Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Jordan Stokes overthink the Rapture in pop culture, the end of Saturday morning cartoons, and the role that sugary breakfast cereal played in their enjoyment.[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/mwrather/otip327.mp3]
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On the topic of good Nicholas Cage movies, I would recommend ‘Joe’.
I am at least a half generation older than the Overthinking It panel because all my Saturday morning cartoon touchstones predate theirs. Growing up in the early 70s was a mixed bag because the art of animation was at its nadir with very stiff limited animation of the cheapest Hannah-Barbara variety being the benchmark. Superfriends was considered a brakthrough and in hindsight it is dreadful to the point of now being a punchline.
The ur-Saturday morning cartoon has to be Bugs Bunny And Friends because it is high quality stuff but also it is pan-generational since it ran for years and years and years. It was also the one cartoon worth waking up early for.
Where Saturday morning of that era did shine was with the trippy Sid and Marty Kroft live action shows. H. R. Puffenstuff, Lidsville, and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters were psychedelic beyond what kids should be exposed to.
You got it right in a nutshell
But loved the Jetsons, Jonny Quest, banana bunch
and the great shorts with Bugs, et al.
The media is blaming Netflix and other on-demand streaming sources for the end of Saturday morning cartoons but the real culprit are kid-oriented cable channels, especially Disney and Nickelodeon. These two channels which always had strong blocks of animation on their daily program would closely mimic the format and organization of the network Saturday morning blocks with special bumpers and themes.
CW was the last broadcast network with Saturday morning cartoons because their target markets are people reliant on over-the-air broadcasting because their don’t want or can’t afford cable. That Saturday morning cartoons lasted as long as they did as non-niche programming is a sign of this vestigial market segment.
Right, I was going to make the same point. Right now, I basically still watch 4 made-for-kids cartoons: Adventure Time and Steven Universe on Cartoon Network, Gravity Falls on Disney, and The Legend of Korra</i) on Nickelodeon. And even though I usually mute or fast-forward them, I still do see the commercials that air during these shows, and they are absolutely for the same junk food and highly-gendered toys as the commercials that traditionally aired with Saturday Morning Cartoons. (If anything the toys are, distressingly for me, even more gendered than they used to be.)
And they air these kinds of commercials during every show from 5 am to 10 pm – if my math is right, that's over 4 1/2 hours of kid-targeted commercial time per day, 7 days a week, on each of three cable networks – plus Disney XD, Nicktoons, Nick Jr., Disney Jr., etc. Which means it really isn't cost-effective to maintain a Saturday Morning cartoon broadcast on OTA television, when most of the ad dollars aren't there.
Ugh, forgot to close a tag. Sorry for the formatting issue there.
Weird that Adventure Time of all shows would have aggressively-gendered toy commercials. Or maybe not weird — I guess one of the female leads is literally made of bright pink candy, and the boy totes a sword everywhere he goes. But it seems like a Poe’s law situation at the very least.
It’s true that they’re not quite as bad on Cartoon Network as on Nick or Disney, for whatever reason, but it’s even weirder seeing those kind of commercials on Legend of Korra than on Adventure Time.
My last comment-hog:
Breakfast cereals are ripe for an overthinking taxonomy because there are healthy-for-you cereals, candy-cereals with tons of sugar marketed at kids, and tie-in cereals created as cross-marketing. The latter got mention on the podcast as being generally dreadful and rightly so, but the middle group arguably are of pop-culture significance because of their long standing meta story lines. These include the Trix rabbit, Fred and Barney with the Cocoa Pebbles hijinks, and Toucan Sam following his nose. These are more universal than any specific cartoon which has a span of at most two to five years.
My favorite as a kid was Boo-Berry, the step-child of Count Chocula and Frankenberry, later to be brand extended with some werewolf themed flavor. Ironically, my favorite has a kid was Raisin Bran which had poor to non-existent themed advertising but had the advantage of having real actual fruit in iit.
Raisin Bran had themed advertising! Two scoops! Scooped personally by the sun itself!
But yeah, Raisin Bran was still marketed in line with it being a cereal – rather than a nexus of conflict between animals and humans.
Raisin Bran was also the naming inspiration for the greatest contestant in American Gladiators history – Wesley “Two Scoops” Berry!
I heard (through the grape vine) that Raisin Bran had some enormously popular themed advertising in the 80’s…
I’m so old that the California Raisins postdate my formative cereal eating years, but that is a good point.
The “two scoops” slogan that Fenzel references is a pretty catchy catch phrase even if it is as quantitatively suspect as a ‘triple-thick’ shake. Just how big are these scoops of which there are two and why couldn’t it just be one bigger scoop of raisins?
The California Raisins were actually a commercial for the California Raisin Advisory Board, which was a trade group formed to promote the raisin-grape industry. They turned out to be so expensive that the grape growers actually lost money on them.
In this taxonomy, Fruity Pebbles occupy a strange twilight space in that they are affiliated with a pre-existing media property (The Flinstones) but in practice their ads are much more in the vein of a “catch me lucky charms” cereal narrative than a tie-in cereal.
For the longest time Muppet Babies was my only image of what the muppets looked like, and when I found out about the original show I found the characters deeply uncanny and weird.
The Pirates of Dark Water! It was taken from us too soon. I feel like their torch was eventually picked up by Avatar: The Last Airbender, however.
Have you guys heard of “Breakfast of the Gods”? It looks like the online version has been taken down, but you can get a printed version on-demand. It is an amazing Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths-esque mashup of all the cereal mascots. The honeynut cheerios bee has been found murdered, and Cap’n Crunch, Tony the Tiger and Sugar Bear have to solve the mystery and take on the evil Count Chocula, with his minions, the Berries Franken- and Boo-. It was pretty astonishingly well done. The niches they found for all the characters were very well though out. For example, when an important central character died, his spirit rose into the air and met God–who was revealed to be the Quaker Oats guy, who not only fits the image by being old and white-haired and religious, but is also (I believe) the very first cereal mascot of them all.
A breakfast cereal related comic:
My recollection of the Muppet Babies intro was a little off, but it’s even more compelling than I had described:
Seriously, Jordan, how could you watch this and turn away?
I also remember turning away from Muppet Babies after the theme song, and I think it’s partly that I found it unrepresentative of the actual content of the show. I watched a little bit of it just now, and it just reminded me that it didn’t really fit well with my notion of Muppetdom (they’re not puppets!) and also that the voices were all kind of wrong. I wonder if it just didn’t sit right with me.
I wasn’t able to bring this up during the show, but wanted to share this relevant anecdote: there’s this bar in Brooklyn (Union Hall) that hosts recurring cartoon screenings, and of course they serve sugary breakfast cereal.
Nobody tell A. O. Scott about this; he will hulk out and destroy it.
Alternate episode title: “The FCC Is The Worst DM”
I love the second Ghost Rider movie without irony. I think of it as a grindhouse Marvel movie. Also the hell-ified mountain digger thing was worth watching the movie alone.
Thanks! Glad to know I’m not the only one who actually loves it!
I actually watched it based on your praise of it, and while it’s not GOOD good, it definitely has a lot going for it. I mean, Idris Elba plays an alcoholic action priest with a French accent who gets exploded off the side of a mountain in his first scene! And then he returns for subsequent scenes! And yeah, as soon as Ghost Rider set the construction equipment on fire by sitting in it I was on board. Because of COURSE that would work. And then there’s Ciaran Hinds, and suddenly when you least expect it, CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT! The Highlander himself! Why not? At the very least it is a film that swings for the freaking fences, which the first installment most emphatically did not.
Johnny Quest and The Jetsons as ultimate Saturday morning toon shows. Scooby Doo for me, but I am old and saw them when they originally aired and you are young and saw them all day on TBS, so not a Saturday am show for you.
And regarding nutrition, what could be better than King Vitamin?
And I loved left behind bumper stickers
After the Rapture, you can drive my Mercedes
After the Rapture, I will ride your daughter
Oh, the naughts!?
A major project of the Christian blogger Fred Clark, aka Slacktivist, has been to subject the Left Behind books to a level of scrutiny they most definitely don’t deserve. His page-by-page reviews/summaries/critical analyses deal with the books’ profoundly silly theology, but perhaps even more with their profoundly deep shortcomings as works of fiction. Fred’s an extremely insightful and deeply humane person with a witty prose style, and his LB reviews are always a highlight for me.
If I may get a little personal, Mark’s story about Christian friends reminded me of my own experience:
I grew up in a mostly secular environment, but I had a few Christian friends later in high school, and they went to the same church as a formerly atheist friend who I was very close to back in her pre-conversion days. One day I visited their church and after the service (which horrified me a bit cause the pastor said things like “when another Christian who’s not of the same exact denomination as us does something nice to you, it’s because he’s trying to convert you, you can’t believe in the kindness of his heart” or whatever) my formerly atheist friend looked straight into my eyes and said “I can’t truly be friends with someone who doesn’t have the holy spirit in their heart”, which I guessed meant me, since she knew I wasn’t religious at all. It was very odd and at the time kinda upsetting, since it made it pretty clear that our friendship as it used to be was basically over. The funny thing is, I later became closer to a mutual friend who lived in a different city, but used to go to that same church. He would take Hillsong cds to clubs/bars sometimes and have them play it, but otherwise was a completely non-judgmental, super fun to hang out with person.
Just hit play and heard Mark’s question about whether non-Americans have heard of the Rapture. So, I don’t know how the aforementioned Christians feel about it, but in my case, I definitely know about it, both as something that’s in the Bible and pop culture, but never believed in it. In case anyone’s curious, I’m agnostic about the existence of God (as a science-y person, I’m pretty comfortable with doubt/not knowing and it would seem foolish to claim something like God doesn’t exist when I have absolutely no way of figuring it out either way) but don’t believe in the devil at all. To me it seems too convenient an explanation for things. Basically I’m open to the possibility of God him/her/itself, but cannot imagine Rapture, the devil, or most other things related to the Bible.
The funny thing about religion in Brazil when I was growing up (it has changed a lot recently, evangelical Christians are taking over significantly) was that everyone was catholic in the sense that we all identified as such and were all baptized, but most no one in the middle and upper middle classes ever went to church. No mass, no Christmas or Easter service, nothing. Most people went maybe once or twice for a wedding, but that’s it.
Just listened to this episode and the popular theology conveyed in this movie is of interest to me as someone who has studied theology to a middling extent.
Amanda, please accept my apology on behalf of Christians who say they can’t be friends with non-Christians. It’s a thoroughly unbiblical idea and it definitely doesn’t apply to all of us.
Pete pretty much hit the nail on the head when he said that Evangelical ideas like the Rapture get a lot of traction in this country because of its considerable socio-political clout. The Rapture is not a concept that is held by the largest plurality (Catholics) or second-largest plurality (lapsed Catholics) of Christians in the US, but because they are evenly split politically, they are not marketed to in the same way.
Finally, you mentioned not having any way to figure out whether God exists or not. If you’re looking for a religion-neutral method of asking a question like that, western philosophy is an excellent place to start. The only data it appeals to are naturally known and available to everyone regardless of claims to scriptural authority. Aristotle is my personal favorite non-Christian philosopher, even in spite of his shortcomings regarding science and gender.
Anyway, this is probably not what you were looking for on a level-headed, religion-free site like OTI, but I would consider it a bargain to be able to discuss these kinds of issues as a result of a Nicolas Cage movie.