I suspect that most of you Gen Y folks out there, like myself, grew up being plugged into the various shows Nickelodeon had to offer. Saturday mornings with Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and Ahhh! Real Monsters. After school with The Amanda Show and Keenan and Kel. And (if your parents weren’t there) watching as much Ren and Stimpy, Angry Beavers, and Rocko’s Modern Life as possible. My parents didn’t like me watching those shows. As a kid, I couldn’t possibly understand why, but now, watching them again as an adult, I fully agree with my parents. Most of what Nickelodeon showed in the ’90’s was perverse and disrespectful and it ultimately ruined us plugged-in Gen Y kids.
1. Ren and Stimpy:
I feel like I should save the best for last (since this single show is case and point), but I figured I’d start with a heavy hitter. I have very vivid memories of me at my cousin’s house watching this show when I was 5. No child should watch this show. It features a gay couple (which is totally fine), but makes them so slap stick and disgusting that it trains us (the viewers) to not respect any sort of relationship like the one Ren and Stimpy hold. The homosexuality wasn’t hidden – from simulate anal sex to saw dust ejaculation, it makes a mockery of homosexual relationships and encourages the viewers (the 5 to 10 year olds) to do the same.
2. Rocko’s Modern Life:
This is another show that features a homosexual relationship that is openly mocked. This show is just as bad in that respect as Ren and Stimpy. Though, it ruined Gen Y in other ways as well. One way is it minimizes and makes fun of sex work and sex workers. Rocko has several jobs throughout the show as various forms of sex work; phone sex operator being just one. It taught us that sex work is easy and fun and cute and funny. It also taught us that sex workers shouldn’t be taken seriously. Another way this show ruined us is the constant unhealthy eating. It’s something all these shows have in common. All the characters are seen eating fried foods or snacks or sweets which makes the viewers want to do the same.
This show is mostly harmless. It has fun plots and good morals (and it even teaches children about other cultures and religions!). But the focus of most plots is of the children going behind their parents back to do whatever it is they want. I wish I could count how many times Dede shrieked, “Where’s Tommy!” in the series, but alas, I don’t have enough fingers and toes for that. Shows such as these taught us that being disrespectful of our parents was normal and OK.
Bonus: The Amanda Show (and most other non-animated shows on Nick):
These shows were the worst at teaching kids disrespect. The Amanda show didn’t come around until I was roughly the same age as the main character. It showed skit after skit of kids disobeying, making fun of, ridiculing and pranking the parents. It made disrespect of elders cool.
That disrespect that these shows taught us in varying ways is what made us who we are today, a culture of lazy and rude animals. Our parents came out of the ’70’s, so they wanted us to know we were individuals with out own minds and free will, but in their lax way of raising us, they forgot to tell us that this is now how children, and subsequently adults, should act. We can’t go around doing whatever we want without fear of consequences. We can’t bully and disrespect the people around us for fun or because they are different. Dick and fart jokes aren’t funny. It’s not cute to be stupid. Intimate relationships are not yours for the judging. And we should really stop eating so much crap. We were the first generation to truly be plugged in. We would give up play time for TV time, and it sure didn’t do us any favors in the long run.