The death of a ritual – natural cultural progression or a disability for generations to come?
Something happened last weekend. Maybe you noticed. Maybe you just didn’t care.
Saturday morning cartoons died, marking the end of an era and ushering in something else.
For marketers, it’s the day of closing up shop on a revenue stream in these days of “Me first,” and “I want it this way, and I want it now” which has been reduced to a trickle, a revenue stream increasingly hard to measure in terms of efficacy. And isn’t that what this me-centered world is about? Numbers and performance and growth hitting forecasted milestones, making every executive nod in contentment because goals were met?
For families, it’s the end of sitting enraptured, eyes glazed over at the crazy animations playing out before you as milk dried on your chin and your pajamas grew the tiniest bit sweaty. It’s the end of the precious snatches of time as you hunkered next to a sibling enjoying your weekly ceasefire on life. Cartoons had the magic to pause the world, to make things better. Cartoons you had to wait for weren’t like Christmas every day, Amazon Prime dropping off packages at any hour you desire. You had to bide your days for the reward, you had to work for those cartoons; it’s why they were so glorious.
It’s the end of uninterrupted times of silence, of a child doing one activity at a time, when parents were the only ones who multitasked; you couldn’t put a price on that. Besides infusing our child’s brain with much needed levity, weekend cartoons taught us patience, the ability to meet society halfway. Yes, we would sit through the commercials to see more of Wile E. Coyote. Yes, advertisers were so considerate as to give us bathroom and snack breaks. Cartoons taught us the ability to compromise. My older sibling wanted to watch He-Man and that was fine, as long as we followed it up with Woody Woodpecker.
Beyond taking these life lessons away, the abolishment of Saturday morning cartoons also means we are teaching this generation to be self-serving, self-focused — that demanding a more customized world right now is okay.
It’s the earth in the center amidst a crazy astronomic reordering. It’s not okay. Parents want to give their kids everything, believing serving it up ASAP, delivering it their child’s way, is the right way. And we wonder about behavior problems?
The death of Saturday morning cartoons heralds the embrace of a generation taught to allow their gazes to flit across multiple screens at once, to turn a child’s mind off as quickly as they turn it on, to train young brains to not pay attention to something not personally stimulating to them. This demise encourages less interaction with valuable and still moments, and eliminates true engagement with one subject. It defies the need people have, children have, to take it down a notch and kick back, it equals the opposite of relaxation.
Today, vacations are taken with wi-fi connections activated so work can get done, or people can at least “check in.” Work-life balance has become more about squeezing more work in, production has morphed to mean the measurement of everything, and the intangible benefits of waiting to speak to a person, or face-to-face contact with cell phones strictly turned off, are deemed too unimportant.
When we ferry our kids around on the way to the cabin, to the Grand Canyon, goodness knows we don’t actually want to speak to them, to use the time to sing terrible songs together punctuated with silly giggles, or to gain priceless insight into their young minds. No, parenting is hard and kids must be active all the time, and quiet moments, rare solitude, needs to be filled with inane chatter. A Blueray in the car, an iPad on a 3-year old’s lap, and when all else fails we hand them our coveted cell phone to ensure their concentration is never broken by a thought of their own. We wonder why children can’t pay attention.
They are groomed to have short attention spans. We wonder why our kids are so demanding, when we were taught to be patient and wait, you didn’t always get what you wanted, when you wanted it.
We puzzle over rude, demanding, disrespectful behavior, believing we are giving our children a voice and hoping it teaches them they are valuable. The slaying of Saturday morning cartoons puts the seal of approval on our self-focused lifestyles.
To me, this is sad, this is the final acceptance of a world gone upside down, a world where the pockets of quiet time we are supposed to reach for and appreciate become rarer and more foreign every day. Now all we have are memories of those mornings when our parents slept in after a long week of school and work, memories of times stolen with a sibling and attention undivided on a person or thing. We have memories of shared laughter at the same joke versus one gag playing on Netflix that one child is watching, and another playing out on a handheld device that another one is glued to, and no shared experiences between the two. We have the education of anti-social behavior, of separatism.
Worse, we are teaching this next generation, fittingly dubbed the “Me Generation,” we approve of it all. All the self-centered and unacceptable behavior we try to solve as parents, that we read blogs and research solutions for, well, we tacitly approve of it all. We do it while we endorse the grandiosity of children’s opinions, validating they are the hub others must rotate around, so it is okay for their opinions to hold a greater weight than anyone else. Sometimes, they just want to be kids, they just want a schedule engendering security, they wish parent’s would call the shots a little more.
In some dusty recess of my mind, I start my own show, a flashback to about ten years ago when all my children crammed onto the same couch with me as we watched Tom and Jerry or Muppet Babies, cereal bowls hovering under our chins and milky laughter spilling out.
These are memories we speak of now. “Mom, what did I like to watch when I was a child?” In other words, were you paying attention to me?
I can still recall the calm essence in the air, the sweet scent of pajama’ed kiddos and strawberry shampoo, feel the silky head of my daughter on the arm I had tucked around her shoulder, see my kids’ eyes lighting up at ridiculous, age-worthy humor, learning what they thought was funny, and feeling safe for those moments. They weren’t watching content too old for them, too gross. Saturday morning cartoons were charming and hilarious and made everyone feel good for just those couple of hours.
They were transporting, the way great entertainment should be, and they took you out of this world, filling a need we all have to escape, to experience respite from bombardment, and frankly, we need that. In fact, in this mad, dizzying, perplexing world we live in today, we need Saturday morning cartoons more than ever.
Photo: Flickr/Renee Silverman (That’s All Folks)
Photo: Flickr/Jari (WB)
Photo: Flickr/VICTOR VIC (Game Over)