Wednesday 15 October 2014

Me vs Retro Cartoons and the End of Santa

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to snuggle up with my 5 year old and watch cartoons. I don’t have cable at home, which is not to say, unfortunately, that we don’t watch tv, but that we’re mostly a Netflix-centered crowd.

Little did I realize going into this that she had chosen Teletoon Retro. Basically, think back to all the amazing the cartoons you watched as a kid. Now imagine it’s the mid 1960’s, and it’s worse than you imagine. 

I had to suffer through The Mighty Hercules. It was terrible. Actually, that doesn’t really do it justice.  With pretty much no preamble, the show opened with some guy with his back to us, mumbling something about a helmet. He puts it on his head, turns around, and is pretty much a guy with a large pot over his head. To his credit, he did have the foresight to cut eye holes in it.
So now we have a skinny guy in a shirt-dress, cape, and pot, walking around talking about how even Hercules can’t hurt him. You know, because of the pot. *sigh*

Out of nowhere Herc shows  up and starts punching him in the stomach. Cookware says to him ‘Hahahaha, stop, you’re tickling me’.  Yup. That’s about it.  There might have been more, but since the animation was pretty much the same 12 frames with different script (and I use that term loosely), I figured I’d pretty much covered it by that point.

Time I can’t get back. 

This got me thinking about cartoons I watched as a kid, and how great they were. I remember loving them. The songs were catchy (which as a parent, is a quality I now loath – Everything is AWESOME…), the animation was top notch (apparently I was willfully blind as a child), and the plots were engaging (if you were a zombie and you had, effectively, no brain). 

This led me to YouTube to look for the shows of my past, which was an appallingly bad decision and I should have known better.  Begin revisiting the cartoons of your youth in all their online, poor-quality glory?  Yeah, it was that bad.

image courtesy of
For all the girls out there who were 80’s cartoon watchers, Jem and the Holograms was an unparalleled favorite. I really, really loved Jem. I wanted to be Jem. As a kid all I saw was this ordinary girl who had magic earrings and turned into this pink-haired rock star whenever she needed to. Who wouldn’t want that? Don’t want to go grocery shopping today? No problem, now I’m Jem. Send someone else. Jem doesn’t do house work! I’M JEM! Hell, I can still sing the Glitter and Gold theme song. I know, I’m embarrassed for me too.

And then I watched Jem again. Like really watched Jem.  It’s amazing how as a child you don’t pick up on the fact that Jem and her non-famous alter ego are both dating THE SAME GUY. It’s also just a wee bit disturbing that she is more concerned that he will find out they are the same person, than she is that he is a complete asshole, and is actually cheating on her....with her. Seriously? How did this get past the focus group???

Let’s pause for a minute and just think about how incredibly terrible this role model actually is. To their credit, the 80’s really tried: A female rock group who kicked a bunch of ass, and basically rock battled it out on a weekly basis with the Misfits (an equally messed up punk girl group). But then they went ahead and ruined this with a misogynistic boyfriend that Jem/Jerica just adores. All Jem wanted to do was make him happy, and she spent an inordinate amount of time worrying that he wouldn’t like her anymore if he knew her secret.

Really? Have we really just skimmed over the fact that he is a complete douche sack? Um, yeah, apparently we did. Can I get a little of the Spice Girl’s girl power please? Something about not needing a man to be happy…or at the very least, not needing a man who cheats on you while you look the other way because his other girlfriend is YOU!

The worst part of this whole thing was that Jem, as much as I loved her as a child, was the mechanism that shattered Santa for me.  This goes off into left field a little, but just stay with me.

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to be Jem, asshole boyfriend be damned! I wanted those bloody earrings.  So, being the clever thing that I was, I went to the one person who I knew could deliver: Santa.  I was very specific. Could you please deliver some magic earrings that allow me to transform into anyone at any time. Seems legit.

Christmas morning came, and with it a small box under the tree. I could almost taste the magical powers radiating from the box. I was one small wrapped package away from being some chick with pink hair and a guitar! Kick ass!
You can all see the train of disappointment chugging down the mountain at this point. My parents gently explained why Santa couldn’t deliver on the magical Jem earrings, but he thought I might like some clip-on pearl earrings instead. I was 8, I don’t think pearls were the look I was going for. 

That night, after my younger sister (who’s soul hadn’t recently been crushed) went to bed, my mom explained the whole Santa situation. That sucked. I think on some level I had known that a fat man in a chimney wasn’t really going to work out long term, but that didn’t make it any better.

To my parent’s credit, we didn’t stop getting Santa presents until both my sister and I were well into our teens, and with the exception of the year of the earring debacle, knowing that Santa wasn’t an actual person never dampened the fun those Christmas mornings.

To this day, Christmas still remains one of my favorite holidays, however I have a decidedly love/hate relationship with Jem and the Holograms. On some level I may always hold those Saturday morning 80’s cartoons somewhat responsible for the death of Santa.  

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