Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where's the ACME Catalog?

I miss Bugs Bunny. My brother and I spent many a childhood Saturday morning watching such classic shows as The Three Stooges (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), Yogi Bear (where looking for an unattended picnic was a way of life), Mighty Mouse (Here he comes to save the day!), and my personal favorite, Bugs Bunny. I now realize we were learning some dangerous lessons:
  • Idiocy should be rewarded with a bop on the head.
  • Picnic food is good, and meant to be enjoyed occasionally--even if it is fried or loaded with mayonnaise.
  • Villains should be quickly dispatched, preferably with an uppercut.
  • Anvils and explosives are useful for temporarily dispatching one's enemies.

When our sons were small, Looney Tunes remained a part of our Saturday mornings. I let the kids think watching cartoons was their idea. Now I know I was teaching them the wrong values.

This past Saturday morning, I was working in my Stamp Dungeon and turned on my 5-inch TV for some background noise and maybe a couple of nostalgic laughs. I quickly realized that children's TV has changed a lot in the 10 years or so since I last tuned in. After skipping the infomercial on CBS (no sales resistance), I found what passes for preteen entertainment on another channel.

The first program featured live actors in a variation of Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney's "Let's have a show!" movies. The stars were producing a weekly cable show featuring crafts kids could make. The obvious theme of the show was saving money--but not for the traditional reasons: college fund, new bicycle, iPod, etc. Kids are now supposed to save money to send to the Cause of the Week, in this case victims of a tornado. Saving money for oneself was laughingly ridiculed.

The next program was animated, and I eagerly waited to see the villain's nefarious plans backfire. I must be hopelessly out-of-date. There was no clear villain, just a disagreement between characters which was solved with a negotiation session. Boring, boring, boring. This program taught that conflict is bad, compromise is good, and Negotiation Makes Everyone a Winner. At the end of my hour of kiddy TV, I felt like I'd been to church and heard only the sermon on the sin of Greed. Preachy, preachy, preachy.

After reflection, I came to a conclusion about these politically correct propaganda pieces: they are misleading, and therefore, wrong. First, it is not wrong to save money for your own purposes. It's not wrong to give your savings away, either, but you should not be compelled to "share." To be fair, the little girl in the show was following her heart in giving away her money, but the message of the show was clearly in favor of always giving away your surplus.

Secondly, there are some situations where compromise is just not possible because the issues are too important and involve moral principles. Negotiation is dandy for times when you don't agree on how to spend Friday night or which restaurant to patronize. But on issues like abortion vs. carrying the child, only one result can be chosen. And if some miscreant tries to do me harm, I'm not negotiating. Instead, I'm reaching for the nearest anvil (probably my purse) and bopping him on the head (or softer tissue more within the reach of my height-challenged arms), rather than trying to convince him of a win/win position: instead of killing me, he could get what he wants by doing me grievous bodily harm.

We do our children no favors by constantly indoctrinating them with this drivel. Baby Boomers grew up with cartoon violence, and most of us don't order explosives from ACME catalogs. We learned to share when we are faced with a compelling need, and we do, on occasion, negotiate and compromise. All the same, I think I'll stock up on Looney Tunes DVDs for my grandkids.

1 comment:

Runtiness said...

Don't forget the old-school "Sesame Street." You want the ones with the parental advisory stickers.