Ah, cartoons. The stuff of childhood. From Saturday mornings spent slurping chicken-noodle soup (I wasn’t one to have conventional breakfasts) and watching Scooby-Doo re-runs, to weeknights anxiously awaiting the latest episode of Doug, and everything in between. I was a child of the 90s, and as anyone who was there may recall, Nickelodeon in the 90s was the best. Sure, Cartoon Network had its gems, but to me, nothing beat Nickelodeon. After all, Nickelodeon was home to my all-time favorite cartoon: Rugrats.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started watching Rugrats. All I know is that I immediately became obsessed with the Rugrat gang’s lovable antics. Everyone loved Rugrats; those that claim otherwise, surely have no soul. Furthermore, there was at least one Rugrat with whom everyone could relate. There was Tommy Pickles, the leader of the pack, whose diaper doubled as a tool-belt of sorts. Then there was Chucky Finster, the red-headed sidekick, who was afraid of just about everything but his own shadow; Phil and Lil Deville, who, for boy-girl fraternal twins, looked frighteningly identical; and of course, Angelica Pickles, Tommy’s pampered cousin, who frequently terrorizes the gang.
Now, I don’t know about you, darling readers, but in my neighborhood, everyone tuned into Rugrats. My next door neighbor, lucky fella, had a mural of Tommy and friends on his bedroom wall. But something about these characters resonated not only with children but also many adults who also found something to love. My Aunt was a not-so-closeted Rugrats watcher. When they started coming out on VHS, it was my dear Aunt who presented me with what would become the first of many bright-orange video tapes.
What’s more, there was an episode for seemingly every holiday. Sure, they had the requisite Halloween episode, and a Thanksgiving special. But unlike other series, they cast a much wider net: Kwanza, Chanukah, and, my personal favorite, Passover. Told by Tommy’s Eastern European Grandpa Boris in a thick Yiddish accent, the story of Passover is reimagined to suit a toddler’s understanding of Judaism. In fact, until I actually started Hebrew school, my understanding of the Jewish holidays came by and large from Rugrats. Sad, but true.
Every once in a great while, I’ll break out those frighteningly orange VHS tapes and watch and remember….and okay, mourn the fact that Nickelodeon has essentially gone to Hell in the last 10 years. Still, I have found that Rugrats, unlike many other cartoons that I love, is as wonderful now as it was when I was seven-years-old. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious all the time, and I think as we move away from childhood, we forget that it’s okay to be silly and carefree. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get reacquainted with my inner Rugrat.
By Jen Weiss