Rugrats and Gender Roles

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Spongebob Squarepants has defined Nickelodeon for the past decade and a half, but it isn’t the face of the network for me.  I am old enough to have watched the pilot of Spongebob when it first aired and I am old enough to remember the Nicktoons as an established brand before it aired.  There wouldn’t be a Spongebob Squarepants successful enough to run almost 20 years and release two theatrical movies without a little show called Rugrats laying the groundwork for Spongebob back in the ’90s.  Rugrats is my favorite Nicktoon, which is saying something because the competition it ran with on Nickelodeon was already incredibly strong.  Heck, I would argue that Rugrats at its peak is one of the best cartoons that has ever aired on television.  Yes, up there with The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, or whatever other classic you can think of.  It brimmed with such creativity with its design aesthetic (would’ve thunk America would fall in love with such deformed looking babies?) and concept, which were bolstered by the very thoughtful, funny, and intelligent writing.  Looking back, I can easily see why the show became such a major phenomenon in the ’90s and I only regret that it seems like its legacy seems to be overshadowed by Nickelodeon’s current fixation with Spongebob and to a lesser extent, the nostalgia for the more overtly adult-oriented Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life.

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Rugrats and Gender Roles

Seth MacFarlane and Cognitive Dissonance

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As you were probably able to tell from my last post, I have a pretty hard time stomaching Family Guy.  Believe it or not, but I used to be a big fan of show’s first four and a half seasons (including “I Am Peter Hear Me Roar”).  But as the show rapidly devolved over the following seasons, the only character I really found of any interest is Brian.  I think this is funny because most people I have run into really hate Brian because in this phase of the show, he developed into the not-at-all-subtle insert for the creator’s sociopolitical views and for the high-minded views he espouses that he himself fails miserably to live up to.  Many people point to Brian as one of the major things wrong with the show, but I think he’s the only thing that is moderately interesting about the show.  All the other characters on Family Guy devolved into either tired stereotypes or brutally mean-spirited caricatures, but Brian, through all his contradictions and shortcomings, feels much more real.  Y’know, like an actual person.  I suppose that makes sense considering that Brian is Seth MacFarlane after all, and not just because they share political views.

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Seth MacFarlane and Cognitive Dissonance

Feminism in Family Guy?

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“Look, I’m all for equality. but if you ask me, feminism is about choice.  I choose to be a wife and mother and now, I’m choosing to end this conversation.”

This was a quote made by Lois Griffin to a one-off character named Gloria Ironbox near the end of the episode “I Am Peter Hear Me Roar”.  I think it’s very interesting that she said this.  This definition of feminism that Lois is outlining is typically attributed to what is called third-wave or liberal feminism.  I think this is very interesting because the context in which Lois she says this in is in an episode that spent the twenty minutes before this quote and the last two minutes after it being virulently anti-feminist.  I think the fact that something like this can use feminism to justify its anti-feminism exposes a huge hole in any type of feminism (or any social justice movement) that defines itself by prioritizing individualism over collective liberation and justice through dismantling the oppressive structures in place, but that’s another conversation entirely.  Let’s focus on Family Guy right now.  I don’t think there is actually anything feminist about this episode, or any Family Guy episode really.

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Feminism in Family Guy?

Johnny Bravo: The Enlightened Chauvinist Pig

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Growing up, Johnny Bravo was one of my favorite cartoons.  From the first moment I saw an episode, it was instantly one of the funniest cartoons I ever saw!  But that was a long time ago.  Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two about feminism, which potentially puts a guy like Johnny whose running gag is his inappropriate behavior to women in an awkward place.

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Johnny Bravo: The Enlightened Chauvinist Pig

South Park and Beauty Standards

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When I watched the finale to South Park’s seventeenth season (“The Hobbit”), I thought it was a really great note to end an otherwise spotty season.  Looking at other critics’ reaction to it, the big thing that seemed to stand out is the ending.  This kind of messed with my head because my initial reaction to the ending was one of disgust.

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South Park and Beauty Standards

Masturbatory Nostalgia

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I randomly saw this on the Internet and I wanted to talk about this phenomenon of nostalgia.  Nostalgia for something in the past is unsurprisingly often accompanied by derision towards its present-day manifestation  Unfortunately, this derision not only accompanied by smug and elitist attitudes; it’s also leads to a rose-colored view of an idyllic past that didn’t actually exist.  Case-in-point, the text in this picture.  I’m going to break down everything that is wrong with its assertion.

1. For starters, the offensive use of the term “retards” is a major problem in itself.

2. Wile E. Coyote is not a ‘90s cartoon character.  His first cartoon was in 1949 and his hey-day was in the ’50s and the ’60s.

3. The standards of what cartoons could get away with were different from Wile E. Coyote’s hey-day to the ’90s.  More importantly, the targeted demographics weren’t as segregated back when as they were in the ’90s (or now), so there were overlapping age groups that Looney Tunes appealed to, especially because it never aspired to be a cartoon that’s “just for kids”.

4. In the ’90s, you actually DID have to tell kids not to try this shit at home.  There was an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures where Elmyra ran out of a car into a busy highway and held a hot mug fresh out of a microwave with her bare hands.  Both times, Buster literally stopped the cartoon to tell the audience that only idiot cartoon characters like Elmyra can do stuff like this and escape relatively unscathed.  Do I even need to discuss Beavis and Butt-head’s controversy, which wasn’t even a cartoon targeted to kids?

5. With all of this said, there are cartoons aimed at children that are out these days that sneak in some content that some parents may find objectionable.  There was an episode of Adventure Time I saw where a character brandished a knife at Finn and Jake.  This same cartoon and Steven Universe have episodes with scenarios that are not-so-subtle allegories for having sex.  Some of the language in Regular Show can be mildly profane.  The legacy of adult innuendos fondly remembered from cartoons like Animaniacs, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren & Stimpy, or Hey Arnold! is alive and well.

Yeah yeah yeah, I came up in the 1990s too, so I share the fondness whoever made this has for cartoons in the ’90s and Looney Tunes, which I also discovered in the ’90s.  And I also admit that I do find myself mostly bored with the cartoons on TV these days too.  But I have zero interest in or patience for old men who shake their fists at those darn, young whippersnappers.

Masturbatory Nostalgia