Re­mem­ber the car­toons of your child­hood? They were the har­bin­gers of the mod­ern world

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - PA­TRICK FREYNE

The cos­mi­cally ni­hilis­tic sci-fi com­edy Rick and Morty is back (weekly on Net­flix) and Net­flix is also pro­duc­ing a fan­tasy se­ries from Matt Groen­ing, cre­ator of

The Simp­sons. The lat­ter is the show that made car­toons for grown-ups a sta­ple of tele­vi­sion. The for­mer is the lat­est ac­claimed it­er­a­tion.

Yes, we’ve been en­joy­ing the an­i­mated worlds of Beavis and Butthead, Duck­man, The Critic, Daria (es­sen­tially the woman I mar­ried), Bob’s Burg­ers, South

Park and Bo­jack Horse­man for so long, we’ve per­haps for­got­ten the chil­dren’s car­toons that shaped us (and con­tinue to shape us, if, like me, you watch Car­toon Net­work). What dark mes­sages lurk within?

The Flint­stones and the Jet­sons

Like the book Sapi­ens by Yu­val Harari, these two car­toon se­ries doc­u­ment the as­cent of man from prim­i­tive Stone-Age times, when cars were foot pow­ered and you could mix ce­ment in the mouth of a pel­i­can with­out killing it, to a far fu­ture of fly­ing cars, robot but­lers, jobs for life, het­eronor­ma­tive fam­ily group­ings, Google Glass and talk­ing dogs. I know. It seems wacky. I was scep­ti­cal be­fore the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion but now I ac­cept that that is clearly the stupid past from whence we came and the stupid fu­ture to which we are headed.

Top Cat

One of a se­ries of car­toons about crim­i­nal an­i­mals and the hu­man race’s doomed at­tempts to po­lice them. This rogue’s gallery also in­cludes goof-ball pic-a-nic bas­ket ad­dict Yogi Bear, and cross-species sex­ual preda­tor Pepe Le Pew. Com­par­a­tively speak­ing, Top Cat is be­nign enough. He’s a sort of tramp who lives out by the bins. He is ac­com­pa­nied in his il­licit en­deav­ours by his pals Fancy-Fancy, Spook, Benny the Ball, Brain, and Choo Choo – which are, co­in­ci­den­tally, the names of your chil­dren – and thwarted by that tire­less pub­lic ser­vant Of­fi­cer Dib­ble. Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion: I of­ten sculpt my cat’s cheek fur so that she looks like Top Cat. She won’t wear a waist­coat, how­ever.

Other semi-clothed an­i­mated an­i­mals

(Okay I’m chan­nelling my in­ner My­ers for this one.) Ex­plain this liber­nazis: when I rave in­co­her­ently wear­ing noth­ing but a sailor’s shirt and hat, chil­dren weep and po­lice­men are sum­moned. But not Don­ald Duck when he an­grily rants, sans pants. Oh no. He, ap­par­ently, is a fig­ure of charm­ing hi­lar­ity in his semi-nude apoplexy.

Once again there seems to be one rule for man and another for eas­ily an­noyed an­i­mated beast. And it doesn’t stop there. There’s also Mickey Mouse, with his gloves and hot­pants combo; Yogi-Bear, with his barely garbed food lusts; and don’t even get me started on Pluto, chained and naked in a dog­house, while his species-mate Goofy wan­ders clothed and free. When I chained a naked man to my dog­house it was treated like a crime. It’s po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone mad, I tells yah.

Scrooge McDuck

He laboured away in ob­scu­rity dressed in a satin dress­ing gown, top hat and spats, hord­ing gold in the vaults of his man­sion (Gold­man Quacks?). In ret­ro­spect, he was an un­sur­pris­ing choice for com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Hard work pays. Orig­i­nally cre­ated by Ayn Rand.

Fire­man Sam

A dark al­le­gory about the nanny state. In each episode, Fire­man Sam spends his time pre­vent­ing the denizens of sea­side hellscape Pon­ty­pandy from go­ing on fire.

This is a big­ger prob­lem than usual be­cause of the moral haz­ard that comes with hav­ing a pub­licly funded fire brigade. By the rules of evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­ogy most of the feck­less res­i­dents of Pon­ty­pandy (es­pe­cially that gib­ber­ing fool Nor­man Price) would be dead long ago if not for Fire­man Sam’s mis­placed con­cern and your hard-earned tax money. The pri­vate-sec­tor re­make

Fire Con­sul­tant Sam is much more cost-ef­fec­tive.

In the in­ter­ests of bal­ance, of course, there’s also Paw Pa­trol where the emer­gency ser­vices have been out­sourced to a child busi­ness­man and a work­force of dogs (pre­sum­ably not cov­ered in cur­rent labour law). This may be tak­ing things too far. I pre­fer to dwell on the en­trepreneuri­al­ism and can-do-it-ive­ness of Bob the

Builder. Ma­nip­u­late those tax breaks, Bob!

The Moomins

An ex­cel­lent Tove Jans­son-cre­ated doc­u­men­tary about Fin­land and the Fins.

Ad­ven­ture Time

This on­go­ing tale of a small boy’s ad­ven­tures in a ter­ri­fy­ing but mag­i­cal land pro­vides my mind­scape with just the com­bi­na­tion of apoc­a­lyp­tic majesty, ukulele mu­sic and talk­ing dogs I need to get through Ir­ish Times ed­i­to­rial meet­ings.

Tom and Jerry

The hi­lar­i­ous ri­valry be­tween this pro­saically named cat and mouse gave me the un­re­al­is­tic no­tion that sur­vival in the an­i­mal king­dom was hi­lar­i­ous al­to­gether. The other day I saw a heron in the Tolka try­ing to eat a live rat. It wasn’t funny at all. Far from it.

He-Man

Orig­i­nally ti­tled The Cri­sis of Mas­culin­ity, He-Man and the

Mas­ters of the Uni­verse was the tale of a fop­pish prince who, when he held a glow­ing phal­lic sym­bol aloft and said “By the Power of Grayskull”, mag­i­cally trans­formed into the very same per­son but with bulky un­der­pants and no shirt (Hash­tag: Body pos­i­tiv­ity). (Hash­tag: your­self when you’re trolling the in­ter­net).

No one recog­nised him with his shirt off, so He-Man spent his time thwart­ing the schemes of a skull-headed project man­ager with a sur­pris­ingly mus­cley body (played by Matthew McConaughey). His name was James Skele­tor. Sorry. His name was just Skele­tor.

He-Man’s friends in­cluded both types of man: the man who was de­fined en­tirely by his job (Man at Arms); and the man who wore a sort of fe­dora and floated around be­ing fright­ened of ev­ery­thing (Orka). Oh, and his sis­ter was called She-Ra, mak­ing this pro­gramme a master class in gen­der es­sen­tial­ism.

Mr Benn

A bowler-hat wear­ing ev­ery­man drops into a magic clothes shop where he dons fancy dress and imag­ines another life (knight/ space­man/pi­rate/es­say­ist/so­cial me­dia in­flu­encer/life coach) be­fore pro­ceed­ing on his way to work. Never since has a man hav­ing a mid-life cri­sis been so en­ter­tain­ing to small chil­dren.

I was scep­ti­cal be­fore the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion but now I ac­cept that that is clearly the stupid past from whence we came and the stupid fu­ture to which we are headed

The as­cent of man: The Flint­stones

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