Nickelodeon Nitpicks 1: ....'Tradition vs. Rebels' Picture


Hullo again! Welcome to my first television and subsequently my first NICKTOONS review! I've a feeling that when most people flock to any nostalgia or animation based forum, this is the topic that everybody is waiting for. This is the one channel that represents cartoons, and the essence of childhood as a whole, more than anything else. When I was a child, I lacked basic cable for the majority of my life, and did not have it until I was 15. I still passionately longed for it and dreamed about the days I could visit my friends, just so i could arrange a playdate and have a chance to sit around the cozy television fire, and watch a boring rerun of Kablam! or the Rugrats....I say boring because to my friends it was all already outdated and over-played, but for me, having the lack of these channels at home (and a very conservative over protective mom who wanted to shield me from anything violent, grotesque or suggestive as much as possible) ensured that it was always a newfound experience and always guaranteed it had a subversive taste of hilarious stupidity, freshness and rebellion.

So. I dunno about you, but every time I even so much as think about Nickelodeon today, I feel a sense of mild depression. It has gone from the towering height of brilliance and originality to pretty much lowest of the far it has sunk is just tragedy. The dreams we all had of being slimed on live TV, and being cool hip inventors and animators of dementedly insane fun breaks-the-mold hand drawn cartoons like Invader Zim and Aahh! Real Monsters and Rocko's Modern Life are all about dead now, at least far as this particular network is concerned. Childhood in itself isn't dead, and understand that I am not of the mindset that all cartoons of quality exist only previous to 1998, and I am not of the belief that ALL the old shows were stellar gems of clever writing, original animation, and the highest display of integrity and quality toward their audience. Believe me when I say THEY MOST ABSOLUTELY CERTAINLY WERE NOT. There are a lot of great fresh animated shows that are kicking around today, possibly some of the freshest ever made or thought of, many of which I think we have needed for a very long time, and there are many shameful embarrassing examples of things I thought were cool or original in my childhood, or things that assumed they were cool or original back then, and as an adult I can only blush profusely at how lame, stupid, not funny, disgusting, blatantly trying to plagiarize, freaking damn ANNOYING and poorly animated they are. So please, no comments about how 'all cartoons suck now!' and 'we knew what SOUL was back then!...' That, like the argument that 'all good music/passion is dead!' is utterly, utterly, inane and idiotic presumptuous egotistically minded bullshit. Your childhood was FULL of commercialization and insidious propaganda, nonsense, and cliches. Your childhood was FULL of idiotic and pathetic content that was at best boringly forgettable and mediocre, at worst hideously offensive. You just do not recall any of it all because your brain is a selective computer filter, sucking out any of the bad and boring memories like a malware/virus program, leaving behind only the visions you have of childhood being great and fun. You do not recall the bad things because why would you WANT to recall any of the bad dumb stuff? You push it out of mindset the same way that you do with any of the experiences that you do not have any taste for or concern about right now here in the present.

But, while there is no different ratio of good to bad, there is certainly a lot LESS CONTENT in general. Regardless of opinion, you can exactly see what I mean by this actual picture of Cartoon Network's lineup , then versus now, alone: About 1/3 of the crowd shown is from one single show, and the rest all are from 2 other shows. THAT'S 3 CARTOONS SOLELY ALONE depicted as mascot examples of the network that's supposed to be THE network for all cartoons, all the time. It is so, so, sad. Nickelodeon for the same exact reasons, doesn't even bother with this form of advert, because it would just be laugh-worthy, only worse, because at least here, few as they are, all these CN shows are rather memorably diverse from each other, uniquely written, and beloved by all..or at least, if not loved by you personally, by the majority of the intended audiences they want to approach. They all are doing healthily long for their time on the air, and don't need you to be on board for them as an adult to be of commercial note to the kids. With Nick, there'd be only 1-2 guys in the theater sitting grudgingly with the decade old veteran Spongebob by this point, and that's it. That, or a depiction of countless numbers of characters from too many to count long already cancelled one-shot shows that nobody, absolutely NOBODY gave a single flying shit about. Or, as a last resort, the entire cast of Avatar Aang/Avatar Korra series, which arguably while able to fill a good three theaters with its character population, it's still JUST ONE TV SHOW that is also nearly a decade old. God, what happened Nickelodeon..? You were the very first channel that was almost nonstop animation intended for all childrens' demographics, 7 days a week, 24 seven, 365. The very first channel that promoted animation content that was creator driven, and not merely a tie in with an already existent popular toy, celebrity or comic book franchise....Nickelodeon is not merely the very source and embodiment of childhood in the West of Generation X, (and the majority of Gen Y's and Z'ers as well...) It was a creative by-product of that then at the time shockingly novel and even more shockingly controversial notion of MTV (whose decay is even more so painfully sad and blatant to all I won't even bother addressing the obvious). It went on to push the controversy its parent channel invented, and it did not merely sell us entertainment through the inane nonsense of a cat-dog hybrid, a bunch of Lisa Frank colored middle-schoolers, and a pair of Angry Beavers...It also influenced the style of animation as a whole, the entire youth pop culture make-up, and the way that youngsters are regarded and treated in the media by executives with regard to content, censorship, and the presentation of adult innuendo and lessons hidden subtly (or in the case of some toons, not so very subtly) inside of their television content. It was the first acknowledgement of TWEENS very existence, and if it weren't for the early days of Nickelodeon, we wouldn't have the great other channels such as the Hub, or Cartoon network, and we would not have a ton of content, films, and attitudes that exist regarding children as a whole being able to understand things like politics, satire, horror, and adult humor. We'd have never gained the concept of the consideration that cartoons do not need to be visually 'nice,' and all based off completely off each other, and do not have to be based on something clean-cut, done before, and either strictly for educational purposes only or strictly already marketed as a bunch of toys, and thus always actively on the show advertised to us as merch on a constant basis instead of being the main focus of a human story. It was a novel idea, that we could have a channel that no matter what always stood for the random crazy selfish independent thoughts and also pure innocence of the wild imaginations and principles of children. And it even presented some artistic content that was created sometimes by (or at least assisted by) children as well. Alas, the story of Nickelodeon's transformation into its sorry state today and the animation industry as a whole, is a tragic and complicated one. When we sigh and refer to the era that we call 'The Animation Renaissance'....a period of time where we were nonstop fed some of the most creatively unique, intelligent and well-crafted animated feature films and television programming throughout the late 80s and 90s.....we often associate Nickelodeon for being solely responsible for it. While Nickelodeon was NOT the thing that caused the Renaissance to occur, it was indeed a gigantic symptom of it. What its existence alone as a channel, and its various shows and all of their ripping off lesser attempt copy-cats did, was try to achieve something that was never, ever, done before in any way, shape or form philosophically, by any of its predecessors during the start of the Renaissance's time, or even seen before then in the mass media at the time.

You see, when we examine things that came out of the Animation Renaissance, we see two groups of animation that we can divide apart based on their type of content....First you had the 'Traditional' material, or things that executives and movie directors already knew were marketable and long already used tropes by Disney, Hanna Barbera, Don Bluth, and other successful companies: the types of shows and animated features that focused on things that were 'safe' and always popular and had a cute or clean universally likable style. Above all, these things usually had a well-established very specific age target and male or female demographic, such as the case with almost all Hasbro's work, which was so very black and white with its gender divides one might almost consider it borderline hideous sexism then by today's standards....And this format was present in what were much of the things created by DIC, Toei, Disney, and many other studios who did overseas work at the time...These kind of things often told stories with an always family friendly and familiar story arc, and they all worked with strictly only already very familiar kinds of stories and styles of looks for their characters....These were the shows about stuff that was already selling well for ages; robots, princesses, faeries, dinosaurs, aliens, school kids, talking cute puppy dogs, music celebrities, spaceships, cowboys, soldiers, spies, and quaint talking rainbow-colored fantasy animal series with either some weak moral or popular toy franchise attached. They filled our need to become something else: Which was usually to be more powerful, more beautiful, more rich, more liked, more exciting, and more....oppressed....yes, I shall say it, in the case of the girly shows, which often focused for some reason on the girl characters being kidnapped/made to do horrible things by the villains, only to be rescued by male or stronger outsiders in every single episode, and the bland rituals of domestic cute house-wife servitude, like baby/pet raising and cupcake baking and so forth....They often proposed the idea that going against the general group consensus was wrong, and that if you were 'the grumpy one', 'the more ambitious one', or 'the skeptic', things would either not play out in your favor, and you'd have to eventually be rescued by your companions, or you were just wrong and a bad guy from the start. These shows weren't usually bad to the point they were offensive, at least in their fundamental direction, but it's often noticeably weaker in dialogue and characterization in this category. We clearly have a focus more on the world's development over cast development: In other words, we see more revelation about all the details of the environment and its various inhabitants, and the main character's battle accessories and powers more than the actual development of personal traits and understanding between the characters. Above all, the QUALITY of the animation itself and the expressions of the characters, often takes a back seat to showing off all of the lavish details shown in the often painterly backgrounds and any battle sequences..which usually were drawn in a traditional classic Disney-esque style. In fact, everything was basically trying to be Disney for eons. The show and film makers clearly here all focus on the telling of a quest-for-a-goal episodic narrative, often with a moral (usually a forced one), and more of a desire to just get a plot across than to entertain with any expression of humor. Again, it's not bad as a category, it's just these traditional-style shows when they were bad ones were often idiotic cookie cutter clones, and they almost didn't ever promote realistic or adult-sensible material. Even when they didn't entirely act in a pandering stupid flat way, they still usually were popular thanks solely in a large part to the toys and the fantastic well-executed detail of the visuals, more so than being unique or particularly well-written and clever with the morals...The main focus of a lot of these movies/shows was to take a fantastic situation, with a cast of surreal characters with a problem, and have them come to usually a bunch of token human youths or even small child who they selected entirely at random for help. These blander and often more adorable side characters would help on a constant basis, and it was these weaker side characters who we the viewer were supposed to infuse with ourselves as an identity...NOT the main characters, who were the badasses and the things we were really supposed to buy. As an example of this kind of film/show, both good and bad, we can point to things like The Transformers, The Little Mermaid, Popples, Johnny Quest, Scooby Doo, Strawberry Shortcake, She Ra, Princess Guenivere and the Jewel Riders, Dungeons and Dragons, GUMBY, The Pagemaster, Captain Planet, The Gummi Bears, He-Man, Legend of Zelda, GI Joe, Sailor Moon, Mighty Max, Jem and the Holograms, Thundercats, My Little Pony, Care Bears, the Smurfs/the Snorks, and Dinosaucers. There were some depictions of things that might be seen as dark and edgily cool and/or scary to small children, but often the bland characters reacted blandly to the conflict and were often blandly always purely outside of the emotional influence and the aesthetics of 'the darkness.' This is why people tend to prefer to recall such movies and animated shows for the VILLAINS, rather than the cast of protagonists, or only admit to still liking it for the ironic hipster kitsch value, because in reality when you think about it, almost all of the majority of these soft and cuddlesome or worry-free Mary Sue/Gary Stu morally perfect goody-goody protagonist characters of such tales are EMBARRASSINGLY fucking stupid, whining spoiled brats or just plain annoying. Most current day small toddlers and infant targeted tv shows still operate like this Traditional type, because most TV execs believe (and probably rightly so) that at too young of a certain age level, kids won't grasp the difference between 'silliness and irony' and 'you should do this in reality', let alone the ability to fucking count to five. You are still trying to teach babies and very small children to just clap their hands on cue and not hit their brother or sister, not the nuances of human psychology, myth, and good humor, because the world at this age is biologically still very black and white. Everything that a baby does, to the baby that is 'right' when it gives it what it needs, and when it doesn't give it what it needs or wants, it cries because that is 'wrong.' The brain hasn't developed yet to know how to make a perspective out of people outside of themselves, so that is why we get stuck with things like The Teletubbies, Blues Clues and Barney and Friends, a bunch of very, very simple toy-selling easy to recognize mascots with basic messages to say. I am not making a case for having idiotic things for toddlers, I am more than well aware they should not be pandered to, and that there CAN be and there have been many well-made actually intelligent and enjoyable on an adult level kiddie shows. But this is the mold that the 99.9% of them shall and have always taken, and it does this because it supposedly has to, and that is NOT always the truth. This was however the accepted rule of Truth about most animation since the death of the Golden Era; aka the silent theater and later on black and white talking Fleischer shorts, then later Bugs Bunny/MGM shorts, and all the work by Disney at the time and Tex Avery. After that epoch, there came what's known by some as 'the Dark Ages', where much of the art quality of animation in both film and television greatly suffered, and you had a few great really funny or memorable gems scattered here or there, but of the majority most were badly written stupid ideas, and totally cheap in execution. You had a slight pick up in quality around the early 1980s, but overall, the main look of most cartoons/feature animations was still pretty bad, and the plot of most cartoons followed this format. Cue 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,' 'Land Before Time' and 'The Little Mermaid' which all come right the fuck out of nowhere with a big fat brass-knuckled whammy sucker punch to the eyes, one right after another, and we suddenly gain a desire to be big and loud and beautiful again with our visuals....Buuuuut, as unquestionably good as all those films and their equally great early Renaissance brethren are, THIS is the story format that they all pretty much follow, and it has flaws at moments. More importantly, all of the successful movie and tv show copy-cats all generally did a really great job of mistaking the shiny pretty candy wrapper for the candy BAR, and subsequently, they caused a quantity-over-quality diarrhea of animation to spill genuine garbage into the brains of our youths. And we fucking ate that shit up, not ever knowing or caring why it was so dumb or bad, or aware of how it warped our sense of reality, the idea that you always have 100% Good, you always have 100% Bad; the Good Guy is You and Everybody else who is the Same, and Bad is the Dark Scary and Different Weird Guy who Doesn't Act At All Like You, and the only way to solve everybody's plot problems is to Beat Up Bad Guy/Convert Bad Guy to Being Exactly Like You. Again, this is not a plot type that's 100% entirely wrong or all over BAD, its just often DONE badly by those who didn't get it right, and this was/arguably still is a foundation of some forms of prejudice/lack of critical thinking, and we do not only see this format still done in kid's shows, but in nearly all adult live action films ALL THE FERAKING TIME. This was and is still the main way all animated things here in the West are misconceived they have to be no matter what really they want to say or who the real target is.

Then, along comes the dying of the 1980s, and the start of the early to middle 1990s. Something bitter and more cynical has arisen in the vision of our pop culture and inside of creative execs. I don't know all of the reasons for why this change started, but for whatever reason, they suddenly had begun to fully recognize the ironic shallowness and materialism of the Hollywood culture and the black vs. white treatment of American politics in the media for what it is. Perhaps it was due to the Cold War, perhaps it was the Gulf war, maybe it was economic, maybe it was the revolutions of Metal, Grunge, Goth, Punk, Gay rights, and New Wave Feminism during the 80s, maybe it's to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall or the witnessing of the decay of the hippie movement and the ever increasing destruction of our planet, or the introduction of the internet, or AIDS, crack and other scary things, and all of the pathetic government attempts to do something about all that. Maybe we just got lucky and had a bunch of eccentric brilliant bitter minds or fucked up alcoholic/drug addled brains who hated kids and saccharine things lumped together in the right place at the right time and given enough freedom to do and say as they wanted. Either way, we now saw the rising trend of trying to be 'edgy', or the express desire to rebel, be cool and sharp looking, above all be anti-mainstream and anti-cuddly messaged. An awareness that it is not all black and white or soft fun and games in reality, and that those who sit on the throne, are in the police force, the houses of Parlimant or the White House, don't really know what the fuck that it is that they're doing nor how we ought to really cope with the consequences of our mistakes. While oftentimes the Traditional superhero/animal fantasy cast narrative tv show and feature length movies tried to play within the boundaries of this new 'dark and edginess look' game, it was more based on just the visual style and cool artificial details, and often just as usual a display of the currently hyped trends that was chiefly just meant to sell more toys, but underneath still had the same Traditional ideas. Again, it was not BAD, and I am a big fan of most of these shows. It is just the nature of their makeup, and obvious purpose. They achieve much needed actual drama sometimes along with just the visual drama and have sometimes well executed stories and characterization at times, but many MORE times, they just fail spectacularly. Good or bad, like or hate this method, it was the prevalence at the time and this kind of media trickery can be seen in shows and films such as Rock and Rule, Batman Beyond, Teen Titans, Gargoyles, the recon of Batman the Animated Series, Bucky O' Hare, Extreme Dinorsaurs!, Beastwars, Anastasia, Oliver and Company, BattleToads, Spawn, Biker Mice from Mars, DragonBall Z, Tales of The Skeleton Warriors, SWAT KATZ, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Sharks and Sonic the Hedgehog SATM.

But see, it wasn't with these 'edgy action' and marketable fantasy shows where the attitude of Rebellion and coolness via Anarchy really got started: Instead it began in the roots of the generally uglier more rock-and-roll feeling of the late 1960s/1970s independent underground comics (both with the western pulps and eastern manga alike) and movies, which by art style and definition, were often stylistically both more 'cartoony' yet at the same time more 'realistic' storywise by comparison. These things told the stories of artists or characters who lived on the fringes, and often those protagonists were jaded with the hippie movement of their time, along with their governments too. These creators and artists, such as the likes of Ralph Bakshi, Frank Zappa, Nine Inch Nails, Robert Crumb, Alan Moore, Sam Kieth, Dave Sim and Art Spiegelman, did not frequently relate with the current popular ideas about drugs, fashion, sex, and rock and roll being the panacea to all of life's ills, and believed that living so decadently was a stupid escapist solution to a serious problem with philosophical loopholes and hypocritically egotistic symptoms of its own, for them, it wasn't the ultimate answer to all of the global conflict of the Cold War or the so called moral decay of a post-modern society.(...not that they didn't themselves often fall prey into this lifestyle.) But on the other hand, they also lacked any faith in as well as any relation to the mainstream society of the stabler (and more often racist and anti-protest) attitudes and solutions proposed by the conservative way of life and politics of the elite class. They hated the ever-violent reactionary police force and militarism, and often proposed a Buddhist-like ideal view about seeing outside of one's own self and the then trending attitudes of corrupt Wall Street capitalist material decadence and nationalist fascism. This philosophy only continued to evolve even more so into the mindset of the late 1980s/90s. It was the later on newcomer animated shows of MTV and subsequently Nickelodeon that was the TRUE originator of this message of Anarchy on television. And they told of this message in a lot more comedic, pure, and honest way: In a similar to Alice in Wonderland type of style, they spoke directly FOR our generation of kids (and thus ironically adults alike), and not TOWARD them, as a marketing gimmick. They didn't see edginess as merely being 'cool' and wearing a smug grin, a pair of angular sunglasses and wearing a big leather jacket, mohawk and a gun when you said the words "THIS IS RADICAL" and blasted your enemy. It understood that being rebellious was not worn in the clothes or the catchphrases but in an attitude of not agreeing with the norm or authority, in not seeing the benefits of what generally was understood as being 'right' or polite or respectful. They understood that fart jokes made by the good guy to make him/her look flawed and stupid and understandable to us, were a lot more funnier than pun jokes made to make the good guy smart and the bad guy alienated from ourselves. And they above all, saw that not agreeing or going with the norm wasn't a trendy thing practiced commonly out in fashionable mainstream society by the cool popular tough ones, it usually was philosophically a manner of principle of people who were considered to be looked down upon as outcasts or eccentric rude freaks, and a bad thing that was often punished or tried to be punished and when it did it provided schadenfreude for the others higher above you.

And thus, with the advent of Nickelodeon, came the other part of the Renaissance....the 'Avant Garde' show......the creator driven show: Shows that were based on the imaginations of the artists, and not based on any other thing, trope, or any commonly used franchise/franchise style prior.......and it was spearheaded, most fully and famously, by probably "Ren and Stimpy". Here, we discard entirely in every way what was already popular, beautiful, and marketable. We see a new kind of show that doesn't only break the genre cliches or boundaries visually, it doesn't only occasionally mock what's popular, it like M.A.D magazine and punk music actually makes an all out attempt to virulently and constantly ATTACK ALL GROWNUPS AND GO OUT OF ITS WAY to be 100% ACTUALLY OFFENSIVE AND UGLY. While we do still see here in both this show and nearly all of its Nickelodeon offspring, on occasion anyway, all of the well understood often preached lessons known already to preschoolers that have been repeated since the dawn of time, most of the episodes are absent of them:......Things like the idea that always sharing is good, stealing is bad, listen to the adults around you, and always be showing an open loyalty to the leader and forces of Justice/Patriotism....? No, instead, these are the kind of shows that promoted wild and very revolutionary concepts and then in the day extremely controversial forms of solutions. Here, we start to see thinking outside of the box, the idea that weirdos are sometimes good; maybe they're different temperamentally but they have feelings and are special uniquely talented misunderstood people, not bullies, monsters or enemies to fight or convert into being the same. And the new introduction of characters who are antagonists who are NOT the designated bullies because they are poor, ugly or the skeptical grumpy underdog, or the guy who is misunderstood but different and hence bitter for being picked on....we start instead to see people of AUTHORITY, wealth, beauty, big popularity, and even of cultural significance, being mocked at and questioned. Here, we see protagonists who are either nerds, handicapped, or too old, too young, too fat, too dumb, too ugly, too short, too insane, too selfish, or all in all, just plain too 'HUMAN'. They are dumb, flawed, neurotic, cowardly, witty, and funny, instead of fashionably hip, brave, cute, smart, or just 100% 24-7 morally perfect and serene at all times, under all kinds of pressure...

And then sometimes, the protagonists ARE the morally perfect cute sane people. But instead, everyone ELSE is so considerably ugly, crazy, selfish, blindly stupid or over-the-top weird, that the morally or physically normal pure guy or girl ironically are isolated into being the outcast, because THEY now are 'the weird ones' just for being literally the only normal looking or rational fellow among the entire cast. (As say in the cases of 'Invader Zim,' 'Hey Arnold' and 'Doug.') The main characters of the Avant Garde Renaissance era Nickelodeon show aren't unlike with the Traditional shows always secretly aware of what is going on within the plot and never do they know exactly what they should do whenever a problem occurs immediately upon the arrival of one. They panic instead. They flip the shit, try to find any solution they can come up with, and often fail miserably. They usually do not change the status quo. They don't win first place, they do not win school presidency, and they do not ever, ever, EVER get the girl, no matter how hard they try. They are much like Charlie Brown, in that we love to watch to see them pick themselves up and pathetically keep TRYING to win, more than actually saving the day, because its their perseverance and indignant pride of dignity that we love them for, not their success record. The protagonists are also not the center of the whole world's attention, in fact they are usually losers who are totally obscure. The main trio can have arguments within themselves, and have carnal and stupid desires over things they don't deserve or cannot expect to have, instead of always being the charitable ones who show an example for everybody else to follow. Instead of fighting in a morally black and white world, where the enemy is the obvious dark lord or the bully who ruins everybody else's lives in the classroom, the enemy of the Avant-Garde type of show who causes all of their woes is actually usually THEMSELVES. When there was a real enemy, plots instead of blatantly saying to the troublemaker:....'We can fix everything all at once by bargaining it out ,' or 'We can team up with our like-minded and identically raced friends and convert you into being on our side' or 'We can tell an adult who will guilt trip you into being like us', these were the shows that actually said it was OKAY to be different, it was OKAY to just disagree with and angrily hate the actions of others who were stupid or wrong to us. That it was not fun but NATURAL to be completely helpless to fate every once in a while, or blind and stupid sometimes ourselves because we're not perfect, and we all know what it's like to be nastily resentful of another person or another group's karmic injustice. Let alone the fact that injustice can even come at the hands of a supposedly 'wiser' or more likable upper authority at all, and that that authority figure often gets away with such injustices for little to no reason in the first place. And even more, the shocking idea that it is the ADULTS, yes the ADULTS, who are often the source of the problem itself! Here with the Avant-Garde Show, we can have 'inferior' characters fantasize about getting revenge, and even often get away with drastically hurting the bully/adult, or just comically pranking them. While one might construe all this as being a bad message for kids(and it often is,) what I find positive and inherently more wisdom therein, is not the messenger but the treatment of the message: That it is okay to laugh at and poke fun at adults and authority figures. But we still kinda need to face the obvious fact that sometimes we are entirely helpless to change things, and have to be more subtly clever with our brains than upfront blunt with our hands in our rebellion, because we cannot get led to believe (and will not be allowed to usually)that we're not flawed ourselves, or that it's OK to just take what we want. In the Avant Garde Show, the protagonists were often just as bad, bigoted, and wrong as the misbehaving or clueless adults, and suffer often when they took a plot of revenge or entitlement or rebellion just way too far: they still learned a lesson out of their immaturity and I think one that sticks better by depiction of funny karmic punishment than by depiction of someone always knowing what the right thing to do and always coming out fine. It's the reason why people like Donald Duck and Goofy way better than Mickey and Minnie Mouse. It isn't the 'anarchy not getting punished' aspect that makes these shows different and funny, it's the 'anarchy in the face of an authority figure who you know that will try to punish you ANYWAY for your behavior' story, that makes these shows so great, comedic, and morally interesting. The very fact we have protagonists meet at all with a comeuppance for their selfish actions, was a new thing, because usually in the 'Traditional' style shows, we only are allowed to achieve victory no matter what with anything our protagonists do, and they're almost always only allowed to be 100% Good. Here, even though the styles of animation may be less realistic and demented, there was usually more realistic diverse morals to go with them, and thus a more realistic portrayal of life in general. In Nickelodeon shows in particular, there is always this aura of: 'Life is an often shitty bitch and thus you should just accept it. Enjoy the hell out of your life as much you can and appreciate your flaws, don't listen to ignorant snobs. It's not important to not succeed every single time or be a part of the in-crowd...but it IS IMPORTANT to KEEP TRYING ANYWAY and to always be whoever you are. Do whatever the hell that you want or think is right......just please, take responsibility of yourself and don't go too far or be too selfish, because if you don't, you're an jerky idiot and you are going swallow the painful consequences of your more bone-headed actions...' As long as the vengeance fantasy was kept mentally behind bars inside of your imagination, and it can be an imagination that is as surreal and demented as possible, you could usually be okay...but of course, for comedy's sake, the revenge fantasy did NOT always stay behind bars, and the main characters thus always suffered at the hands of their own ironic fate. They both learn a subtle lesson about moral behavior, but also secretly share the lesson that: 'We are all only human.' And a lot of the time, such shows held no lesson at all! They just said that 'There are some really strange people of all kinds out there. Get the hell used to it!!!!' We saw it happen in 'Eek the Cat', 'CatDog', 'Spongebob', 'Wild Thornberries', 'Ahh Real Monsters', 'Angry Beavers', 'Dexter's Lab', 'Rugrats', 'Angela Anaconda', "Arthur', 'South Park', 'Freakazoid', 'Rocko's Modern Life', 'Action League Now,' 'Pepper Ann', 'Spongebob', ' 'Family Guy/The Simpsons/American Dad', 'Aqua Teen Hungerforce' and every single one of the adult swim lineup, 'Stickin' Around', the 'Beatlejuice' series, the incredible claymation masterpiece of 'Mr. Bumpy', 'The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh', and more. Pretty much every one of the 'classic' Nicktoons goes here, down to nearly a T, with exception of imported shows.

So, in short, what happened? Did the Avant-Garde story of 'Be All of Your Flawed Selves and Laugh at Your Suffering and Bigotry' overtake the Traditional story of the 'Perfect Heroes Fighting A Perfect Quest against Imperfect Bad Guys', and make it die out? Or did it grow back into prominence? Did Nickelodeon/the animation world suffer because of this new choice of view? No, not exactly. What did happen is just like with the Traditional story, the Avant-Garde story suffered a deluge of copycats mistaking Style for Content. They produced countless numbers of idiotic shows, thinking it was the gags based around gross out toilet humor, physical ugliness, political/pop culture satire, and bad dumb selfish main characters were the sole reason such shows were good and successful. The obvious answer to them all is that it isn't one stylistic thing or gag standing alone that carries a good animated film or tv show on its back; it has to do with the love and soul that the creators had themselves for it. Just the same way that having a good lead singer from a previously successful rock band carrying over into a new band doesn't = guaranteed automatically good bunches of songs. We often see this happen, and wonder 'dude what were you thinking!?' the same way we think this of politicians or sports athletes and movie actors trying out new views or roles we know they do not really mentally put their heart into or believe, but just are doing it solely for either the upkeep of money or appreciation from a new demographic that didn't care about them before. They mistake that because X worked for them before greatly once, or that Y worked for dozens of others before, that surely it will work for THEM in exactly the same way as well! It doesn't matter really if 'X' looks more just like 'x' or 'XXXx' or 'XHSYYSxxxxxx' and so long as it has a mother-freaking X in it, nobody cares, X equals loads of money, and loads of money equals coke and bitches. Needless to say, playing this game of shamelessly ripping off of somebody else's carefully thought out original plan can sometimes work out into having coke and bitches, (just ask Elvis that) but it's rare. People tend to sniff out the bullshit and leave it to die in the dust. Typecasting is an unfortunate thing, but the reason that it still very much reasonably exists is because most of the time, when you put the costume of something else on, it doesn't mean it automatically turns you into something else. But it seems that TV execs and film directors still continue to fail to understand this, and continue to try being some previously successful franchise's name in a new guise instead of just trying to give the stage to somebody completely different and new with something refreshing to say.

Anyway, there was after a while after the Renaissance occurred, one might say a time where the mixture of Tradition and Avant-Garde shows and their elements got increasingly blurred. This was actually a good thing, and one can actually say the best of the best shows of today still display this blurring: namely the chief big favorite five of most animation lovers right now, 'Avatar', 'Regular Show', 'Adventure Time', 'Gravity Falls', and 'My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.' And of course, most, if not all, of the contemporary well-done anime franchises meant for young teenagers to adults that come out of Japan. These shows demonstrate (usually) an intelligent diverse cast, with often super powers or great advantages to their life on a quest or against a set of obvious bad guys, like the Traditional arcs, but like the Avant Garde arcs, the protagonists also bear many huge and glaring eccentricities and flaws, and the main characters aren't always so frequently beloved or on the side of purest good as one may think. They also mock authority, make ugly or off-color gestures, or do not consider, even in My Little Pony's case, so much the issue of who is being entertained specifically right now, little girls or the boys, the toddlers or the adults, because who is this for, they don't care, they just want to sell TOYS or they just want to sell ENTERTAINMENT and when you do something for a sheer profit, the networks have realized it is both less sexist and it is smarter to appeal to everybody as much as possible to ring in more suckers, than only a spare few and who will remain temporarily the age that they are or like whatever's trendy right now for only a brief while. We of course still have girl shows and boy shows and baby shows and adult shows, but I think its plain to see that across the boards since the early-mid 90s, we have seen greater homogenization of aesthetics and humor. It is thanks to things like g4 My Little Pony and things like Sailor Moon and Powerpuff Girls and so forth for boys to like 'colorful girly things', and girls to like boys things....But moreover, Nickelodeon taught that THERE WAS NO need for 'girl' and 'boy' aesthetic to even exist in THE FREAKING FIRST PLACE. It was better to come up with something dumb, something, brilliant, something so fucking weird and never seen before and unclassified you couldn't even say who this is for except of course, just the vague term of 'Kids.' And even more so, just 'People'. ANIMATION SHOULD BE FOR PEOPLE. I think that is a wonderful, wonderful concept.

And what happened exactly to specifically strip Nickelodeon and increasingly Disney Channel of their past glory, and back and forth on Cartoon Network as well (though at least I have to hand them credit for now sticking with quality above quantity, no matter how blue it makes me feel), asides the economy sucking and the rise of child pop stars and corporate hegemony and so forth, is that the television executives mistook the idea of 'Animation is for People' as being: 'Animation can be anything we find to be successful and can fit in a bucket.' And so, they have mistakenly gotten not only the gross-out show, based on Ren and Stimpy and Rocko's Modern Life of course, out of fumes, but also ANY previously good show's style and content tired to death, because they keep trying to run on that said bright star show's mojo. Take Spongebob, Ben 10, Dexter's Lab, or any of the good Hanna Barbera cartoons as an example. You take a show that is a big hit, pinpoint why through marketing research why it works successfully, (instead of maybe the idea that kids are just into any weird novel shit that they see at a certain age...) and now, whereas they used to try to find anything and selectively put it into a clear cut select visual demographic, now they just believe they can take any story or plot elements and water it down for everybody to be as universal, safe, and bland as possible, in order to hit as many likes. So essentially, you end up not with 'Animation is for People,' but 'Animation is for Nobody', because NOBODY is being targeted, PEOPLE aren't being targeted as human souls who think or feel for specific characters and like to experience the stories they go through, but as collective marketing groups, who like the TRENDS seen in these successful shows. Tallies and polls and Facebook likes measure every single aspect of what we enjoy as a human species every waking minute, and the highers up think because something is new, fashionably currently trending, or popular, means its the magic formula that works again and again and it works for EVERYTHING, and we will never be bored of it, and it works for everyone. With the positive-meaning attempt at blurring the sexes, we ontop of this achieve even more increasing vagueness, and so we lose the while pinpointed bigotry of the 80s girly or boy-target shows, we also lose the pleasing skewed aesthetics of colorful girliness and cool action colored boy...ness. I honestly think the reason Hasbro with the Hub and things like MLP and Transformers have returned to popularity is not because they are blatantly easy to identify with sexist divides, or just smart at manipulating us to buy really cool toys...because you and I know there's many girl targeted and boy target only shows out there that never get off the ground or achieve equal love:......The reason Hasbro's sex targeted shows do so well, is because they also know how to with any demographic or visual packages just do things very prettily, and (most of the time) have really appealing, really funny, and really unique stand out characters. The candy wrapper has been seen before, but its the candy BAR inside we probably know and love. A very good story with good pleasing animation and voice acting will always get you fans. Well, almost always. No matter how you choose to package the show, what target you approach or what sex you forcibly label this 'for', if something has quality, it has quality and people will undeniably see the talent and watch it not because it is 'meant' for them,' it's because it pleases the eye, soothes the nerves of a child, and makes us laugh and learn about ourselves. It doesn't fucking matter who it's for, how it's done, or how great the toys are. We eat shit up, I believe, mainly because, we think such specific pieces of corporate shit tastes good. And they're the ones aboves us staring down, saying 'Oh, the white lab rats like to eat shit, they must just like shit as a whole! Let's just give them all kinds of cheaper shit, that look and smell just like this one and assume the rats won't know or care about the difference!!!' And sometimes, that really works. That says something about the nature of humanity. But for the most part, it also doesn't last very long, and that says something I think even more deeper about the nature of humanity.

And I think since we have been getting satiated on some better tasting shit of late, we're starting to be spoiled again, but rightfully so. They had better keep on throwing us the good shit, because if they don't, we'll eventually get sick of it all, and probably just start eating the scientists. Or something. What the hell am I talking about...?

Anyway, my honest opinion is, that Good Animation isn't dead. But the channel that was Nickelodeon as a whole, definitely is. Avatar was a saving grace that kept it up a bit, and so was Spongebob, but those shows are on their last fumes. They need to pull a miracle either out of their ass, or just pass on gracefully into the Great Gig in the Nostalgia sky. Essentially where they're at right now is where they originally as a channel began, just getting by to survive, and importing most of their shows from other dead networks or foreign countries. They get once in a while creative, but they lack the budget to do so admirably, or they are secretly saving it up for an even juicier Avatar....(and for their sake, it had better be good, since I was unimpressed by Korra's departure.) I think the following example illustrates precisely why Nickelodeon has no ability to recover its youth ever again:

Whether you watched the show or enjoyed it or not, back in the early 2000s, there was a show which did something akin to its early brothers on Nickelodeon, and yet did it in a way that none of them stylistically had ever done before, or any show ever has:...."Invader Zim", when it was on the air, was, ironically, a true Avant-Garde style show of the highest disobediant unique quality, yet strangely had all of the elements story-wise of a Traditional Show. It had a protagonist, Dib, who was morally good at heart, fighting evil aliens from taking over the earth, and in every episode, that titular alien failed. But the odd thing about the show was, despite the kid-like premise, this show was definitely not appropriate for younger kids, and the focus of the story wasn't on Dib, or even humanity's goodness or struggle against the invaders, but the Invader himself. Moreover, Invader Zim was a protagonist, but he was a vile, horrible, wicked, deliciously rage-filled bombastic villain of a character. He was NOT meant to be sympathized with, in any way at all, and we were meant to laugh at his outrageous evil and pain. We were meant to focus on his failures, and poke fun at his idiocy. But we also were expected to laugh at another villain: ourselves. The Human Race was also depicted as equally selfish, stupid, violent, and materialistic, as Zim is. Dib even himself, though a foil to Zim's imperialistic desires of genocide and cruelty, is still only mainly into it for the glory of being finally right, and being taken seriously by his ignorant apathetic family. Nobody in this show technically counts as a good guy, everybody in this whole world is terrible and flawed, and yet at the same time, we relate to them, because (for the most part) they are exaggerated in hilarious yet realistic ways that compare with the horrible corporation dominated and corrupt stupidly blind self-destructive policies of our own world. Despite being so ridiculously inane, insane, and over the-fucking-top, Zim is probably one of the strangely most realistic shows I have ever seen about aliens, or anything sci-fi, or anything to do with kids at all. It's a black portrait of the entire human race, and it's very, very assured that it is more for the creators who invented it, than the kids watching at home. THAT was what threatened the Nickelodeon echelons so much. Here, we witnessed the return of the mania of the early 90s. Total Anarchy. Total disregard for the rules, for the politically correct messages, for the Good versus Bad flat animated characters. They had very simple motives, BUT Dib and Zim were definitely NOT flat characters. What happened with Zim was that for the first time since the death of the SNICK block, there was an attraction of young adults, teenagers and fully aged adults back to the audience. SNICK for those of you too young to remember, was the nearly late-night prime time areas of the airing block where it was time for weird, somewhat scary or odd unclassifiable shows like "Ren and Stimpy" and "Kablam!" and the "Angry Beavers". It was like 'Cartoon Cartoon Fridays', except it was surrealer, more dark, more insane, and it came first. It was the more innuendo-filled, more disgusting, more dark and polictical satire filled and more experimental older brother to all of the kid friendly stuff that came on during the afternoons, and all the baby friendly stuff that came on during Nick Jr. in the mornings. It was like a light version of Adult Swim.
Then, of course, you had the sitcoms and senior/adult shows of Nick at Nite. But nobody really watched that, except those like me with insomnia. This, naturally, was a brilliant course. Everybody of every age group and sex liked the channel, because everybody had something of their own. And when SNICK died, that older demographic died with it. I believe it had something to do with changing of the guards, or someone retired or whatnot, but what also just happened was The Internet, and Kids Growing up and Getting a Life. The older kids stopped watching their cartoons, and because at the time Adult Swim wasn't long around/doing so hot, they probably assumed this was par the course and erased all idea of being adult or teenage-friendly altogether. With that, they erased being 'older tween' friendly either, and they just grew increasingly saccharine and younger in expected audience. When finally Zim came to the picture, everybody was in shock, how this happened, I do not know. Parents complained about how creepy the show was, but despite this, the show had unimaginable popularity, and it sold a shitload of merchandise, and continues to do so to this day. It could have been a giant goldmine, and we could have been given a huge big finale to satisfy us all, or a couple more seasons, but the reason this did not happen, is for several reasons:

1. They lacked money.
2. They lacked the desire to be fair to the creators.
3. They lacked the desire to give it air time. (This is one of the reasons I so violently HATED Rocket Power, as it seemed to be the go to show for substituting Zim with, when it normally would often be aired, for whatever stupid reason. Even marathons months in advance that were announced, for one reason or other got never put onto the air, and Rocket Power was instead put on. This pissed me off to so much degree, I cannot begin to tell you, and I passionately spent afternoons trying to rank up the amount of Vote Your Show! polls in favor of my favorite alien, to no avail, even when he repeatedly won the ballots.)
4. The creator himself was feeling a disliking for it at certain points, and felt himself stagnating, and merely wanted to cancel at a certain point so he may go on to new pastures. Eventually, they gave him this wish prematurely. They had been planning to actually kill Zim off, and had voiced out an episode, but then were told by the executives to remove his death. They worked the script, but ironically never aired the finale since Zim got taken off the air before they even got to animation.

In the end, they kept trying to force Zim out of the limelight, despite how brilliant of a money cow it was, because it didn't match with their young tween demographic. It didn't blend with the visuals or the tone of their channel and its other shows, and it gave anti-authority and anti-corporate messages on a grand scale never seen before, and probably never gonna be ever seen again.
It got bad rap after 9-11 happened, because it depicted rescue workers trying to free a screaming trapped girl out of a gopher hole, in a comedic demeaning way....(???) It tried to put moments of gore into it, and sometimes successfully it managed to pull off things Ren and Stimpy had wet dreams about. But more importantly, the reason why I think it truly was a success, wasn't the piggy jokes and the barfs, it wasn't the stupid President Man (Bush) or the giant hamster named 'Pee-pee'. (huhuh, "peepee"...) It was because the visuals were SO cinematic, SO lavish, and SO angled and photographed uniquely, and because all of the characters existed inside of a very big and very detailed universe. There were many alien societies, of unique design and types of race. Nobody resembled your typical grey aliens or boring flying saucers, you had what amounted almost to the retarded kiddy Gothic stupid version of 'Star Trek: Deep Space 9," with all the character development and mythology and strange warped environments and powers and epic thrilling battle scenes that show entails. It had uniquely industrial war-machine like music, a soundtrack that in itself reeked of Fascism and intended to give forboding shudders to the audience, not bright happy smiles.
This, towards Nickelodeon, with its bright happy colorful soft face, was completely unacceptable. They actually told a gathering of potential animators at a meeting, when one asked for if they will ever be reviving Invader Zim as a franchise, that they would NEVER be trying out that show again, and that the teenage audience had better STOP asking for it back and shut up, because this was a different Nickelodeon now, and it was YOUNG KID ALONE FRIENDLY. It was NOT FOR THEM, and it was NOT going to listen to their pointless demands. Needless to say, many were pissed off. I don't know what happened to the staff or the organization after that, but clearly, it didn't go overall very well. With exception of Avatar, few series took off with the same popularity every again. Spongebob continues to be the sole reason people return for it, but this withers as they ever increasingly bring upon it 'The Simpson's Effect', by which I mean they continue to flanderize and rush the characters, make it safer and softer and yet assume it was the stylistic trendy things that we came for so they keep all the surrealism and over the top random gross out jokes, but they lack the understanding or the caring of the balance that made those things work together. When you stop caring about the balance, alas, we get the going for candy wrapper instead of candy bar effect.

And thus, the rats will inevitably flock to places like Cartoon Network and the Hub, in search of more creative shit to eat.

I am your Nostalgia Critic, and I remember it so YOU DON'T HAVE T- *is shot in the face, lies bleeding on the floor*.

................................echh.....I'myourDeviantArtRamblingperson, and I havewastedthepastfewhourswritingthis.......thank you....

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