Ah, yes. Nothing can soothe the savage college student like a little piece of nostalgia. Chances are, if your interest was piqued by that sentence, you’re a 90s kid, or the parent of one. And you know it came from an episode of Hey Arnold! You grew up on Nickelodeon at its prime. Who can forget shows like Doug, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Rocko’s Modern Life (my personal favorite — I own every episode ever made on DVD), and the ultimate classic, Rugrats (which — OMG — still has a maintained webpage on Nickelodeon’s site). Netflix one of these shows in a room full of 18-20somethings and we’re mesmerized in front of the boob tube with our mouths open, likely regressing to the same position we took while watching TV as kids.
After engaging in the aforementioned activity not long ago, I couldn’t help but think about the striking difference between the episode of the always-wholesome Hey Arnold! I’d just watched and the shows my little sister, who’s 10, watches on a daily basis. Hey Arnold! and similar shows almost always incorporated some sort of life lesson into its silliness. Looking back, these messages held through into my adult years — In fact, everyday events sometimes still prompt me to reminisce about some TV show I used to watch as a kid. Whether it’s Rocko’s Modern Life’s satirical commentary on, well, modern life, or CatDog’s message of universal acceptance of those who are different.
I’ll admit, I’m a cartoon-lover. So, every time I visit home and am sharing the living room with my sister, I can’t help but get sucked in to whatever show she’s watching. Only, they’re hardly ever cartoons anymore. She went through a Zoey 101 phase a few years ago, until her favorite show was cancelled due to the star, Jamie Lynn Spears’s, teenage pregnancy. What a great role model for a then-5 year-old.
Then, she was addicted to Hannah Montana.
Yeah, my point exactly.
Aside from most of these shows being mind-numbingly vomit-inducing, the demographics they appeal to are completely inappropriate. Shows like Hannah Montana and Zoey 101 deal with pre-teen issues, like shopping and makeup and dating boys. But the main age group these shows appeal to is 8-10 year-olds, and it definitely shows. My sister comes home from school with stories about her friends putting on makeup to go to movies with boys. They’re fourth-graders.
As if it isn’t bad enough that my little sister is singing along to the radio about “boys trying to touch her junk,” she’s got her role models, who are only 6-8 years older than her, getting knocked up and dancing on poles.
I’ve tried to turn my sister on to the cartoons I grew up with but, alas, she finds them boring. So much for that mode of sisterly bonding. I find she tries to have more things in common with me than I would ever expect of my 10 year-old sister. At age 10, I was still playing with Barbies and stuffed animals. While it’s fun to have a sister to talk with about painting nails and clothes shopping, it makes me a little sad that she’s growing up so much faster than I ever expected.