Classic 80s Cartoons - A Nostalgia Hard-on

While I didn’t start forming lasting memories until the latter half of the 80s, I still maintain a lot of fond recollections of the shows I watched as a child.  I liked some “girly” type things, but most of the time I was watching boys cartoons.

For one thing, I had a 12-year-old brother who could easily dominate the television. For another, his shows were much more interesting than whatever pap was going on in Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Pony.  I liked shows like ‘He-Man’ and ‘Transformers’ and ‘My Pet Monster’ and ‘C.O.P.S.’  The only girly or cutesy shows I ever watched with any frequency were ‘Jem’ and ‘The Care Bears’.  

I’ll get to Doug’s newest review in a minute, but for a moment I’m gonna go back to last summer when both the Nostalgia Chick and Benzaie reviewed ‘Jem’. Lindsay didn’t care for the show, sizing it up as nothing more than a vehicle for advertising that had more style than substance.

Which is totally true! … That doesn’t mean I love ‘Jem’ any less.

Last summer, ‘Jem’ was running late at night on the The Hub network, alongside classic Adam West Batman and the Transformers cartoon.  I watched it every night, and while the show didn’t hold up as well as I thought it might … I still retained a vast amount of affection for that silly little show.

The thing that I remembered most and was still impressed by were the music videos.  While they might seem contrived and over-the-top silly by today’s standards, no other shows really did anything like this and managed to pull it off.  The music videos in ‘Jem’ never feel out of place to me, and their use of abstract imagery (and some admittedly catchy songs) was always just … friggin’ cool. I can’t explain why those music videos left an impression on me, but they did. And even I as I rewatched ‘Jem’ they were the part that stood out the most to me.

One thing I appreciated more about ‘Jem’ the second time around was that even though the story was silly, it took a lot of chances.  There was an attempt to take the audience a little bit seriously.  Okay, it kinda ended up being edged out by the product placement and the iffy writing didn’t help either.  Still, for a show born in the mid-1980s to acknowledge the simple fact of “people die, and it’s very sad” is downright groundbreaking.  Consider that during this time, you couldn’t say the word “die” in a Nintendo game.  Death was something that was rarely touched on, and even when shows did manage to go there… whoever died would mostly show up alive and well by the end of the episode. 

'Jem' didn't fall into that trap. Instead, grieving was an important motivation for the main protagonist, Jerica. So it's not just death they were throwing out there, how it affects people was carefully handled, and honestly I think it was done — for the most part — extremely well.

The only thing that would’ve served ‘Jem’ better, in my opinion, is if the stakes were a bit higher.  There never really seemed to be any real tension beyond… superficial girly things.  Sure, there was saving the orphanage, and moving the displaced girls into the house that was the prize for the battle of the bands, but none of this ever felt like a fight for something I could find myself giving a shit about.  

That’s where ‘Transformers’ shined.  I may not have given a shit about Jerica, her secret life or her record contract, but you’d better believe I was fucking INVESTED in the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Transformers also marks a milestone for me, it was the first time I was ever pissed off at how women were portrayed in media.  Finally, a girl Transformer shows up… and she’s a)FUCKING PINK and b)FUCKING USELESS.  I was mad that the boys got to be badass, but the girls didn’t.  

I really liked Doug’s ‘Raiders of the Story Arc’ for Transformers. It covered everything well, and made the point of “Yeah, it’s cheesy… but it’s still better than those Michael Bay movies.”

Damn straight.

Now, for some pointless babbling about a show that I FUCKING LOVED… but nobody seems to talk about.

Of all the ‘Team’ shows made to sell toys, this, to me, was by far the best:

I could literally watch this show all day every day and never fail to be entertained. I love the art style, I love the premise, and even though the good guys are often outshined by the villain cast… in a way, that makes this show all the more awesome. 

The DVD set is available for sale, and a lot of episodes are up on YouTube… if you ever have a few moments to spare, check this show out.  While it sports all of the tropes and cliches that these kind of cartoons were chock full of, it manages to present them in a new and interesting way.  

For instance, the Anti Drug trope. It’s one thing for the good guys to team up against the evils of drugs, it’s quite another for your main villain to tell a drug dealer to fuck off because he thinks pushing drugs is beneath him.  He doesn’t care about how much money it could make him, he’s too evil to waste his times on petty things like drugs.

Fucking AWESOME.

One thing that I find reviews of this show mentions a lot is how “revolutionary” it was to have a black main protagonist.  I almost find that insulting to the show, as there are about a hundred other reasons to heap praise on it without pointing that out.  It’s one of MANY awesome things that made this show fresh and different in a sea of sameness, yes … but why do we gotta bring that up all the time? Huh? Can’t this show be awesome without having to drag that into it?

At any rate… yeah. Doug’s ‘Transformers’ video has put me in a Nostalgic mood this evening.  

Hell yeah muthafucka. Hell yeah.