From He-Man to just man – a cartoonish yearning for youth

Note: This column appears in the 8/12 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/13 issue of the Peoria Times

I loved –- loved -– watching cartoons as a kid. In fact, I think I watched them just slightly past the time when I should have stopped watching them. Like, when girls started calling the house I was still watching Looney Tunes, which made it quite a surprise that girls were calling in the first place.

Nevertheless, cartoons hold a special place in my heart, as they harken back to the fond days of my youth, when I had zero responsibilities and I could sit in front of the TV at three o’clock in the afternoon with a bowl of cereal and watch He-Man before going to play outside, and when the Smurfs were the first people -- or, more technically, blue things -- to greet me on Saturday morning.

And so part of the reason I was so excited to become a father was to get reacquainted with cartoons through my daughter. I have already begun the process -- which isn’t very smart considering she is not yet one-year old, and really shouldn’t be watching much TV anyway -- of having cartoons on almost all the time. The Nick, Jr. channel is on a constant loop in our house and they don’t mess around. Even their commercials are cartoons. It’s a million times better than, amazingly, the Cartoon Network, which mostly targets hipster adults.

I’m hoping it’s because she’s still too young and not because she doesn’t care for them, but cartoons haven’t really held my daughter’s interest of yet. She can watch The Wonderpets for like a minute, and then the dog will walk by and that’s the end of that. But that hasn’t stopped me from watching.

(Side note: I got in trouble one day for having on Yo Gabba Gabba, which isn’t a cartoon, but which my wife described as “way too stimulating for her!” Sure enough that’s the only show that’s ever held her attention for more than a minute, and afterwards she looked like a zombie who had just seen a ghost. What can I say -- it was Brobee's birthday that day and I wasn't going to miss it.)

Indeed, much of my free time these days is spent playing with my daughter while simultaneously getting immersed in the plot lines of modern cartoons that are technically on for her, but for which she couldn’t care less about. Still, I love it.

For one thing, it’s a pleasant break from the trash that we usually watch on TV, which typically involves unrealistic and borderline X-rated realty dating/dance shows or accounts of real-life murders and/or drug addiction. On the contrary, cartoons tend to have a positive message, one that may seem corny and commonplace until we realize that lesson was somehow lost on our transition to bitter adulthood. For example, I could be really angry or frustrated with someone and then I end up sitting there watching a giant octopus tell me that I should be patient with others because everyone is different, and I think to myself, “Ya’ know what, Octopus? You’re right.” Also, some of these shows are legitimately funny. There was a Phineas & Ferb marathon on the other day and you can’t believe what those two get into! (And yes, I realize that show isn’t even close to her age bracket. Whatever.)

Plus, it makes me feel like a kid again. For at least a little while each day, I get to regain the innocence of youth via cartoons and chasing our little one around the ottoman. And as far as she’s concerned, I think she’ll get into cartoons one day. After all, it’s a loooooooong time until boys start calling the house. Right?


Wrong, Mike. Those days will be here before you know it!

Shut-up you stupid octopus! You know nothing!


Joe S. said…
We live similar lives. I will argue with ANYONE that Yo Gabba Gabba is the funniest show on TV, and my kid is also mesmerized by it.

There's a party in my tummy, so yummy! So yummy!

My wife and I are hooked on Phineas and Ferb; our son couldn't care less. Our son, by the way, is eight months old. I'm not sure how well he can even SEE the TV, let alone comprehend anything going on.
Rashad said…
I'm going to have to agree with the both of you, Phineas and Ferb is hilarious. Myles loves it. They're the cartoon version of Jay and Silent Bob.