Dear 90’s Kids; Your Childhood was Stupid

I was born in 1983, which puts me in the category of Millenial, a term used by dumb people who figure generational differences can be neatly divided into decade-size chunks. At the same time, this generation, who’s formative years was in the late 80’s and early 90’s, for whatever reason, thinks this was clearly winning some sort of lottery. Anyone born from 1980 to about 1990 will rant and rave about their childhood, bragging about their upbringing with anyone they have on their social media list. The reverberation from the rest of the internet echoes right back at them. “Remember this?” Everyone nods in affirmation. Apparently, 1990’s nostalgia is the best nostalgia.

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I try not to.

Mr. Charlton is here to tell you that your memory is pretty terrible. I used to be like you, 90’s kid. I used to say things like “Well, this new computer game is pretty fancy, but it’s not nearly as cool as my Super Nintendo”. I too used to swallow the Kool-Aid of 90’s nostalgia, drinking it in like cheap gin. Reality smacked me back in the face when instead of thinking about memory lane, I took a stroll down it. For the first time in over two decades, I sat down and watched my favorite cartoon from my childhood; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It’s fucking awful.

I’m not saying this lightly. I love cartoons. I watch cartoons all the time. I’m not judging a medium here, people. What I’m saying is that objectively, and I say this with conviction in my heart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the 1980’s cartoon I cherished as a child, is an utter pile of crap. It sucks. The first season of the show is sort of passable, but then it completely goes off the rails. There’s no real character development, there’s no structure, the plot is stupid, and the whole show reeks of lousy writing.

There’s a reason for this, though. You see, kids are smart, but they’re also pretty dumb. It’s just what kids do. Saturday morning cartoons were designed to do one thing, and one thing only. Sell toys. And it worked. Really, really well.

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Maybe too well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out in 1987, so I was four years old when I was introduced to the show. That’s young. I mean, that’s brain formative, crazy impressionable young. These shows were so effective, a law had to be put in place to let children know when the show took a break and the advertisements began. It was called the Children’s Television Act.

It wasn’t just TMNT that was trying to sell my childhood to me, there was a number of shows that pulled this kind of trash.

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David Koresh couldn’t get this kind of following.

If you’re part of the earlier generations, the Gen X’s or the Baby Boomers, and you’ve always wondered why our generation was so obsessed with weird pop culture like Transformers and Nintendo, well, it’s because that’s how you inadvertently raised us. You sat us down in front of the television every Saturday morning, and let us watch six hours of programming designed to get us to buy toys. And it was done when our brains were spongy and pliable.

Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. I’m also not really writing this for the older generations, or my generation either. I’m writing this for the younger generation, for the kids who were born after the naughts. If you’re wondering why mommy and daddy will have an actual argument about which Pokemon is better, it’s because your parents were brainwashed when they were kids. It’s why the adult neighbors will solemnly nod in agreement when they mention how Micheal Bay destroyed their childhood with the new Transformer movies. The adults you’ll have to work with when you grow to get a job will forever be sitting around the water cooler, discussing which Power Ranger they would have been.

If you’re a 90’s “Kid” reading this, there is still hope. The cartoons being made today are spearheaded by the same generation, and they are way better than anything we ever had. If you’re actually a Ninja Turtles fan, then I suggest you go watch the new 3D remake from Nickelodeon that premiered in 2012. It actually has a plot and is well written for a kid’s show. A lot of other famous franchises are getting reboots, and many of them are pretty good.

The kids growing up today have it better than I did as a kid when it comes to entertainment, and that’s a good thing. Cartoons are more engaging and smart, video games are bigger and brighter, and if all else fails, it’s not like the old stuff vanished. Heck, I was playing the old arcade game ‘Asteroids’ on my computer the other day. It’s nice to look back every now and again. You just have to make should you’re only glancing back at the past, not staring intently.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The Super Nintendo is still fun and all, but it doesn’t compare with playing online against crazy Russian people in CounterStrike.

Personalized Propaganda

In an era of twenty-four hour news cycles, instant updates, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, information has never been easier to access and create. Digital cameras in all of our pockets that connect to us to both cellular networks and the internet allow everyone to participate and contribute to the sphere of political discourse. The biggest issue that arises from this ability to share is that misinformation can easily be shared and paraded as truth.

Photographs and memes have been used to sway people for generations. Typically it falls under the label of propaganda. You saw this a lot back in World War Two. Posters like this one were everywhere.

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What a hungry little beaver.

Image taken from WarMuseum.ca

Back then, someone was typically commissioned to create a poster like this. There was a lot of  bigotry and racism that was displayed in some of the posters. Canada was at war, we had an enemy, and many people were willing to do whatever it took to win the war, even if that meant embellishing the truth to get your point across.

We’re not at war anymore, but if you have access to social media, then you often see pictures like this one.

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Going for the ‘Game of Thrones’ reference.

Or maybe this image.

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For some reason, ‘temporary’ has an asterisk behind it.

Or, of course, this clever piece.

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Right for the throat, eh?

These images weren’t commissioned by an artist, weren’t decided by a committee, there wasn’t a war room meeting with generals planning something that would stir the populace to buy war bonds. These were made by people who don’t have any ties to the political parties they’re trying to represent. None of these images were paid for by the Conservative or Liberal or New Democratic parties. Somebody, sitting at a computer, took maybe five minutes to think up a slogan and throw it over a picture. People are now generating their own propaganda.

The problem with propaganda is that, in order to be effective, it needs to be consumed quickly. It can’t be lengthy or use large words. It usually has to take a complicated problem and dumb it down into a digestible sound bite. It’s effective at getting a point across, but it cheapens the idea. You lose fidelity in order to target a larger audience. The internet, with the inherent ability to get messages out at the speed of light, has now become a bastion of poorly thought-out ideas plastered over pictures. The well thought out, researched, opinion is getting drowned out by memes and witty slogans. The rational voice is diluted by chanting and name calling.

This isn’t a left or right of the political spectrum issue. It’s happening to both sides. They applaud victories if they’re winning, and throw trash if they aren’t.

You would think that facts would get in the way of ignorance, but that hasn’t been the case. There was recently a study done at Dartmouth, which found out that when presented with facts that contradicted their own, people were less likely to change their mind. One of the major issues is the source of the facts. If a Conservative voter presents facts to a Liberal voter, the Liberal is less likely to accept those facts, as they came from a Conservative source. This is the classic Ad Hominem, in which the person presenting the argument is attacked, rather than the argument itself.

What’s the solution? People need to switch gears and reframe what an argument is. Arguments aren’t a football match, and we need to stop treating them as if there is winners and losers. An argument should be viewed as a discovery on both sides to find a solution.

In the meantime, there is a solution to meme propaganda. I’m absolutely sick to death of clever sayings put on top of pictures. Not just political propaganda, even the silly ones. I’m tired of minion quotes telling me someone is trying their best, sick of girls in yoga poses with inspiration garbage taken from Deepak Chopra, worn out by historical figures being misquoted. Social media has turned into your uncle who used to forward every email he thought was hilarious. Facebook’s ‘share’ button has littered my feed with ‘Top Ten Reasons I Prefer Dogs’ pictures and ‘Canada is a Great Country – Share if you Agree’ images. I’m going to try out an extension called F.B. Purity. It supposedly removes this sort of malarkey from your feed. I’m going to install it tomorrow morning and let you know how it goes. Until then,

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Wise words, Xzibit. Wise Words

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’ll probably still use memes in the blog every once in awhile. To get my point across.

p.s.s. Well, maybe not.