Magic School Bus on XKCD (and Other Childhood Favorites)
I don’t read XKCD much, but I’ve liked many of the ones I’ve read.
This one in particular caught my fancy since I used to love watching The Magic School Bus and even caught an episode or two within the past year. The Magic School Bus is one of the many things I miss about being a kid, along with My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Not that all cartoons nowadays are bad (though many are), and not that all the cartoons from back in the day were great (though most were – yes, I’m being biased).
Often times, the impression imprinted in your mind from childhood is a far cry from your later opinion as an adult. Although this is to be expected to some degree, sometimes reality kind of slaps you in the face.
Case in point: The Super Mario Bros Super Show.
I know I’m not the only one to enjoy watching The Super Mario Bros Super Show as a kid. Honestly, I had only a few episodes on VHS and don’t recall watching it on TV (even though I imagine I must’ve for my mom to have bought it for me on VHS).
The show includes two real men posing as Mario & Luigi and consists of their goofy adventures as plumbers with a break of the animated version of The Super Mario Bros Super Show in between. The real life part is just as goofy and obviously-acted as I remember it being. The animated part was what I really enjoyed.
But after getting to watch The Super Mario Bros Super Show again on Netflix, it invaded my fantastic little kid’s world with the harsh reality of just how bad this show got at times.
Granted, I didn’t even watch one full episode. Almost couldn’t stand to. The show’s story and plot content was fairly dull. That wasn’t even the issue though.
If it had the most compelling story ever, it wouldn’t compensate for the sound quality being atrocious. Someone needed to re-review the volume settings throughout the movie. Super Mario Bros game sounds play loudly, almost completely drowning out the whispers of Mario, Luigi, and the other characters.
On a side note, although they had the excuse of being an older show with less technical abilities (and probably less funding), I can’t stand when shows do that!
It happens often in action films. Instead of someone in the studio regulating the volume a little better, you have a movie theater style (LOUD) volume experience.
You have it turned up to the highest volume to hear characters talk, especially when they are whispering to one another. Then the dramatic music starts to play and you try to turn it down a little without losing track of what the characters are saying. Without warning, BANG!
A huge explosion, and someone screams, someone shouts cuss words at the top of their lungs, and then you have to turn it way down – but then they start whispering again and you quickly miss what they’re saying. It has become so much easier for me to just watch captions whenever I can. Perhaps I’m just going deaf.
Back to Super Mario Bros Super Show. Or not. It is almost a punishment to have your idealistic childhood memories come falling apart. Not that Super Mario Bros Super Show is that awful. If you’ve ever watched Super Mario Bros Super Show, you, like I, likely recall certain scenes you saw in the show.
Maybe you remember many certain scenes. Those scenes are going to be virtually the same now as they were then. What changes is the memory itself, the feeling it gave you. If you were one to run home eagerly awaiting an episode of Super Mario Bros Super Show, watching it probably made you feel happy. W
atching it as an adult, with all the classic adult skepticisms, all you can think about are the issues with the volume, the story not making sense, the fact that the background (in the real life portion of the show) was obviously a stage… It doesn’t give you that feeling anymore.
Another example (of quite the opposite) is Beavis and Butthead. Beavis and Butthead was the epitome of amoral animation back in the 90s. It was probably one of the most feared shows of parents everywhere – fearful that their children would wind up watching Beavis and Butthead episodes and trying to imitate them.
I remember how my mom despised Beavis and Butthead. I wasn’t permitted to watch it. I would occasionally sneak in a few moments here and there with my sister or when I was alone, but I mostly never saw it.
Then I watched it on Netflix as an adult – suddenly the show was virtually innocent. Stupid, yes, Incredibly stupid. Clever at times actually, but primarily stupid. It’s meant to be.
This is where the adult mind steps in and compares Beavis and Butthead to shows like Family Guy and Jackass. Beavis and Butthead is completely innocent in comparison. Their behaviors are obviously dumb and generally not portrayed in a positive light.
The show purposefully portrays its main two characters as losers. Even though they get out of pretty bad situations in pretty unbelievable ways, it’s obvious that you do not want to be Beavis or Butthead.
Family Guy on the other hand doesn’t give that same aura. Think about it, in spite of being fat, literally retarded, and overall incredibly stupid and thoughtless – Peter ends up with a gorgeous and understanding wife, somehow maintains his job, and has a close circle of friends that support him through pretty much anything.
Family Guy originally was far more family-friendly, even family-oriented than it is nowadays.
You can say the same about The Simpsons. The Simpsons originally was a very family-oriented show (even though it carried a milder version of the stigma associated with Beavis and Butthead) and more touching at times than humorous.
Now they are trying to keep up with the popularity of Family Guy, American Dad, Drawn Together, and many other shows that are far more vulgar and amoral than The Simpsons has ever managed to be. It’s as though The Simpsons is stuck in some sort of space-time continuum except with morality.
Their original touching ways and mischievous Bart Simpson hijinks aren’t garnering the same viewership, so they are trying to push the envelope a little more. If they push it too much though, they’ll no longer have the classic Simpsons charm and won’t even be the same show. What to do, what to do?
You need not even get started on Jackass. This one, while not animated (and certainly not a kids’ show), is like the modern-day version of Beavis and Butthead – stupid pranks and stunts – only it’s a little more glorified in Jackass.
For some reason, it seems to have always been funny when people get hurt or hurt themselves. Just watch The Looney Tunes, or The Three Stooges. I don’t mind Jackass, but I mostly like some of the idiotic pranks more than the physical pain.
In the end, we wind up with new versions of the same core parts of shows time and again, with variances for whatever is popular at the time.
One could argue that Jackass is a non-animated version of Beavis and Butthead, which is an animated version of The Three Stooges. They all include the main characters pulling stupid stunts and causing implied physical pain to themselves and each other.
So what shows are up next in the queue? Is there going to be a new show that will make Jackass look tame? (Heaven forbid…)
Maybe I shouldn’t indulge in some of those shows from back in the day. Perhaps I, like many others, should learn to relish the memories of my childhood rather than trying to relive them by watching old shows.
The adult mind, unfortunately, has all sorts of stresses that are lacking in a child’s pure, carefree mind. Instead of trying to make children understand the ways of the world so early on, might it be better to let them develop the same sort of memories and enjoy their childhood days?
Even though kids shouldn’t watch TV (or use the computer) as much as they do anyways, maybe kids need to live their young lives as kids, so that they too can nostalgically relive their childhood memories as adults.