Sunday, June 15, 2014

“Did You Even Have a Childhood?”

No, I have never seen “The Little Mermaid.”
No, I never watched “The Proud Family.”
Yes, I hated “Space Jam.”
Yes, I grew up in the 1990’s.
Yes, I am a 90’s kid.
“Jesus Christ,” you’re thinking. “Did you even have a childhood?”
Potter, Disney, Nickelodeon, and the like have become so much a part of American culture that to not have grown up with certain facets of the decade’s culture is completely unheard of. Having the knowledge of these parts of culture is like having a common language with the rest of the world.
With television and media in the 90’s being so much more dominant than it ever had been in the past, it became the main way that children – in my experience – would relate to each other. Imaginary worlds created on the playground or in the backyard, as children are more exposed to fictional worlds on television and books, often become more adapted from the ones they read in books or see in the movies.
You can imagine that most of the conversations in which I must admit I did not spend any time during my childhood reading the Potter books or watching the Disney Channel – or for that matter, any of the princess films or what have you – generate looks of shock, confusion, almost outright disgust.
Followed by the question: “Did you even HAVE a childhood?”
Let’s see… from a cultural point of view.
I read “Peanuts” and “Calvin and Hobbes” in the newspaper, every Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket novel ever published, “Captain Underpants” which I ordered from Schoolastic. I used to spend hours in the worlds of “Fawlty Towers” and “Keeping Up Appearances” on PBS’s broadcast of BBC sitcoms, laughed for days at “Looney Tunes” and “Popeye” tapes I bought with my allowance, borrowed National Geographic specials from the library, ran to screenings of Chaplin and Marx Brothers films when they played at the cinemas where film from before 1980 still clung to cultural relevance for dear life.
You were inspired by the adventures of Harry and Hermione, I took my cues from the bold heroics of Shade Silverwing and the heartbreaking kindness – often at his own expense – of Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
My point, one that I will make concisely here instead of going off on a tangent, is that you never would know I hadn’t grown up with Potter or “Lion King” until I actually tell you so.
Did I have a childhood?
I made fart jokes with the other guys, played tag and capture the flag on the playground. I went camping. I sprayed water guns. I chased the ice cream guy screaming “YO PALETA.” I spit watermelon seeds into the dirt, imagining a gigantic watermelon sprouting from the soil in less than a month’s time. I cried when war seemed near, I threw rocks off a bridge at a passing barge (sorry about that). I learned to swim and feared drowning, I learned to bike and feared falling.
So to answer your question: Yes, last time I checked, I most definitely had a childhood.

P.S. There are some things from the 90’s that I DID share with others. I do remember the “Pokémon” television program and games – I shipped Ash and Misty when I was younger and dreamed of saving the world with my Pokémon (Swampert was my favorite – and arguably the best starter). I’ve seen every Pixar movie since “A Bug’s Life” (“Toy Story” I was still a bit young, but I watched it later to get the context for the second film). I did watch the “Lord of the Rings” films and “The Never Ending Story” and “Spongebob Squarepants.” Anything PBS Kids (“Arthur,” “Liberty’s Kids,” etc.)
P.P.S. Some things from MY childhood you might want to check out, as I’m now checking out Disney stuff (A lot of it you might know):
BBC America: “Keeping Up Appearances,” “The Vicar,” “Fawlty Towers,” “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
Cartoons: “Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies” (NOT “Space Jam,” god damnit. I mean classic Looney Tunes, 1929-1969), “Popeye the Sailor” (best ones 1937-1942), “Little Lulu,” “Droopy”
Nature/National Geographic: “Really Wild Animals,” ANY of the “Nature” specials, “Wild China,” “Planet Earth,” “Blue Planet”
Books (to name a few): “A Long Way From Chicago,” “A Year Down Yonder,” “Silverwing” (and its sequels), “Airborn” (and ITS sequels), “Hoot,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (NO, not the movie), “ “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn,” “Matilda” (NO, NOT the movie. The musical is great though), “Danny the Champion of the World,” “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “The Princess Bride” (NO, not the movie), “Stuart Little” (NO, NOT the movie), “Persepolis” (also the movie)
Comic Strips: “Peanuts,” “Calvin & Hobbes,” “Felix the Cat,” “Marge’s Little Lulu,” “Thimble Theater Starring POPEYE,” “Krazy Kat,” “Pearls Before Swine,” “One Big Happy,” “Walt Kelly’s Pogo,” “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” “Mickey Mouse” (1920’s)

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