with sticks. Plus, your child may learn how to cauterize a bullet wound.

13. Canadians are evil.

Offender: G.I.Joe

G.I.Joe can teach us a great deal, but that is an entirely different post. You can find it here.

3 Comments:

  • I cannot tolerate any Captain Planet bashing. Obviously, Paul, you lack "heart".

    By Blogger Mike, at 11:30 AM  

  • Uh, Tigers actually have excellent camouflage for the tall grass that they hunt in, so that invisibility kind of makes sense. That and Spinach really is awfully good for you.

    Cool post.

    I actually saw Tigersharks a few times.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 4:20 PM  

  • I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Betty

    http://desktopmemory.info

    By Blogger nancy, at 10:41 PM  

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