Geek Dad Report: The Importance Of Saturday Morning Cartoons
I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, what I believe was the greatest time to be a kid who loved Saturday morning cartoons. Man did we get the good stuff. We had GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duck Tales, and that was just the tip of the 1980’s iceberg. The Networks were putting out as many new franchises as fast as they could hoping that anyone of them would be the next big thing. The 90’s brought us the next wave of great Saturday morning awesomeness in the form of superheroes. We got some of the greatest cartoons ever made with Batman, Superman, and my personal favorite Captain Planet……just kidding. Sorry to anyone who loved that show, but even my 12 year old self knew that Captain Planet couldn’t hold his own in a fight against any real superhero. No, my personal favorite cartoon of the 1990’s had to be the X-Men. It changed the way I thought about cartoons. X-Men was the first cartoon I had ever seen that tended to have real messages behind the animation. It showed things like persecution, intolerance, hatred of a race of people because they where different. But even more than that it showed people rising above those ideas, embracing the different, and standing up for what was right. These where all very adult things that helped shape the ideas and beliefs of the future me. It wasn’t just X-Men though, most cartoons in truth held some form of positive message of good overcoming evil, always doing the right thing, valuing friendship, and the power of believing in yourself. All good messages for a kid that grew up with a sometimes very difficult life. I won’t say that cartoons made me the man I am today, but they definitely helped point me in the right direction.
Not surprisingly I still watch cartoons to this day. After all, why give up something that has been such a big influence on your life. I mean, some of my best memories came from watching those fantastic animated adventures. Watching Ninja Turtles with my brothers and then fighting over who got to be Michelangelo or Leonardo, arguing over whether DarkWing Duck could beat Gizmo Duck in a straight up fight, and of course all having to consul each other when Optimus Prime was killed saving the Autobots. I still can’t believe they did that, Hot Rod was never as good…..never. That aside, cartoons will always be a big part of my life especially now that I’m a parent. I will always remember the day my oldest daughter came into the living room crawled up into my lap and pointed to the screen and said “who’s that girl daddy….she is sooo awesome”. I had been watching Justice League Unlimited, and Wonder Woman was in the process of kicking someones butt. That small glimpse of the Amazon Princess was all it had taken and my daughter had been sucked into the same world of animated heroes that I had been transported to all those years earlier, and I couldn’t have been happier. Gone were the days of Yo Gabba Gabba and Wonder Pets, they had now been replaced by the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beware the Batman, and Avengers Assemble. I knew the impact these kind of cartoons had had on me growing up and I was more than happy to be with her as she started to make those same great memories, and learn the same important lessons. There is nothing greater than watching your child embrace your same passions and learn the same ideas that you value, other than maybe getting to go through it with them. My daughter and I now have open conversations about why bad guys do bad things and how they need to be nicer, about how Batman needs to save people cause that’s what heroes do, and of course why Wonder Woman fights in her underwear (that’s a conversation for another time). Needless to say, cartoons have become our special time together, and “Daddy can we watch” has become what I look forward to her asking everyday.
Now I know Saturday mornings aren’t what they used to be anymore. With networks dedicated to 24 hour cartoon showings and the invention of DVRs, there is little reason to wake up at 6am on your day off to go watch cartoons. But that is the beauty of Saturday morning cartoons, its not really about a day, or a time. Its about getting to go somewhere for a half hour where you can get lost in a place where turtles can be ninja’s, or a man with a red cape can fly. Cartoons are about always being a kid and believing that the impossible is possible, and just possibly learning an important lesson along the way. Now that I’m a parent though, Saturday morning cartoons are about even more. For me it’s now about making lifelong memories with my children and passing on a love of something that they can pass on to their children. Its about bonding over our love of something that inspires us, teaches us, and makes us believe in something fantastic. But most of all its about the fact that my wife and I both work full time jobs, and like most working parents it can become way too easy to get caught in day to day life and forget that sometimes it’s the thirty minutes spent with dad or mom watching their favorite cartoon that my kids will remember most. That’s why Saturday morning Cartoons are so important, it’s a reminder to me that sometimes what I’m doing doesn’t matter as much as spending time with my children and making some new memories. So next time you walk by your kid sitting in front of the TV take my advice, sit down next to them and ask what cartoon they’re watching. You might be surprised at how important that moment could be.