Ah, Saturday morning – the most anticipated time for any child (only rivaled by Christmas). Why are Saturdays awesome, you may ask? Because that’s when you could hang out and watch all the cartoons you could have ever wanted without school cutting into your time. And I, among many others, would say that cartoons, for the most part, suck today compared to what they were when we were kids.
For one thing, I haven’t seen anything that could hold up to Rugrats. I swear to God, I would watch Rugrats everyday. Who didn’t want to be Tommy Pickles, busting out of the tiny prison known as a playpen and leading a crew of babies into the great unknown, which usually meant a backyard. But man, they were the most creative one-year-olds out there. Everything they saw became such an integral part of their fun, and I loved it because it made me want to be creative too. I cannot count the amount of times as a kid that I tried to invent some crazy invention like Stu Pickles. It was one of those cartoons that reached you on a real level that still resonates with me today.
Another solid cartoon was Hey, Arnold! I have no idea what sort of freakish nuclear accident happened to give Arnold that head but man was he cool. I mean, look at the stuff he had: awesome flip-out couch built into his wall, a pet pig named Abner, and a grandpa who punched Hitler. He was what I aspired to be when I grew up. It also doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack fit the show perfectly. I was never a fan of jazz, and I’m still not all that into it, but it just captured every moment perfectly, and I don’t think anything else would have done.
He even showed me how awkward and painful it would be to get rejected. When Lila claimed she “liked him, not liked him liked him,” it cut to the bone. And when we learned that his parents died, I may or may not have cried a little bit. I just identified with him that much. I’m not the only one who feels this way about the show either. A friend of mine owns the entire series, while another took his dedication so far as to get a tattoo of Gerald, Arnold’s best friend, on his arm.
But how can a discussion of childhood cartoons be complete without the anime invasion of the late nineties. There was no sane boy in third grade who was not interested in Pokemon and Dragonball Z, because nothing says healthy childhood like obsessing over trading cards. Every Saturday at 9 a.m., I was glued to the TV to watch the next exploits of Ash, Misty and Brock as they tried to catch all 150 Pokémon, which I feel is just the right number. Everyone I know even tried to create their own Pokémon.
But Dragonball Z was where it really was. That’s what all the cool older kids watched. Sure, half the time, characters would only yell at each other for an entire episode before anything happened, and the plot got confusing to a 10-year-old, but those fights were amazing. Everyone dreamed that one day they would find out they were some awesome karate master and defend the Earth from aliens who were also karate masters for some reason. Everyone would also fight with each other in real life over who had the sickest special attack from a buzz saw made of pure energy to a blast that could destroy a planet but took about three episodes to charge up.
Overall, cartoons were and will be a huge part of not only my childhood, but everyone’s. They allowed us to see a whole new world of possibilities within a 30-minute timespan and took our mind off of whatever problems we had. We had our favorite characters and heroes and that’s all we needed. And, to an extent, we will always need them to remind us of better times. So you can expect me to pop in Hey, Arnold! and just let the good times roll this weekend.
By John Burgermeister