Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Than Your Average Cartoon

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Than Your Average Cartoon

Article excerpt

BEING thirtysomething and childless, I only know about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from what I read in the magazines. Which means that I know they have names like Raphael and Michelangelo, and that they eat pizza and talk surfboard jargon and behave like a cross between Bruce Lee and the Three Musketeers. If I ever get trapped in an elevator with a bunch of 10-year-olds, I've got just enough information to keep from embarrassing myself.

Gleaning popular culture from news magazines also means I've been introduced to these pudgy characters through intellectualized, disapproving (read: grown-up) eyes. How shallow, how inane, the stories all say. And how sad, that kids today will grow up thinking Donatello and Leonardo were just cool names for cartoon characters, without any notion about where the names came from.

It's an easy lament to get pulled into: Oh, ye with such little minds, how will you ever realize the irony that the only thing your cartoon turtles have in common with their Renaissance namesakes is a love of Italian food? What new lows is society reaching, that our kids watch drivel like this, five hours a day? Isn't it sad, this silly cartoon void, where reality is determined by toy manufacturers' sales strategies?

Then I remember my Elmer Fudd epiphany - the day I realized how much Saturday morning TV taught me.

I was alone in a movie theater. The film was "Apocalypse Now," and the scene was the one where Robert Duvall, playing Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore, the man who loves the smell of napalm in the morning, leads his troops into battle. With helicopters in formation and targets sited, Duvall makes his final preparation for the attack, broadcasting Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" for all to hear. Music to bomb Vietnamese villages by, if ever there was. Da, di-da, DA, da. Da, di-da DA, da.

So why was I giggling? Because nothing could get the merry voice of Elmer Fudd singing, "Who killed the WABbit? I killed the WABbit!" out of my head. A silly figment of bygone Saturday mornings spoiled Francis Ford Coppola's dramatic moment for me entirely. …

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