The Decline of Cartoons

Maybe I’m just easily annoyed. Most cartoons don’t thrill or entertain me at all. Some might say it’s because I’m nearing 30. I’d beg to differ.

In my day (yeah, I said it), there weren’t kiddie reality shows or a near proliferation of cartoons fixated on saving the world from aliens. When Saturday came, in my younger years, I rushed to watch the Smurfs, the Littles, Scooby Doo and, of course Bugs Bunny and friends. But the cartoon landscape has been transformed – and not for the better.

Bugs has been replaced by a reprehensible facsimile called “Buzz Bunny.” Warner Brothers felt the need to jump on the galactic warrior bandwagon. According to the Associated Press, he and the likes of Wile E. Coyote have been refashioned into superheroes and put in the year 2772. They’ll be featured in Loonatics Unleashed, which debuted in September.

Bugs, who has commented on our World War II enemies and even become a drag queen when necessary (without ticking off the Religious Right), has joined the legion of “modern” cartoons, including Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon. But the newer cartoons seem to be more about product placement than pure enjoyment and abandon.

Yes, Bugs and the Smurfs didn’t shy away from commercialization. But, at least, they had a simple message that its young viewers could use. Bugs found humor in being pursued by that noble hunter known as Elmer Fudd. He also got a laugh out of thwarting Fudd’s plans. The Smurfs showcased how they lived a harmonious life. What useful lessons are the new cartoons imparting? Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh seem to have only to succeeded in teaching today’s youth how to play cards.

Even that skill isn’t universally beneficial. It’s most likely you’ll never hear any poker player say this: “I’ll raise your Right Leg of the Forbidden One.” (That’s a Yu-Gi-Oh card, by the way.)

No longer are cartoons based on simple premises. The Smurfs just wanted to stay under Gargamel and Azriel’s radar. Bugs spent a lot of his time trying to stay out of Elmer Fudd’s sight. But now, they’re based on convoluted plots by extraterrestrial beings to take over the world or capturing some magic wand of sorts. But old cartoons like Alvin and the Chipmunks taught realistic life lessons with obviously fictional storylines.

Nowhere but on a cartoon could chipmunks become singing sensations. But nowhere but cartoons of yesteryear, would cartoons deal with social issues. I still remember watching an “Alvin and the Chipmunks” episode about the Berlin Wall’s effect. To a young kid, it drove home what it’s like to be divided and how I lucky I was to live in the United States. It was the first image that sprang to mind in 1989, when I watched the Wall fell.

But cartoons don’t seem to do that anymore. That’s because the grandchildren of the baby boomers are a coddled generation. Many parents have decided to protect their children from reality. I suppose it makes it easier for those parents to hide from much of it themselves.

Cartoons shouldn’t be overrun with reality, but not be devoid of it. While animated sitcoms (The Simpsons, South Park) has been successful, they’re just the not the same. The cartoons I remember defied reality just enough to be an escape. Watching cartoon characters complain about their boss or the president brings a little too much reality to the table.

Will the real Bugs Bunny please stand up? I want to hear you say: “I’m mad as hell, doc, and I’m going to take it anymore.”

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