Recently, Cartoon Network has ended it’s Saturday morning cartoon block, the last network to have Saturday morning Cartoons. So do I weep for another end of my childhood.
I have a dislike of Nostalgia.
Oh I’m quite fond of childhood memories, and will likely to continue remembering them fondly. Take Saturday Morning cartoons for example. Anyone who grew up in the pre-internet age would know how awesomely awesome Saturday Morning cartoons were.
My Saturday mornings were tiptoeing down the stairs and turning down the volume barely above a buzz so I wouldn’t wake up my parents who’d kick me off the telly. And this was just the crust of a baked Alaska and Shows like fillmore!, Xialin Showdown, Jackie Chan Adventures, Courage the Cowardly Dog were the yummy ice cream, with sugary cereal commercials being the spoon.
What I don’t like is what nostalgia does to people. How George Lucas’s lucky break gave him the keys to a shitmobile, spraying feces into everyone’s memories of the original trilogy and fans still run after him, mouths hanging open for second helpings. How people have the gall to loudly deride the TV of today as dumb loud commercialization like they were the lucky ones raised in the only decade of TV history that ever had quality TV. And in the end that is still the reason I’ll give a half-smirk to start watching them again, experiencing the horribly great thing about Youtube having them all there.
So I found Recess* again.
Oh looky here, another Youtube marathon powered by Nostalgia®. And I will say that the prick played by Michael Sheen in Midnight in Paris was right. So here’s to you Nostalgia, the three card monte another of my rosy-cheeked memory, found to be cheapened under the lenses of your adulthood cynicism. So it must be I’d just watch some of them again, with decreasing returns of investment, breaking apart the shell of my childhood’s security blanket. All the comments from the other Nostalgics poking through now blatant plot hole were quite reassuring of the inevitable. Watched a couple of the golden oldies, and stuck on till I realized I watched the entire series and that it was 4 am and I had to get up tomorrow.
But oh by sweet Jove, Recess how could I ever forget Recess
T.J., Spinelli, Mikey and the rest of the gang who threw themselves off into hijinks during every Recess, was liquid gold. Digger Sam and Digger Dave who dug holes everywhere they went, the Swinger Girl who spent recess doing what we were too afraid to do, trying a 360 on a swing, and the Upside down girl. She always hung upside down off the jungle gym, never got the limelight, but would always be remembered forevermore as the Upside down girl.
I was laughing at jokes I had forgotten, only the sketchiest of outlines were all I had of maybe a handful of the episodes I got away with (my parents wised up pretty quickly). And it was the episode “Mama’s Girl” when Spinelli, the tomboy of the gang became the laughingstock of the school for calling Ms. Grotke, a teacher, Mama. So it was up to T.J. and the rest of the gang stood in solidarity to call Mrs. Grotke Mama, a shaming solidarity. And I swear I was welling up. I had that feeling like my heart was flying at the end of Dead Poet’s Society when the boys stood up on their desks to defend Robin Williams (that was a awesome film by the way, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). And just for the sheer courage of being the first to stand up to defend a friend with uncertain consequences, did I have an epiphany.
Holy Shit, these kids shows I watched when I was a kid, they aren’t just kid shows, they’re teenage shows, adult shows, and elderly shows as well. For Recess is a show that TV was originally envisioned to do for humanity. It was to educate people; it imparted moral values that we would hopefully ingrain into ourselves as we got older.
Right, and now you’re probably lining the comment section up with snark about my cheesy words.
But if you hadn’t ever watched Recess, let me do a off on who they were. T.J. was the 90s Tom Sawyer, bad at school but had all the qualities like a good leader and loyal, skills which school can’t teach but are so valuable. Or Gretchen who was the class brain, but was not arrogant, or distant, but still wanted to be a kid, though never taking her smarts for granted. They were never cliqued just an oddball of characters who became friends for who knows what reasoning.
And the kids possessed a depth of maturity that most of us in this age are too afraid to take. Standing up for your friends against all social obstacles, a willingness to say sorry when you hurt others, those cliché, that cheap froth, we who can scoff at it as being catered to kids, why are we so afraid of them?
I started watching them because they were good stories, and stayed watching to remind me of the lessons I forgotten. And the fact I enjoyed them was I hadn’t learned the lessons they imparted to move on, I was still screwing up. There weren’t tragic, no bittersweet endings (unless you count the two part specials) and yeah so they were unrealistic, like kids shows.
But do you remember optimism, when the world was getting better?
That youthful optimism in the pre 9/11 age, pre gritty realistic Gears of War, that was so hopeful, knowing the world can be a better place. That was the kind of world I wanted to grow up in and yes it’s always be inevitably too late to live in such a world, we are only human after all. That’s what the Saturday Morning Cartoons for, to give children hope for their future, and it can be a reminder to us who are adults, of how we are just human. And that can be a good thing.
However you are, find a Saturday morning show you remember fondly, watch it. If you enjoyed it then, you’ll probably find new enjoyment again. Nostalgia is just an excuse.
*children’s television show from 1997 – 2001 on the Disney channel, about a group of fourth graders at Third Street Elementary school, focusing around their exploits during recess.