From Bugs Bunny to Patrick: The fall of children’s cartoons

Erick Pirayesh, Associate Editor

What’s up doc?pirayesh_erick

Certainly not Congress’s approval rating or Miley Cyrus’s image…yikes.

Obviously, America is not a perfect country. We have problems—a lot of them.

But government shutdowns be damned! We sure can entertain.

One of the best forms of entertainment  and a personal favorite of mine, are children’s cartoons. Surprised?

There’s only one little bitty problem…

Most cartoons these days are awful. The worst part, kids watching them don’t even know it.

Now, before raging armies of 6-year-olds attack me, lets review the evidence.

As any 90’s kid who’s worth his salt can tell you, when it came to cartoons, we had it good. Along with popular mainstays like “Bugs Bunny,” “Looney Tunes” and “Tom and Jerry,” all of which had been around for decades, something exciting happened in 1994.

That year a new television station was born, Cartoon Network.

What was so great about Cartoon Network was that a parent could simply turn to the appropriate channel, sit their toddler down in front of the TV, and not have to worry much about subjecting their kids to crappy, inappropriate or unhealthy viewing.

Similarly to the Disney Channel and some respects Nickelodeon, but that could be hit or miss.

Entering the early 2000’s, however, things began to change. Cartoon Network changed management and a shift in pop culture began to change the way we presented cartoon entertainment.

For one, reality TV blew up. This had an absolute affect on children’s media.

Cartoons began shifting from thought-out, age appropriate plot lines, to a crazy, random, hyperactive mish-mash of story telling.

One of the popular current shows on Cartoon Network is called “Johnny Test.” If you haven’t seen “Johnny Test,” it’s no “Scooby-Doo,” I’ll tell you that.

The title character and main protagonist Johnny is described on his Wikipedia page as spoiled and stubborn. He gets what he wants through deceit, blackmail and manipulation.

Not exactly a role model.

Another popular show that may be doing more harm than good might not be one you’d expect. Everyone’s favorite sponge under the sea has been the subject of some interesting research.

In a study conducted last year, researchers found that after immediately watching just nine minutes of “SpongeBob Squarepants,” young kids performed quite poorly on memory and problem solving tests compared to those who didn’t watch the show.

For those who have seen “SpongeBob” recently, you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s lowering test scores.

Furthermore, Angeline S. Lillard, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and one of the researchers, said that the random and unpredictable nature of the cartoon was more likely to “disrupt the ability to focus rather than strengthen it.”

Other recent shows that also offer little to no substance: “Phineas and Ferb,” “Chowder,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “Camp Lazlo,” just to name a few.

What does this all mean? That kids should do nothing but watch VHS reruns of “The Flintstones” and enjoy it?

It doesn’t take a genius to see that with all our HD TVs, iPads and Xbox’s it probably wouldn’t hurt to encourage kids to go outside a little more often.

However, when most of them do inevitably pick up that remote, monitor what they’re watching. Look up shows on the Internet to make sure they’re age appropriate and not just mindless time wasting.

To be clear, not all modern cartoons are bad. In fact, there are some real gems.

The “Avatar” series, created in 2005, airs on Nickelodeon and has received rave reviews from kids and adults. It’s become one of the most successful hand-drawn American cartoons of all time.

“Adventure Time,” debuting in 2010 on Cartoon Network, while oddly drawn, has also received critical acclaim from varying ages. However, the show is most suited for the 10 and up range.

The point is: there is hope.

Well, for our teen pop star idols and elected officials there isn’t, but hey, what can ya do? Personally, I’d recommend a Bugs and Daffy marathon paired with a delicious slice of cake, but to each his own.

As they tend to say, “that’s all folks.”