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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Progressive Modernity of Animation Clashes With 90s Nostalgia

The traditional ideology of the generation coming of age is that the cartoons they grew up on are superior. This generation takes pride in its cultural upbringing and there is an emotional attachment to the era of animated television from the ’90s. The cartoons produced during that time have become emblems of nostalgia, beloved by many. This love has translated to a perceived infallibility of the original content and inability for new media to be welcomed with the same fervor. It has become a binary choice between nostalgic, loving appreciation for older cartoons, and enjoying what has come to be a very progressive and innovative era of cartoons.
Cartoons in general have a bad reputation in terms of educational content, but maintain an even worse reputation in terms of overall quality, with phrases like, “cartoons just aren’t what they used to be” regularly quoted by purists. It is that mentality that prevents people from accepting the next generation of animation. Certainly, the content that set the way for the cartoons we have today should be paid with respect, but, due to the influence the earlier cartoons inevitably had on what is currently being produced, the two are linked and people shouldn’t have to choose between them. People tend to get too caught up with nostalgia, allowing it to prevent them from enjoying what the medium has become. The fact is, cartoons now are on another, much greater, level of quality than their ’90s predecessors. It is a classic case of progressive modernity clashing with nostalgia. Despite the good and loving intentions behind the strong inclinations people have toward their childhood 90s cartoons, this attitude can sometimes be unnecessarily stubborn in nature. 
Modern cartoons take on issues that cartoons from the 90s would not have addressed. The nostalgia from that time period lay specifically in the identification of those being “simpler times”. Cartoons from the 90s were about friendship and playing all day, which is what people love about their childhood – it is the perfect formula to help people return to their inner child, and that is perfectly okay. The hope is that this new wave of animation can be accepted not only for its difference and newness, but for its message. Cartoons now are not afraid to address modern social issues that might cause controversy, and that is what makes them so great.
One need look no further than Bob’s Burgers for innovative plot and characters. This title shows a return to the family dynamic seen in iconic cartoons like Rocket Power and The Wild Thornberrys. Not only were these shows enjoyable, but they provided their young female audience with strong female role models. Reggie showed girls that it was okay to be physically strong and to excel in sports which was predominantly a male dominated interest. Liza Thornberry achieved much the same, but in the sciences, which has also been considered a masculine endeavor. Tina Belcher would not exist without these strong female precursors, but her character elaborates beyond merely setting a strong example and becomes an overtly feminist orator when she says things like, “I am a strong, smart, sensual woman.” Tina represents the kind of empowerment representative of the Third Wave feminism movement.
Rick and Morty is another show that has its feminist moments that elevate the animated series beyond the simplicity that is typically associated with cartoons, especially from the carefree era of the 90s. There is one episode that explores a planet run by women where men are slaves which complicates the notion of patriarchy and highlights how a society ruled by any one gender over the other has its flaws – ultimately advocating for equality between the two. The show is predominantly about the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson, kind of like Hey Arnold, except for the part where they travel through space and perform science experiments. While the science may not be factual in a literal sense, it follows theoretical science quite accurately, particularly in reference to interdimensional space travel.
Archer, a character from a show of the same name, certainly maintains a carefree sense of humor that reflects the origins derived from 90s cartoons, but that is only on the surface level. Archer becomes a mouthpiece for more serious issues through the engine of humor on numerous occasions. One of the show’s more poignant and serious themes that it addresses is that of single parenting when Archer finds out he has a child. For a character that seems like he is not supposed to be taken seriously, Archer has an abundant capacity for depth – he shows he can feel love despite his tendencies towards womanizing, and he even puts forth efforts to care for a child that might not even be his. Classic characters like Johnny Bravo were portrayed similarly as womanizing caricatures, but failed to transcend the label and provide commentary in the way that Archer does. Archer exemplifies the dynamic character with the capacity for growth which has come to represent the progressive movement of animation.
No one can take away the nostalgia associated with the so-called golden age of cartoons, without which the animation of today would not even exist. No one can truly deny that these are all great shows in their own right, but one would only be denying their own enrichment by casting one generation of animation against the other. The solution to this feud is to simply abandon the debate as to which era is better, because they are interdependent and both amazing in their own right.