April 23, 2009

The faggy nineties: environmentalist propaganda directed at kids

Although I wish I could have been 15 to 24 during the 1980s to experience the coolness of roughly 1983 to 1987, I'm very glad that I wasn't -- being born in 1980, I was spared the generalized hysteria that peaked in 1991 - 1992. (It had begun around 1989, and lasted into 1994). The next generalized hysteria will happen sometime in the middle of the next decade -- there are roughly 22 - 23-year stretches between hysterias -- and by then, I'll be in my early-mid-30s, and my social radar won't give a shit about whatever foolishness the college sophomores and grad students will be up to.

It may seem obvious that below a certain age, you aren't affected by the epidemic of craziness, but I thought I'd provide four examples of attempted environmentalist brainwashing directed not at teenagers or 20-somethings, but at kids my age, during the height of the early '90s hysteria.

1) The well received cartoon Captain Planet and the Planeteers, which ran from 1990 to 1992. Read the Wikipedia entry -- it really was as propagandistic as it sounds. The heroes are from all races, while the villains are all white, although some are part-swine or part-rat. Seriously. The heroes are balanced for sex, while all but one of the villains is male -- and even the female was made to be the scientific genius, just to sneak in some feminist nutjobbery for good measure. And of course all the heroes are young (although under the guidance of a hippie elder), while the villains are mean old grown-ups.

No one gave a shit about recycling who watched the program -- it was just cool to see good guys fight bad guys. The just-maturing boys were more interested in banging Gaia than saving the planet.

2) The Jesse Spano character in the immensely popular sit-com Saved by the Bell. In the earlier episodes, filmed in the late 1980s, there wasn't so much emphasis on feminism, environmentalism, political correctness, etc. But during the 1990 and 1991 episodes, Jesse was written into a much more loud-mouthed activist shrew. Every other one-liner in every episode was about women's rights, the environment, bla bla bla. There was even an entire episode where the writers, haunted by the ghosts of muckrackers past, decided that oil would be found at the high school, everyone would be ecstatic except for environmentalist Jesse, but that in the end there would be an oil spill that killed the cute little animals in the school's pond -- complete with a visual of a duck covered in oil.

All I remember about this crap was, "Why doesn't Jesse shut up and move out of the way of Kelly Kapowski?" The show was syndicated well into my adolescence, and still is, and that never changed. By the time I was susceptible to freaking out about what ideas I should have to fit in, I knew that the looniness of the show wasn't au courant -- just as I wouldn't have suspected flaming racial tensions by watching All in the Family.

I recently bought the DVDs of the show, and it's fascinating how abruptly the focus shifted from the things teenagers really care about -- romantic rivalries, outfoxing the authority figures, etc. -- to all that preachy Generation X bullshit, within only two years (1989 vs. 1991).

3) The 1991 line of toys, not terribly successful, called The Trash Bag Bunch. It's more or less like Captain Planet -- there's a host of polluting villains who must be stopped by a holy army of trash-picker-uppers. Read the toy company's incredibly gay press release here.

Too bad none of the kids knew that back story -- again, to an 11 year-old boy, all that matters is that there are good guys and bad guys, and that each has a badass weapon to kill the others. This had zero impact on our development. In fact, what boys born in my cohort thought was the supreme pinnacle of radicalness was Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, which glorified filth and degradation -- something that will always appeal to boys more than cleaning up and being conscientious stewards of Mother Earth. Not surprisingly, Garbage Pail Kids ran from 1985 to 1988 in the U.S., before the hysteria hit.

4) The video game Zen: the Intergalactic Ninja released for the Nintendo and Game Boy in 1993. The plot is the same as Captain Planet again: you're a ninja who must stop the polluting villain Lord Contaminous.

I don't remember it being popular, and I never played it, but it was common enough for me to remember the title 16 years later. If you played it at all, it was probably something you rented from Blockbuster for the weekend and didn't touch again.

In sum, none of these propaganda campaigns managed to influence us at all, even though we were glued to the TV when Captain Planet and Saved by the Bell came on. Pre-pubescent kids just don't have to obsess over all the details of fitting in with their peers the way that adolescents do, so these efforts were doomed to fail. Now, if I were 15 or 16 when Saved by the Bell was on, I would've taken careful mental notes of what was verboten and been sure to avoid doing that in real life. Thankfully, I came of age after most of that insanity had died down.

Looking back, what really would have been a good way to get kids more into preserving the environment is playing into kids' love of outdoor play. Some of the things I most looked forward to then -- and which supply some of my fondest memories now -- are going to the beach, playing mini golf in a mock-highlands setting like the Magic Mountain courses in Ohio, climbing through the network of branches in a group of trees, playing hide-and-seek in garden mazes, and having enough field space and wooded area to fly kites, toss the football around, and play capture the flag. (Not to knock to fun of pavement-based games like four square and butt's up.)

The PR wizards and genius executives who hatched the above list of eco-friendly balderdash should have realized that kids don't care about one-upping each other in some dopey moralistic status competition -- I have no memories of my friends saying to me:

Oh, your Nerf Turbo isn't made from organic biodegradable foam? Oh no, nothing wrong with that... I guess I just thought that you didn't want to turn our community into a landfill before we finish fifth grade.

Kids like playing in primitive, unspoiled outdoor settings. Play to that, and they'll be much more likely as adults to oppose razing a mini golf course in order to put up a townhouse complex for yuppies and welfare addicts.

17 comments:

  1. You sure are an astute observer Agnostic. You wrote:

    "I was spared the generalized hysteria that peaked in 1991 - 1992. (It had begun around 1989, and lasted into 1994). "


    I am old enough to have been on a campus in those years, that is precisely when all the bullshit peaked. The air of "sexual harrassment and date rape and racism" was at an all-time high during those years. Believe it or not, the OJ thing in 94' kinda turned a few of the whites against a lot of it. The sight of all those blacks "jubiliee-ing" on campus when an obviously guilty murderer and de-KAPPA-tata frat boy alum walked free because blacks on a jury refused to convict him somehow sent a message to all the equality addicts on campus who weren't truly committed marxiscati. The genuinely-"go-along" goodhearted could see that something was rotten in all they had heard from their professors, and when they asked their professors about it, and got back PC-drivel, many knew that they were looking at a world with no objective standards (and people secretly want objective standards unless they know those standards will hamper them personally or they are intellectually dishonest), and were naturally revulsed.


    The Duke non-rape, non-kidnapping, non-assault case might have had a smaller impact on some on campus in the past decade, but the left still can insist horseshit like, "something happened in that house", so its not as cut-n'-dry as "Im going to hunt for the real killer" (on every golf course in America) OJ and his aquittal.


    PC however, has become the establishment, and lefty-professors are something kids have to get past to get their degrees to enhance their life's chances now in earnest in leui of massive outsourcing, and illegal immigration driving wages downwards. Lefty's have real cultural and educational muscle now (like the residential program at the University of Delaware that riled so many feathers.......they'd never have tried that even as recently as the 90's), and can flex it without such fear of professional retribuition.

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  2. Yeah, OJ was a sideshow compared to Rodney King and the LA riots.

    You remember that movie Airheads? A key point in the movie involves getting a mob of white slackers to overrun the police. So to rile them up, a guy starts chanting "Rodney King! Rodney King!"

    That movie came out *3 years* after Rodney King. Imagine someone now trying to chant "Hurricane Katrina!" to work up a bunch of people -- it would fail even more miserably than Kanye West's attempt to do so, when Katrina was still a hot news item.

    It's also been 3 years since the Duke Lacrosse hoax -- again, it didn't cause any riots then, and it sure couldn't get people riled up now.

    Same with Larry Summers, 4 years ago.

    Stuff like that has a longer shelf-life for creating chaos when there's a hysteria, as in the early 1990s, than during the past decade, which was relatively pretty free of PC hectoring.

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  3. Agnostic, don't forget Linka...she was fucking hot.

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  4. "Oh, your Nerf Turbo isn't made from organic biodegradable foam? Oh no, nothing wrong with that... I guess I just thought that you didn't want to turn our community into a landfill before we finish fifth grade."

    Where I went to school you would get beat up for talking like that. This had the moderating effect of keeping people relatively normal. It feels weird now to see adults praised as heroes for doing the same kind of preaching.

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  5. I was able to comment in your "Adventureland" thread about life in 1987, unfortunately there's almost nothing I can say about the first part of the 1990's. I was so preoccupied with things affecting my life that I paid very little attention to social, cultural, or even political events. What with a very bad relationship in 1990 and 1991, followed by near-poverty from late 1990 to mid-1993, outside things were basically a blur. My economic position improved greatly once I started a new job (where I still am) in September 1993, but even then a very long daily commute for the next four years kept my awareness of outside things somewhat limited.

    I must, however, disagree with Anonymous #1 with respect to the O.J. Simpson trial. It did not turn white people against political correctness as much as it created political correctness. Or enhanced it, at least. There was an endless amount of fuss over the fact that Mark Fuhrmann had used the word "nigger," and this lead to what almost amounted to a witch hunt against the racists hiding behind every tree.

    Moreover, it was my sense - though dulled, as noted in the first paragraph - that white people were not so much angry at the Simpson acquittal, as dismayed. It did not lead to any significant anti-minority sentiments.

    Peter

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  6. Remember "Darkwing Duck"? There was an ecoterrorist mutant plant villain who suddenly got rehabilitated and became a heroic (if slightly overzealous) guy fighting a good cause. Can't remember the name but that must've been in the early 90s, too.

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  7. Although I wish I could have been 15 to 24 during the 1980s to experience the coolness of roughly 1983 to 1987, Ah, so you don't know the sublime thrill of fumbling with a girl's bra under her little polo shirt as Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" is playing on the radio as a brand new hit.

    I'm very glad that I wasn't -- being born in 1980, I was spared the generalized hysteria that peaked in 1991 - 1992. Yeah, that period sucked. As a bona-fide X'er (born in early 70s) I felt more like one of those baby boomers who grew up on a farm, went to Vietnam, and loathed the hippies with all his soul. That's how much I hated averything about the early 90s PC explosion.

    Though I admit, the early 90s were good, but only musically. Pearl Jam and Candle Box had some good songs.

    Interestingly though, there is a generational divide I've picked up on, and my like-minded agemates agree on this: having graduated from high school in late 80s, I found that I have more in common with people who graduated ten years earlier than three years later.

    I ascribe it to the rock / hiphop divide. White kids like myself were all-rock, going back to older duded who still remembered jamming out to Led Zeppelin. Our peer-group girls were all about rock too.

    Kids a bit younger than me were more dance/hiphop, more Boyz2Men and C&C Music Factory than Def Leppard and Boston.

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  8. Wow, great post. As I was a few years behind you, I only vaguely remember that era. It's more tangential than any of your examples because the show was never geared specifically toward children, but there was a transition in Lisa on The Simpsons in the early nineties. She went from being a pretty generic sidekick of Bart to being a leftist/humanist intellectual from about the 2nd to 4th seasons. By the mid-nineties, she had become a full blown enviro, and has remained one ever since, even after the hysteria passed (although she has probably always been the least popular non-infant member of the family).

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  9. "Interestingly though, there is a generational divide I've picked up on, and my like-minded agemates agree on this: having graduated from high school in late 80s, I found that I have more in common with people who graduated ten years earlier than three years later.
    I ascribe it to the rock / hiphop divide."

    There was an even bigger divide a generation earlier, between people who were in their teens/early 20's in the pre-rock era and those who grew up with rock. Figure that after age 25 or so most people aren't going to pick up on new musical styles too readily. That would mean that a person born before about 1940, who was 25 or older when the Beatles transformed music and began the modern rock era, probably had more in common musically with someone born 30 years earlier (someone who'd be 100 if still alive) than with a person born just ten years later in 1950.

    One generational divide that has nothing to do with music involves women and driving. No, really. I'm basing this on older relatives, grandmothers of my friends when I was a child, that sort of thing. My theory is that most (or at least many) women born prior to 1925 never learned to drive, while just about all women born after that year learned. This was the case in Connecticut, where I grew up, but I see no reason why it would be different in most places.

    Peter

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  10. Good point about Lisa -- wasn't until 1991 that she became the loud-mouthed muckracker type.

    When she started off, she was a depressive Beat Generation type who played the saxophone with an underappreciated black musician (Bleeding Gums Murphy).

    Then she gave up the arts and hung out with overhyped whities Paul McCartney and his wife, to delight in their vegetarianness.

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  11. Though I admit, the early 90s were good, but only musically. Pearl Jam and Candle Box had some good songs. -- To follow up on my own coment, the early 90s shouldn't be dismissed musically with Nirvana / Pearl Jam cliches.

    It's easy to forget how much of a creative burst the period saw. I did mention the explosion of mainstreamed dance/hiphop already (though that wasn't my scene).

    There was also U2's arguably finest album "Achtung Baby." You weren't a 20-year-old in the summer of 1991 if you weren't driving to Ocean City with your buddies having "Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" blasting and windows rolled down.

    REM were douchey, but they did crank out a couple of good albums in that period as they graduated from college radio to mainstream.

    Sinnead O'Connor had "Nothing Compares 2U" and Alanah Myles had "Black Velvet."

    Hair Band rock matured, just as before got washed away by Grunge, with epic songs like "November Rain" (GnR) and "Don't Close Your Eyes" (Kix).

    Am I incorrect in believing that this burst of musical creativity hasn't been repeated since?

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  12. The episode when Lisa becomes a vegetarian and meets Paul McCartney (aired in 1995) is when the rubicon was unambiguously crossed, but it was a process three seasons in the making.

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  13. So Paul McCartney was the Yoko of the Simpsons?

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  14. Dance and hip-hop hit the mainstream earlier... around 1983 or so. Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc., for dance, and New Edition and breakdancing music for hip-hop. But yeah, 1992 was when it just took over, especially gangsta rap.

    REM was best in their college radio days, roughly 1985 to 87 or 88. "Losing My Religion" -- wah wah wah.

    Good call on Guns N Roses. They didn't get too hosed by the grunge thing, since they were more serious and less silly or decadent than other arena rock groups of the late '80s.

    My friends and I, early grunge groupies, still bought all of GNR's CDs, and MTV always gave props to "November Rain" and "Don't Cry" on their Top 100 Videos of All Time countdowns.

    I think this was repeated in the spurt we saw from 2003 to 2006. Stripped-down, raw rock made a comeback, crunk music was much more fun and danceable than gangsta rap, dance-pop made a comeback too (Madonna's 2005 album, Usher, Justin Timberlake, etc.), The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance revived Queen-type '70s rock, and so on.

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  15. The episode when Lisa becomes a vegetarian and meets Paul McCartney (aired in 1995) is when the rubicon was unambiguously crossed, but it was a process three seasons in the making.There's a 1991 episode where she wins the patriotic essay contest, goes to Washington only to learn how corrupt they are -- it involves pollution, of course -- and she re-writes the essay into a muckracking one.

    I'd say that's where there's a clear line, but I haven't watched a lot of the first two or three seasons in awhile. That one was certainly the first where the main plot centers around her being progressive and activist, where before she was just alienated and bohemian.

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  16. Regarding the OJ trial. I was teaching 9th graders at the time and they were completely snowed by the drama and coverage. They were cheering at his acquittal. It was pretty surprising.

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  17. Bird of Paradise11/4/13, 7:32 PM

    Its called INDOCTRINATION Hitler,Stalin,Mao and castro approved of

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