For the past two weeks I’ve been indulging in a 90s/early 00s marathon on Netflix and other places in an attempt to relive my childhood. So far I’ve finished off My So-Called Life, Hey Arnold and a bunch of other cartoons, and the first few seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Now that I’m older and can actually reflect on the content in some of these shows, there are a few things that I love about TV back then.
90s shows and younger shows (Specifically Degrassi) had something that I need desperately in today’s television. I guess you could classify this as Serious Teen Drama, but it’s also real. Degrassi covered basically all the mundane and extreme ups and downs of adolescence from becoming the popular kid and joining clubs to rape, internet predators, sexuality, and mental illnesses. It’s hard stuff to swallow, even more so to watch, and I can’t believe that I was watching this in middle school. But it was real and it was relevant to my generation.
My So-Called Life dealt with the painful awkwardness and agony of being a teenager. Even though my high school experience wasn’t that tension-filled, I knew friends who had it worse. What I like about this show is the dialogue. It’s not fancy, and the characters aren’t making realizations and experiencing existential breakdowns. They say “like” at least 30 times in each episode. The actors aren’t portraying teenagers played by 23 year-olds. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and it’s severely awkward.
When it comes to cartoons, I guess my best example is Hey Arnold. I’ve had so many revelations about the content of this show in the past week that will last me a lifetime. Arnold has to be the most mature and kind 4th grader to ever grace the planet and could give the pope a run for his money. Helga is the prototype for the original fangirl. I think about that episode when Harold has his bar mitzvah and has to recite the Koran during his ceremony and how much controversy that would get now. I think about the Christmas episode when Mr. Hyunh tells Arnold about the story of how him and his daughter got separate during the Vietnam war and how many people would protest the very mention of America’s 10 year war in anything marketed towards children.
While I’m writing this, I’m thinking about my three little demons (aka my sister’s kids) and wondering what they’ll be watching when they get older. The oldest one is 10 and she likes to spend her time watching Pretty Little Liars on my Netflix account. All I see is slapstick humor in cartoons, gossiping girls who have too much discretionary income, supernatural teenagers and shows with bad continiuity issues (I’m looking at you, Glee and Vampire Diaries). I’m not saying that it’s not kind of good to watch every now and then, because we all have our guilty pleasures, I’m just saying I need a wider variety of shit to watch on my TV.