I watch an awful lot of old cartoons. It isn’t a case of pining for a childhood that is drifting further and further into the past. I don’t have nostalgia for it and really don’t think about it very much. I watch old cartoons because I still enjoy them. Forget the past. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are funny today. So are Rocky and Bullwinkle. And so are Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound. If they weren’t funny, I’d find something else to do with my time.
Mike Redmond of Indianapolis Star mused about childhood, cartoons and the present in his column of May 9, 1998. He notes his mother’s opinion of cartoons. Mine was much the same, though I think she approved of Tom Terrific. She was annoyed at my delight in Daws Butler’s verbal wordplay. My father had to explain to her I said the word “sheeps” because it came from a cartoon and I wasn’t being serious (Daws used it in both the Quick Draw and Huck series, if I recall).
Here’s what Mr. Redmond had to say. See if you agree with him.
I took some time off, thinking I could get some things done around the house. Also, I had been a sustained bad mood, and staying away from the office for a few days was the least I could do for my co-workers.
So I made plans. Good ones, too. I was going to take care of a little business, do a few chores, work in the garden. That first morning of vacation, I turned on the TV to see if the world had blown up overnight (it hadn't), and accidentally punched into the remote control a number that only a day before had been the Static Channel. This time, though, instead of snow and noise, the television was giving me picture and sound, and the picture and sound were of Quick Draw McGraw.
Oh, happy day! The cable system upgrade had finally reached my neighborhood, and with it came the Cartoon Network.
So much for getting some things done around the house. I sat down to watch, and the next thing I knew it was four days later and I had to go back to work.
Now, I probably wouldn't have been so whacked out had I not stumbled into a Quick Draw cartoon. Of all the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, Quick Draw is my favorite. And this wasn't just any Quick Draw cartoon, either, in this one, he was fighting crime as his masked alter ego, El Kabong. To a Quick Draw fan, El Kabong is one of the great characters in the history of Kid TV.
El Kabonging the mind
Since history is serious, grown-up, educational-type stuff, I was more or less obligated to watch, in order to better understand El Kabong's impact on 20th Century American Culture. That's what I decided to tell Mom, anyway, if she called.
Now that I am in my alleged adulthood, I can see how Mom might have been right. What might I have done with my life had I not spent so much of it in front of the TV, zoned out and mouth-breathing, watching cartoons?
Oh, well. Can I help it if I grew up in the Golden Age of Kid TV, when the cartoons were good?
I don't watch today's cartoons much. They just don't compare to the old reliables. Oh, there are a couple of good ones – Pinky and the Brian comes to mind – but for the most part they all look about the same to me: On every show, evil aliens from the Planet Gorgonzola to take over the Earth, and the good guys stop them.
Ridiculous. (Unlike, say, a show about a horse who walks on his hind legs, wears a 10-gallon hat and a six-shooter, talks like Red Skelton and occasionally dresses up as a masked avenger who hits people over the head with a guitar.)
What I like about the old cartoons is that they are goofy for the sake of being goofy. They're intended to be funny, and that's it. I don't know about you guys, but these days I need all the funny I can get.
So while it may have been silly to waste four days watching stuff that can turn your brain to mush, I can also say I came back to work considerably less grouchy than when I left. Cartoons are probably the reason why. I think that ought to count for something.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I am going home. I feel another bad mood coming on and it's almost time for Huckleberry Hound.