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|Monsters, Messiahs, Democracy and Doom - How I stopped worrying and learned to love Cartoons
|by Thom Fowler
If we could go back to 1969, the year where I slipped through into Planet Earth from some other dream, and Elvira had existed, then she would no doubt have ended up in one of those Hanna Barbera Omniverse Scooby Doos with guest stars like the Cartoon Brady Bunch - who also used to have guest stars on THEIR show that would often also star on Scooby Doo, like Wonder Woman and Batman and Robin and Superman from the Superfriends cartoon. It was pandemonium in those later years.
I ran away once, spending all Saturday at the mall. I think I was in second grade. I went with my friend, the one who’s parents would have sex in front of us on the couch. We sat in the TV department at Sears and watched cartoons. That would have been around the Superfriends, Sid and Marty Croft era. When we got hungry, we went to Alpha Beta and stole candy bars. At some point, the SWAT team was called and there was a real man hunt to find us. They “found” us after the mall closed and we were walking the 3 miles or so home. I thought we had been “caught.” It was nice to come home to hugs rather than spankings.
I remember distinctly watching Space Ghost and Schmoo that morning.
The Superfriends never brought Velma or Marcia Brady into their world. Saving the planet was far too serious for Marcia and Jan’s "Brains vs. Brawn" debate. Which Wonder Woman settled once and for all by saying, "Brains AND Brawn" and then kicking some ass. The Superfriends didn't need a rating boost from a bunch of lip-syncing kids or a Stoner and his Hound. But oh, did those Brady six need the occassional visit from Aquaman. And when there was a real emergency, mere humans would just get in the way, seeing as they are the ones always being rescued. So entertaining outsiders in the Hall of Justice was just a practical impossibility and could even prove to be dangerous to the welfare of all humankind.
The Superfriends were an inter-galactic, inter-racial, inter-species special forces unit who came together willingly for the beneficence of Planet Earth. How did we get so lucky? They fought nature as well as super-villains to protect earth and its inhabitants. They loved us all equally, and never suffered from petty squabbles like the X-men. They just banded together, distributed the work load and did what needed to be done. There’s a lot of lesson in that for being a cartoon.
I learned everything about the world from Church and Cartoons and both had equal validity for me. Bugs Bunny was the 13th disciple as far as I was concerned. All those stories you are told when you are young become your myth of the world. I can’t think what I’d be like if my imagination wasn’t shaped by HR Puffenstuff, Pippi Longstocking and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
Wonder Woman was the Athenian ideal that still lives with us today in the public school system, in case you ever wondered why PE is a required course. I was told this once after one my many rantings about how stupid PE was and why did I have to participate.
I hated PE, for a homo like me, that’s where all the evil starts, in the boys locker room. I managed to fail PE quite often because I wouldn’t dress out (the institutionalized torture of queer youth). I ended up working my lunch hour in the school cafeteria for two and half years. I used the opportunity to feed all my stoner, skater, punk rock, heavy metal friends – I was the lunch program for all the outcasts and losers and if I needed a few bucks for a weekend acid trip, I’d just dip into the drawer.
Isn't it weird how Wonder Woman, an Athenian demi-goddess, later became a fashion model champion of America. Like, if the Norwegians invented Wonder Woman, what would her costume look like?
COULD a Norwegian have invented Wonder Woman? Do the Norwegians ever feel so threatened and unstable they need a superhero to feed their sense of security. My friend loves Wonder Woman. Her cubicle is packed with Wonderwoman the comic and Linda Carter Wonder Woman paraphenalia. She even decorated her Christmas tree with Wonder Woman ornaments. I happily fueled her obsession by buying some cheesy WW ornaments from the much missed Uncle Mame's Novelty Shop in the Castro District of San Francisco.
I used to watch the TV show a lot, but I don’t read the comic book much. I watched all those superhero shows. The Hulk, Amazing Spider-man, Wonder Woman, Dukes of Hazzard. And people always take me for a naysayer of pop culture. Far too erudite and learned for my own good. I know where I came from and not I’m ashamed to admit it. I didn’t grow up with college professors and artists. I grew up with KTLA. Just because I read Eco and Baudrillard doesn’t mean I stopped loving pop culture. Far from thinking pop-culture is all about trivial novelties diverting our attention from “real” life, I think it is a mythic filter where we turn “real” life into stories that we know how to deal with. This is where I’m supposed to talk about the Heroines Journey and Joseph Campbell, but its just too obvious.
The heroes of our culture, Eminem, Kid Rock, the cast of Friends, are heroes for a reason. They are speaking to us in the way we like to be spoken to. With style, with cadence, with personality. They are narrative performers and their words, topics and themes do address the desires, manufactured or otherwise, of our culture. I was trained to complain about this in very specific way, encoded in a vocabulary inaccessible to anyone but the studied. And then, so what? I didn’t publish for academia, I went to Hollywood. Because I know how important those stories are to people, like treasures and their relevance is much greater then say, Dante.
It used to be we’d have “high” culture and “pop” culture. I like this new “No-brow” culture where everything has validity as a product. Where there is no distinction between the importance of Wagner and Caspar the Friendly Ghost (a not so thinly disguised essay on racism).
I feel like I’m just telling everyone what you already know. We are far more fluid in our tastes, those of us who think performance and narrative are important to not only produce, but consume, then we are supposed to be. We either go to the Opera, or to the Roadhouse. T.S. Eliot wrote about the importance of pop-culture back in his day. He was a modernist. I have the unfortunate distinction of being a post-modernist.
I would certainly say I’m post-gay. And if I were a woman, I’d be post-feminist. I pretend like the bubble of privilege I live in, where I am allowed to be just what I am, is what the whole world is like. I figure if I just start living without all those dividing lines now, then other people will eventually catch on and something like “Gay Marriage” won’t even be an issue. We’ll wonder why it took us so long to just get over it. It’ll happen, even if religious fundamentalists go about screaming that it hearkens the end of the world. It harkens the end of THEIR world, for sure. But so what, I’m not here to protect anyone’s treasured traditional beliefs. I’m here to pioneer a new world and carry on the western bohemian tradition, the Romantics and their response to Industrialism, The Transcendentalists, the Beats, the 60’s Counterculturalists and now, me, and you and all the people like us who aren’t the dangerous freaks that some people think.
We’re the Justice League of America – coming together willfully for the beneficence of all. A concern for the future, for our health, for the health of others, these are bad things? A desire for others to attain happiness, to feel free and unrestrained, to live the principals of Democracy. How can this be dangerous?
If you tire of the secret inner workings of my mind, as I so often do, head on over to the Shoot and read about my trip to the Playboy Mansion. Larry Flynt AND Hugh Hefner in the same week. Also a visit with Bruce McColloch from The Kids In The Hall and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants.
My new stuff goes up every Friday. It's all happening right under your nose. Be There or Be Square, Daddio.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=601
originally posted: 07/22/02 12:04:29
last updated: 07/23/02 04:59:00