By: Judy Lyden
Cartoons used to be about as informative about the world as anything else in a child’s life.
For years, we watched the socialization scheme Bugs Bunny had for Elmer Fudd. It never seemed to work. Poor Elmer was going to get the rabbit because it was his thing. That was OK, but we knew in our hearts that there was something wrong about it, and it wouldn’t pay off – we learned that early.
We watched the naughty behavior of Sylvester the Cat against Tweetie Bird and we knew Sylvester would get it in the end because he was aggressive, and for the most part out of control and that was not a good thing.
We watched Bullwinkle and Rocky out smart, out fox and out out the dastardly Boris and Natasha who we were sure were as corrupt as they came even though we probably couldn’t articulate it. Good would win over bad, and over and over we saw the handcuffs drop on the skinny wrist of Natasha and the grumbling tantrum of Boris as Cad Lackey slunk off into the sunset.
Back in the days of Popeye, we enjoyed a lot of social lessons. Popeye fought for the weak and the helpless, Olive Oil and Sweet Pea. We were never sure where Sweet Pea came from, but we allowed for that as we watched the smitten Pop-eye defend his love against the horrendous Brutus. We watched Popeye’s tender affection for Whimpy the indigent hamburger eater.
All of these cartoons taught children how to live in the world. They had definite values, there were good guys and bad guys and the good guys always won. It was a sure thing, and that fed the idea that good was simply better than bad.
The service cartoons paid to parents was to reinforce what was being taught at home. Few parents would think to turn off a cartoon because there was an objectionable message.
Not so today. I am aghast at the content of some children’s entertainment. In the form of badly drawn cartoons, it seems there is an effort not to reinforce the home, but to antagonize it. Bathroom humor, off color jokes, Vaudeville recklessness seem to try to attract the innocent minds of the young and help reinforce the idea that bad behaviors and crude ugly habits are the way to go.
And too, cartoons today mock parents making them seem foolish and needing lessons on how to live, and that’s what the smarter, more intelligent child is able to do, and he’s told that on TV.
Can you imagine what it would be like if most children really thought that? Sometimes a teacher sees a child who has come to believe he is of superior knowledge and skill to nearly every adult around him, and it’s obnoxious.
The father takes the worst beating and generally is one step out of the home for the mentally ill or the functionally disordered. That’s a really nice way to portray American fatherhood to very young children.
Mother is always able to be fooled. She comes across as no better than a servant.
Our society will probably not go back to regarding authority and tradition in a positive light – at least not on TV. It’s not a popular idea to look up to ideals and goodness. It’s a lot more fun to tear apart ideas and structure and replace it with chaos and disaster, and the exploits of bad people doing bad things for selfish reasons.
Yet parents don’t have to give into poor messages and poor examples. They can turn off the TV or they can do what I did.
I think the old cartoons are pure fun, and contain valuable lessons. They can still be purchased at Wal-Mart for $1.00. These are the cartoons that children love best. I was able to buy several CDs of older cartoons for my grandkids who watch them most because they love them best.