OK, so no one takes cartoons seriously, right? I mean they are just cartoons…stuff people laugh at, with all those crazy characters that seem to defy any and every law of nature what with eyeballs popping out of their faces or with crazy characters falling all over the place for no apparent reason. They’re not there revolutionizing the world or changing the way we think…and yet….they do. Despite all the silliness, or maybe because of it, we start to internalize the message they send. And start looking at things differently. Iconic cartoons always change the way we interpret the mundane. Need examples?
1. Popeye : Spinach – the secret ingredient in every superhero’s diet
Popeye, the Sailor Man made eating spinach look trendy. The item on a dinner table kids loved to loathe suddenly became equivalent to strength and muscles and everything a young boy could dream of. It made Popeye do things human beings couldn’t conceive of…like drilling a hole through the ceiling with his bare hands or lifting a building on his nose-tip. Of course, none of us bought that spinach could be that good, but still we did start associating it with sheer power. Boring spinach suddenly became most wanted, and all thanks to the sailor.
2. Casper: Ghosts are a little child’s best friends
If you named the top 10 things that scared the pants off human beings, ghosts would be right up there, alongside machete-wielding psychopaths and snake pits. All through human history, we’ve been scared witless of these beings that nobody has seen and nobody can conclusively prove exist. And I think, the makers of “Casper” might have thought, if no one can prove ghosts exists, then how can they decide what characteristics these ghosts have. What if these ghosts were just friendly creatures? Or at least some of them were. So we have Casper, the friendly ghost. So now, we do not look at a ghost as a creature whose very raison d’être is to screw with people’s minds but as a creature capable of emotions…with flaws, yes, but also with the goodness we see in humans. Now suddenly when you think of ghosts, you will also have a endearing, bubbly image of Casper in your mind, alongside the bloodthirsty visions.
3. The Flintstones: Let’s make the Stone age rock!
Had it not been for The Flintstones, we’d think of the stone age as a period when people were born, reproduced and died. I mean, who would have thought of how people thought during the time…did they laugh, did they cry, did they have friends, did they dance? When we would read of Neanderthals and all related tongue-twisters in History, the LIVES of these people would not be something that most of us would think of. Of course, The Flintstones is not even close to how things actually were, they would not have feet-operated cars, or elephant trunk showers or pet dinosaurs…but the show really took you to another world and made you think, what if…
The show juxtaposed what we see in our everyday lives against what people during stone age would have gone through thus opening up a whole new way of looking at the past. The Flintstones really made the stone age rock(the pun was just there and couldn’t resist it :))
4. Archie : The reason why teens all over the world want to be like American Teens
Long before the days of cartoon channels and the internet (to those born after late 1990s: Yes, there was once such a time…I am not making it up) we had very little notion of how the world was. We knew of a developed countries but how were they different from our developing nations? Well, that’s where Archie comics came in. To us pre-teens and teens, these comics were like an entry into a wonderful fantasy world…. It took us to a land we all aspired to live in, a life we wanted to lead. We’d never been on dates, but wanted to. We’d never seen youngsters drive cars, but now knew it was possible. Heck, many of us would not even have heard of burgers and pizzas had it not been for the Riverdale crowd. So Mcdonald’s, Pizza Huts and the rest, if you are popular today…a portion of your thanks has to go to these comics. The teens today don’t know it, but all of them are trying to meet the standards of fun and ideal teen life that Archie comics has been setting.
5. Tom & Jerry- Mice
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! That is just an everyday, understated reaction to a mouse-sighting. Most of us find mice repulsive, disgusting or at least annoying. But take this mouse and put it into a cartoon and somehow it becomes magically cute and all its attempts to destroy our food, unbelievably adorable. When Jerry the mouse dueled with Tom the cat, the entire household would come together to root for Jerry. Yes, Mickey mouse is also a mouse but Mickey is almost human, that looks like a mouse…but Jerry is different. Jerry does all mouse-like stuff like stealing cheese or living in a mousehole. And yet, despite all this, we are able to relate to the mouse. Of course, we are able to relate to the poor Tom too. But haven’t we always felt that cats are more than animals? But making mice lovable…now that is something only cartoons can do.
And we see the same being repeated in cartoon, after cartoon, after cartoon…they are all exaggerations. But somehow cartoons have the power to convey a lot. They have the power to make us believe….think about it!