With the release of The Expendables, it seems that every self-respecting male has caught 80’s fever. As a way to clear the palette from modern metro-sexual romps, my friends have resorted to re-visiting old B-movie beauties such as Cobra, Road House and Tango and Cash. Sure they’re awful, but unlike the Kaiser-helmet wearing hipsters of the lower east side, those movies never tried to be anything that they weren’t.
When looking back at the 80s however, the one thing that strikes me the most are the cartoons. I’ll admit it, I’m a cartoon junkie. To this day I can still be found in my pajamas with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, catching up on animated glory. Back in the 80s though, cartoons were still violent… and I liked it that way.
Of course, I’m discussing the cartoons aimed squarely at young boys. You see, back then, before gender roles became considered hateful and being androgynous had been transformed into a virtue, boys actually watched different cartoons from girls, and they were proud of it.
One could simply take a gander at the commercials to see 80’s “boyishness” on display for all to see. Accurate-to-scale replica squirt guns, guns that shot disappearing ink and of course Nerf Swords! None of us really needed a “Madball,” but we all wanted one.
The important common bond between all of these cartoons, was the clear battle of good vs. evil. Sometimes it was over the top, it might have been a little cheesy and sure the writing wasn’t always quite Emmy-material, but at the end of the day, you knew that you were going to see the good guy win over the bad guy. Decisively.
Cartoons were black and white. All of the shades of grey that are supposedly necessary for substantial character development in Hollywood today weren’t needed. All that was needed, was a clear sense of right and wrong with the hero getting the “W.”
People would complain that this type of entertainment made little boys violent. Good. Honestly, I would love to see more little boys wanting to commit acts of violence against bad guys. Do you know what happens when you breed the violence out of a young boy along with any sense of moral absolutes? You end up with terrorist sympathizers, Tookie Williams supporters and people who weep at the execution of a convicted serial murderer/rapist.
I think this world would be better off if cartoons inspired more good little boys to punch their schoolyard bully square in the mouth. The truth is that sometimes boys need more “Superman” and less “Pokemon.” They need more “Ninja Turtles” and less “Yu-Gi-Oh!”
And sometimes grown men need more “Expendables” and less Sean Penn.