Have today's cartoons lost their morals?

It is with somber spirits that I bring to you my first article here at The Geek Generation.  Yes, my countenance has fallen because the state of cartoons in this nation has gone from a beautiful flowery garden to a desolate wasteland of empty merriment.

Perhaps you are wondering what I am talking about.  Well, have you seen anything on Nickelodeon lately?  Now, I am the first to admit that I am SpongeBob’s biggest fan, but as I was watching my favorite show the other day, I realized there is no longer much value in it.  It was full of cheap laughs and catchy songs, that’s about it.  And, being quite the cartoon aficionado if I do say myself, most of the other cartoons I habitually find myself viewing are indeed the same.

What happened to the good old days when cartoons had good morals, even if they were littered with hyperbolic violence?  Example: Tom and Jerry.   Sure, this cat and mouse duo were often out to get each other, but think about how many times they cast their problems aside for the greater good–often to get back at that ubiquitous bulldog, Spike (the one that seemed to be around every corner), that gave Tom a few more nightmares than Jerry.  And think, sometimes Jerry would even team up with Spike in order to put a few over on Tom.   Although innately vicious, the show had good morals bringing cats, dogs, and mice together; that is tolerance folks!

And further, what happened to cartoons like Doug and Hey Arnold?  You know, the shows where there was a kid that had realistic problems and needed help from the community around him?  Think about the Hey Arnold episodes with “Stoop Kid” and “Pigeon Man.”  The Football Head was there to help them both with their problems.  He really cared about other individuals and wanted to see them succeed.  He spent most of his time advocating for his rights—as a child—with civil disobedience and discussion, not with violence and crude humor.  He brought communities together with huge projects like cleaning up a littered vacant lot and protecting an ancient tree in downtown Manhattan.  And Doug, often having to think on his feet and seek advice from his father and wacky neighbor.  In shows like these, there were moral dilemmas and good, solid answers. (Remember when Doug and Larry buried the hatchet and didn’t want to fight so they staged it in the A/V room?)  And talk about tolerance!  Doug had friends that gave the song, “Red and Yellow, Black or White, They are Precious in His Sight” a new definition.

I guess what we’re lacking nowadays are solid themes.  Maybe my view on Tom and Jerry is a stretch, but admit it, it got you thinking.  When I consider cartoons I want to see something more than funny, I want to see something that is intellectually entertaining; it is not often we find that on the tube anymore.  Sure, sometimes Family Guy or South Park provide some nice satirical comedy, but it is so offensive that many are not willing to watch those shows (myself included).  Furthermore, those shows aren’t for children, they are for adults; and, I am willing to bet that most of the instances providing social commentary breeze right over quite a few people’s heads.

I guess I can say that I remember the good old days, when cartoons had solid themes and presented problem solving skills all masked in a jovial setting.  After seeing what cartoons (and especially children’s entertainment—iCarly anyone?) have become, I don’t have much hope for my child’s cartoon future.  So, I am going to stock up on those Looney Tunes DVDs while I can, and download as many seasons of Ahhh! Real Monsters as possible, because I want my kid to be able to say, “I watched the good stuff.”

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Timm F

Timm is married with a beautiful wife who has a bun in the oven. He teaches high school English and enjoys children's television and golf a little more than he would like to admit.

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4 comments

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  • I miss me some Quailman.

    And even further still, in the lacking of morals through cartoons…
    What about Captain Planet? Sure we all make fun of the cartoon, and that poor sob with “heart ring”, but honestly… it taught kids that people who pollute the planet are the BAD GUYS.

    Nice article Tim!

  • I miss Animaniacs. Hilarious AND educational.

    Then there’s the classic 80’s shows like He-Man and Thundercats which had the most blatant moral lessons ever. They’d even recap exactly what the lesson was at the very end.