I was talking to Renata the other night on Facebook. She asked me what I thought of the GI Joe movie and we started talking about the exhumation of our childhood favorites. She said that she was boycotting them until they actually exhumed something for girls rather than just playing to the Peter Pans. She was thinking of Jem in particular. I commented that I hadn’t thought of Jem in forever but then corrected myself when I realized that she popped into my mind when I was introduced to Hannah Montana and thought “A singer with a secret identity… like Jem.” She did not appreciate the connection since Jem was a do-gooder but Hannah is the latest pump-and-dump adolescent female property.
She brought up an interesgting point, though. I wonder why they haven’t resurrected any of the female properties. Having grown up in an 80% male household, I don’t even know what (other than Jem) they’re failing to produce, but I assume that there exists something. Guys are not generally more prone to nostalgia, I don’t think. Maybe it’s because the producers and whatnot are mostly men so they’re more likely to make the movies that they dreamed of when they were younger? If so, I’m still waiting for my Thundercats.
In preparation for watching the GI Joe movie, I started watching some of the old cartoons that used to come on right after Thundercats which came on right after I got home from school. The cartoons were… not what I remembered. I specifically watched two two-part stories that have remained in my mind all of these years. What I remember as epic 9-part tales of action, characterization, and intrigue were actually rather shallow. One was pretty blatantly ripped off a movie and the other was… well it was there. They weren’t bad, of course, but they were so much better when I was ten.
I still haven’t seen the Transformers movies. I was never big into Transformers. I thought Go-Bots had a cooler backstory (albeit the toys were not nearly as cool). Some of my friends swear by it. Maybe I’ll check it out to see if it confirms something I’ve noticed… which is that cartoons have gotten ridiculously better than they were. When I’m at my folks house flipping through, I sometimes catch the stuff expressly aimed at kids and find it, if not gripping, something to pass the commercial breaks with. I think they may have figured out a zen to making entertainment aimed at kids more palatable to adults. But not in the way the cheap ways that entertainment can be made more grown-up. They’re just these clever bits that seem totally and utterly absent from GI Joe. It’s got me a little scared to go back and watch any Thundercats for fear that my memories of that awesome (and epic!) mythology will turn out to be mundane.
I don’t have that question about He-Man. Even what I remember of it was awful. A couple years ago I ran into a remake that didn’t seem to totally suck and thought to myself “Hey, it’s like He-Man with story… oh wait, it is He-Man!” A few weeks ago I ran across an list of 11 Disappointments About He-Man, In Retrospect. It discusses how of all the shows designed to sell toys it was by far the most transparent with interesting factoids on how Mattel brought it together. I found the closing, though, to be particularly insightful:
Now… with all this being said, you’d think I was down on “He-Man”. But I’m not. Not in the least. I still have incredibly strong memories of the show and the toys. Writing this blog entry made me feel nostalgic, not jaded or angry or deceived.
Because, in spite of everything above, “He-Man” transcended its sellout roots to become a legitimate cultural phenomenon. And one I’m really happy to have been a part of.
If a generation grows up believing that dogfood is actually delicious, does that make it delicious? Does the fakeness of He-Man revealed make it any less genuine, in the end? Granted, it sort of comes up with I think of what from the old days to
ram down the throats of show my future children. I’m reminded of something I read recently about some old Trek fans trying to introduce their kids to the original Star Trek which did not hold up well. Or rather, whatever plot there had been was overshadowed by the crappy effects. Even if He-Man were Shakespeare on script, the animation by today’s standards would be too detracting to notice.
Back to GI Joe for a moment, I have a sort of dissonance as I try to reconcile the episodes as I remember them and the ones that I just watched. Can I reinsert the intrigue that was noticeably absent in “There’s No Place Like Springfield” into my memories of it? Can I unremember the mediocrity of World Without End and instead take my mind back to the epic tale I had remembered? Does this mean that I should never, ever watch Thundercats again?
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