In Defense of Stupid Cartoons

Posted by: , September 27, 2011 in 9:38 am

spongebob In Defense of Stupid CartoonsLast week an earth-shattering news story broke that stupid cartoons might negatively impact kids’ brains.  Yes, despite the fact that we can’t cure cancer and we still don’t know jack about what causes autism, the good people at the University of Virginia decided to research the effect that SpongeBob has on preschoolers’ ability to concentrate.

I can only assume that our National Curmudgeon Laureate Andy Rooney had something to do with this.  (“Did you ever notice that we get less cereal in our cereal boxes each year?  Or that cartoons get stupider ever year?  Whatever happened to the good old days when you could buy a three-bedroom house for $1.87?”)

Let’s just ignore the fact that SpongeBob is not part of Nickelodeon’s preschool lineup, mmkay?  Or that the study did not have a diverse participant base, or the fact that everyone already knows that cartoons rot your brain.

Yes.  Ignore all that.

Let’s focus on the fact that the comparison show was Caillou.  I’m pretty sure by now you all know where I stand on Caillou.  (If you’re not sure, or if you, too are concerned about Caillou’s mom’s apparent Xanax addiction, please see my post here.)

SpongeBob.  Caillou.  Did anyone measure the moms’ sanity levels after watching these two shows?

whinyAnakin In Defense of Stupid Cartoons
Call the wahhhhhmbulance.
I think it’s pretty obvious that if you let a four-year-old watch SpongeBob, he or she might end up a little bouncier than if he or she watched Caillou.  But I’m also sure that watching Caillou is going to make the child far, far whinier.  Because Caillou is, hands down, the whiniest character ever created in the whole history of television and film.

Caillou is even whinier than Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones, and that, my friends, is saying something.

Here’s the thing: SpongeBob is not exactly Masterpiece Theater.  But the truth is, I don’t want to watch Masterpiece Theater, either.  As irritating as some people find SpongeBob to be, I find him funny.  And entertaining.  And if my kids want to have a laugh at the end of the day watching a ludicrous story about a talking sponge who lives in a pineapple, I’m okay with it.

I’m wondering if all the parents who forbid SpongeBob also forbid themselves from watching such braniac television offerings as Wipe Out and So You Think You Can Dance?

My kids don’t watch TV for hours on end.  They also read, do homework, play outside, write poetry, and make up such intellectual games as “Butt Bingo.”  But they do watch some TV.  Sometimes they watch more upscale “learning” shows like Madeleine or Young Indiana Jones.  And sometimes they watch Phineas and Ferb or SpongeBob.

jem2 In Defense of Stupid Cartoons
Jem!  Truly, truly, truly outrageous
craptastic 80s programming.
Two of my children take prescription medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  All four of the kids are stressed at the end of the day, from school and homework and social pressures.  Just like I’m stressed at the end of the day from parenting, managing IEPs, and dealing with insurance, and my husband is stressed at the end of the day from work.  Guess what?  A half-hour of SpongeBob makes us laugh.  Which is good.

I’m not advocating watching TV nonstop or watching SpongeBob right before a standardized test.  I’m just saying SpongeBob is probably not the root of this country’s education problems.

People have been bitching about cartoons since Betty Boop first flashed some thigh in 1930.  I grew up watching good shows like Sesame Street and crap shows like She Ra, Princess of Power.  I watched classic (and violent) cartoons like Tom and Jerry, and complete 80s mass-marketed trash like Jem and the Holograms (truly, truly, truly outrageous).  And I still graduated college with summa cum laude honors.

And my kids are still going to be allowed to watch SpongeBob.

But not Caillou.

 In Defense of Stupid Cartoons
“For God’s sake, Caillou, maybe if you stop whining
for five seconds I’d be able to think straight and figure out why you’re bald.”


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