How to Adjust to Society's "Progress"

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Reader Comments (50)

Excellent one, Scott.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRubrick

Most of your employer's stories for children have horrible lessons.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Let's be fair. While I'm sure somebody can find a story without one, almost all children's stories have horrible lessons in them if you look carefully enough.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentere

Yes "e", there's a lot of bad lessons in kids stories. The ones I hate most are the "stick to your own kind, you can't be happy with people that don't look like you". Ugly Duckling, Perky the Pukeko are two that spring to mind, but there are others.

February 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris

These days I'm watching the "classic" Star Trek episodes with my kids. I am realizing that they contain quite a lot more sexist prejudice than I previously thought... I should have expected that.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBoldlyDubious

that first panel tho.... too true

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergeli

He-Man was made of pure awesomeness. Think about it! They produced 130 episodes in a 2-year period, and each one of those shows had a PSA or a moral. Nothing says "quality" more than a high-volume, short-term experience. Do you want a little bit of drugs over a long period of time or a lot of drugs over a short period of time?

I think I made my point. By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!!!

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Also from Jack and the Beanstalk: if you like something someone else has, just take it, and if they chase after you then murder them and keep their stuff.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRavenBlack

There's another 'lesson' from that story that you forget to mention: That's it's okay to break into strangers' houses - especially if they're different from you - and steal from them when they aren't home. In many versions of the story, it doesn't come out that the giant is particularly evil, or himself stole the items Jack sneaks away with. In fact, some versions could be interpreted that the giant was understandably miffed that his home was burglarized by Jack and - with no cops around to call - simply 'stood his ground'.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason Toddman

Perky the Pukeko?

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaddy

Coming soon, Basic Instructions action figures, all your favourites, work shirking Scott, Missy with 5 inter-changable sarcastic heads, New and 'Classic' Ric, 'talking' Rocket Hat and, in a special limited edition hazmat container, Jenkins.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

I used to *know* that kids programs today are worse (apart from a few uniques like Poccoyo and Pingu...), but I realised that when I was a kid, TV for kids were for kids around 6+. But things that are absolute trash like The Poombahs or In The Night Garden are for kids up to 4 tops.

Comparing a kids program for 2 year olds to one for 6 year olds is why it seems so much worse.

The other thing to remember about nostalgia for the stuff you watched as a kid is you had a 5 minute attention span on those days.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWow

Am I wrong to base my life choices on "The Sneetches", "The Grinch.." and "Green Eggs and Ham"??????

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMister Tee

My favorite bad lesson comes from "The Little Mermaid". As a woman, if you don't speak and have really nice legs you'll marry a prince. And there's "Beauty and the Beast" about Stockholm Syndrome.

Or maybe the Mermaid Moral isn't so bad...

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterclueless noob

Our stories often tried to teach good lessons and accidentally taught bad ones. I remember watching GI Joe and seeing Roadblock tell a kid to avoid downed power lines. Then he grabbed the downed power line with long steel tongs and moved it off the road. I guess the lesson was that if you're going to touch electricity you should make sure to get plenty of metal involved?

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwumpus

The Ugly Duckling is the worst kid's story ever. All of the bad stuff that happens to him is justified because he's ugly, and the happy ending is that he ends up being pretty.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwintermute

Even the good lessons end up being bad if you think about them very much. Things like Cinderella and the aforementioned Ugly Duckling theoretically teach you to patiently bear misfortune and poor treatment, because you'll be rewarded for your suffering eventually as long as you are a good person. Unfortunately it just leads to disappointment and resentment when it turns out life doesn't work that way...

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLythande

Funny, I just saw an episode of Level Up that touched on this very subject. Funny because I'd never thought of the story in that light before: Jack was a kleptomaniac and the giant was just trying to get his stuff back.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPsnyde

I must protest!

No GOOD kids' show was made until the early 90's! Looney Tunes does not count (the good ones were not initially made for kids or television). As observed, He-Man and the other toy-selling TV shows were awful. Animaniacs and the early Nicktoons were the first shows to even begin attempts at making children's shows entertaining in their own right.

And now, kids' shows are better than ever. (I know. I'm 31, and I have kids.) You have FANTASTIC shows like Adventure Time now. Now, even the shows that were designed to sell toys have had to raise the bar, resulting in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic being truly entertaining. I'm making myself an easy target, yes, but try it and you'll agree. (Disclaimer: I think having a daughter who got into it makes me non-brony.)

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFMA

Gee, I grew up on pulp SF. I learned that if you indulge your hobbies you'll be kidnapped by aliens and have amazing adventures on other planets. I mean, would Robert Heinlein lie to me?

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterResuna

Oh yes - as opposed to the wonderful cartoons that teach kids consumerism and create a situation where kids never make up their own storylines but simply recite the show dialogue. A great recipe for killing imagination dead.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLEH

The problem with He-man was they produced 130 episodes of it using only 30 episodes worth of drawings. Not like Scott who...er..um... well at least he's funny...

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdork angel

Just got an email that I won one of the free copies of Off to Be the Wizard from GoodReads! Super excited!

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill Saunders

Yeah, Jack is a bad guy, but his transgressions are overlooked because his name is in the title? Some old stories shouldn't be passed along.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCj

THANK YOU! I've been complaining about the Fum/Englishman debacle since I was four.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

As a kid in the 1970s, I used to watch "Ark II", a Saturday morning live-action show about a group of scientists roaming the post-apocalypse wasteland:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=63_lcQUdxxE


and later "Thundarr the Barbarian", where the destruction of civilization was shown in the opening intro:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhAobPugvsk


Before that there was the "Return to the Planet of the Apes" Saturday morning cartoon:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdG3K90LSDs

How many of today's kids' shows have orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas debating whether or not to exterminate the human race? See above video, from about 2 1/2 minutes to 4 1/2 minutes. The Ape Council rules that humans

"may be hunted in the usual manner, for legitimate sport. That they may be captured alive, and used for menial labor, or as domestic pets. And for study, by our chimpanzee behavioral scientists. However, if indeed it is proven that the humanoid animals have developed language, then according Article 18 of the Book of Simian Prophecy, we will destroy them no matter what the cost might be."


Let's face it. Today's Saturday morning cartoons are not properly preparing our children to deal with the Post-Apocalypse World Order they will inherit from us.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterapocalypsenonymous

I always wondered about that, myself. Perhaps it is pronounced "Englishmum"?

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWerdna

Gah! Beauty and the Beast (at least the Disney version) is just messed up.

An 11-year-old boy is rude to an old woman, and as punishment, she turns him into a monster, and says that he'll stay like that unless he can find true love within 10 years. But because that's not hard enough, she also turns everyone he knows into furniture, and makes his home as offputting as possible so that he'll never meet anyone new.

Hundreds of people suffer because one kid is rude, and it just so happens that the only woman to enter the castle in those 10 years falls in love with him, thereby saving all the innocent bystanders caught up in the witch's wrath.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwintermute

I'm pretty sure the moral of GI Joe (or The A-Team, or...) is that you can fire fully-automatic weapons in a small, crowded room without anyone getting hurt.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwintermute

I think it's wrong to call kids' shows for very young viewers bad, unless they are, like Boobahs. British TV has a sketch show called [Sorry, I've Got No Head], which does nothing for me but I can kind of see that if you're that age then it is like SNL when SNL was good. On the other hand, a new game called [Ludus] on the same station appears to be presented by the space Liberace who apparently steals children or something, which I haven't examined closely and really hope that I'm misinterpreting, and probably am, since Google doesn't associate it with homophobia particularly; Google knows all.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Carnegie

A discussion of why traditional kids' stories rocked and why the modern ones tend to suck is worth several volumes of closely written prose. As is the detailing of the trend away from teaching life lessons that one needs in favor of toy commercials that render one a permanent consumer of the products sold by the teller of the story...

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkhereva

Everything I needed to know about dealing with other people I learned from Wile E. Coyote: if I don't like someone, I just drop an anvil on their head.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I've read many of the classic Grimm marchen in the original version (in translation). Lots of blood, mutilation and death. I would have liked to see what Disney would have done with "The Jew in the Thornbush", for example. When I realized that the stepmothers happened because the father's first wife had died in childbirth, and they (the stepmothers) knew the first wife's children could not be counted on to support her in her own old age - well, the past is a different country, and it sucks to live there.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Plus we're living in an age of resurgent quality kids shows. The kind like "Looney Tunes" that can be appreciated by adults and kids. Like "Phineas and Ferb" and "Spongebob Squarepants."

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

BI action figures? That'd be awesome! And the best part is, you can't ever lose Omnipresent Man or Mr. Everywhere.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLummox JR

Jeff, I hope that BI does merchandise like that. I would buy the shit out of collectible action figures.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKG

The Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s, particularly the Chuck Jones-directed work, were the apex (or if you prefer, the Acme) of American cultural achievement. Sure, Pinky and the Brain had their moments, but nothing since has had the memorable stories, characters and quotes. On the other hand, somebody should write a doctoral dissertation on how and why they got so bad in the 1960s.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
You gotta love Basic Instructions!

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack Slayer

Outside the US, we had Monkey, which was full of philosophical head-scratching and helped make me the wise, yet violent man I am today.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

@wintermute: Beauty & The Beast, the version worth our time (NOT Disney) is a rare thing: a female maturation story, in which the maiden moves from powerless childhood to being mistress of a household.This involves learning to exert her authority over the house servants, growing up, and learning to see her husband not as a hairy scary monster, but as a man. It's worth comparing to the Persephone tale, in which she moves from being Demeter's mere appendage to being a queen in her own right (even surpassing her own mother in authority).

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkhereva

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