There was that new study that found that 4-year-olds who watched SpongeBob Squarepants had more trouble with paying attention and problem-solving than those who watched Caillou.
Is anybody really surprised at this?
Something about your brain getting exhausted watching all that frenetic action. “There are a lot of things happening that can’t happen in real life — magical things going on in totally new places, the bed catapults you out and you land in a lake wearing an astronaut costume,” said one of the researchers.
Confession: My kids watched SpongeBob when they were that age. Now, they were never allowed to watch it unsupervised, because, well, the whole point was for me and my husband to watch the show.
I love Plankton. Like him, I just like messin’ stuff up.
But we realized things were getting out of hand the year I announced we were going to make cookies for St. Patrick’s Day, and my 4-year-old assumed I was talking about the Patrick who is best friends with SpongeBob.
And thus began our family tradition of making pink starfish cookies for St. Patrick’s Day.
Given the chance, however, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I can’t stand Caillou.
I’m not too fond of Franklin, either. Or Arthur. They’re a little too preachy for my tastes.
Those cartoons came up in conversation recently with a group of high-school kids, who were reminiscing about when they were little. (Finally! Something in common that I can talk about with a teenager!)
Is Arthur a bear or an aardvark? Discuss.
This was also the generation that grew up on Little Bear. Now, I love me some Little Bear. He’s like Pooh, but with parents. I’ll still sit down and watch Little Bear, given the chance.
Recently, the kids and I have discovered Shaun the Sheep on Netflix, one of those cartoons-without-words from the folks who make the Wallace & Gromit stop-motion movies. We guffaw at Shaun the Sheep even though we’re all well beyond the targeted age demographic.
Now, Looney Toons are in a class by themselves. Like Pixar movies, they’re not kiddie fare, they’re high art. My husband holds that the three greatest surrealists of the 20th century are Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers and Daffy Duck.
To this day, if someone at the dining table asks to pass the salt, we’re likely to break into a Daffy Duck song:
Oh when they say I’m nutsy,
It sure gives me a pain,
Please pass the ketchup,
I think it’s going to rain!
You know, when I was a kid (insert eye-roll here), I didn’t have the Cartoon Network. If I wanted to watch cartoons, I had to get up early on Saturday mornings. There was one single cartoon on Sunday mornings, Davey and Goliath, a clay animation show about a boy and his dog produced by the Lutheran Church. It was even preachier than Franklin.
My generation grew up on Speed Racer and Scooby-Doo. Not just bad storytelling, but bad animation, too.
Many of our cartoons didn’t even bother with animation: The Banana Splits, H.R. Pufnstuf. Even our Batman was a guy in a goofy costume.
Now, as a grown-up, I am happy to sit down with my son and watch the cartoon versions of Star Wars: The Clone Wars or The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Guys and girls with superpowers, dozens of weapons, futuristic technology, a new villain every 15 minutes, lives and relationships as complex as the heroes of ancient Greek mythology. What’s not to love?
After an episode of one of those, my attention span and my problem-solving skills are completely shot.
No wonder I like messin’ stuff up.