Thursday, January 31, 2013

What I Learned From Cartoons

I have spent much of my life in front of the TV. While some may diss television, I look fondly on it as my teacher, my muse. Much of what I’ve learned of the world I’ve gleaned from cartoons. Daffy Duck taught me about Messerschmitt airplanes (“A mess of Messerschmitts!”). I learned the word “atoll” from a Beanie & Cecil episode, when they sailed to “No Bikini Atoll”. Mr. Peabody and His Boy Sherman taught me all about history. I don’t remember any of it now, but I know it made sense at the time. Warner Brothers cartoons were so clever and fun. They didn’t talk down to kids. I’m pretty sure the cartoonists and voice artists had a blast going to work every day. My favorite cartoon of all time was Rocky & Bullwinkle. I was really young when I discovered it, but still understood the adult puns and jokes. I wasn’t brilliant, just maybe attuned to cartoons. I learned of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam from Rocky & Bullwinkle, only it wasn’t a Persian poem. It was a jewel-encrusted toy boat - a ruby yacht. There’s a lot of talk these days about the effect of violent TV on children. Cartoons from my childhood had all kinds of violence going on. Wiley Coyote had a gazillion ways of annihilating the Roadrunner. It makes me wonder what would be left to eat if he were successful. Characters were routinely shot or exploded, only to be whole again a moment later. I quite enjoyed seeing the different ways Bugs Bunny would destroy Yosemite Sam. Then he’d always come back for more. Nobody ever seemed to learn their lesson, and the sassy naughty ones triumphed again and again. Cartoons were my guilty pleasure, when I was too young to have a guilty pleasure. I think I’ve always expected to run across a dynamite shack, or see an anvil falling from the sky. Life imitating art? Meep meep...

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