Last week, Doug Kern on Tech Central Station noted that kids’ cartoons had been “wussified” in the 1970s, and I didn’t disagree.
“Super Friends,” they called them, instead of the Justice League. The difference tells you everything you need to know about the seventies.
It didn’t end with cartoons or the 1970s, of course. Don’t tell me that THE A-TEAM wouldn’t have been the beat-all if some (any) bad guys would have actually been injured in action. The closest we got to a battlefield injury during the three thousand full-auto, frag-grenading, homemade-bombing firefights was B.A. Baracas nearly suffering a lower-back injury due to all that gold hanging from his neck like a Midas-ized albatross.
Not that I’m suggesting SAVING PRIVATE RYAN on the Saturday morning tele, but isn’t there a happy medium in there somewhere? One that tells good stories, shows that actions have consequences, and teaches young viewers that fighting for what you believe in isn’t easy or carefree?
The reason I bring this up is that the second season of JUSTICE LEAGUE just concluded on Cartoon Network, and SUPERFRIENDS it ain’t.
When I first taped a few episodes for my kids, ages 8 and 5 at the time, I was afraid that it was a little TOO violent. If anything, we’re overprotective of our kids’ viewing habits, and as much as I wanted them to enjoy the characters and adventures that I had loved as a kid, I wasn’t positive that these cartoons were the best way to do it. In the end, JUSTICE LEAGUE and SUPERMAN were in, while the BATMAN cartoon was out after a few episodes.
For cartoons, these shows are excellent. This isn’t some imported, ground-breaking anime and it isn’t some artsy message-heavy, new age mumbo-jumbo. These are just good old adventures. The writing is pretty good, and the animation is better-than-average in my humble opinion, though I’m not really informed enough to know.
The heroes are actually heroes. They aren’t cardboard cut-out caricatures of archetypes, but neither are they the navel-gazing anti-heroes that are so popular these days. (BATMAN, for what it’s worth, is also a very good series. It was just too dark and gritty for my kids. Which is a bummer, because I enjoy watching these cartoons with them and wanted to see the Dark Knight in action. He’s in the Justice League, but everyone who knows anything knows he’s not the same in a team environment.)
These heroes fight for justice. They fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. They fight for each other.
In other words, as opposed to so many who claim or are given the title these days, these heroes are actually heroes.
(And yes, I know what Andy Rooney said about our soldiers. This post isn’t about Iraq, or the war, or politics. Don’t comment or email about this post regarding those subjects. Thanks.)
Kids (and, ahem, adults) could do a lot worse these days than watch the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon. Yes, this past weekend was the season finale, but Cartoon Network replays these things into the ground. Check them out if so inclined.
The three-part “Starcrossed” story which concluded this season was just plain good. And it gets credit for not taking the Hollywood ending approach to a very difficult situation regarding one of the characters. No one died, but this is tough stuff. And though my daughter was disappointed, I think she might benefit from a more realistic, if still kid-friendly, portrayal of what things are all about.
The Justice League is going to be revamped for next season. If you watch “Starcrossed”, you’ll realize that they have no choice but to revamp. There are going to be many more characters, including a couple of my personal favorites. I hope that the top-notch storylines and personal subplots aren’t lost in such a large cast, but it appears that most of the additions will be guest-stars, something the first two seasons of the series already had in plenty. It will be everyone’s loss if this excellent series sells out.
(By the way — Andy Rooney is wrong.)