By: Gregory Weagle
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Animation has been growing up faster than it ever has been before. The release of Adult Swim on Cartoon Network and the anime that fits into the block has created a sense that animation isn't kid stuff anymore. There are many people who blame Disney for creating the preception that cartoons are for kids only. Just like many people who protray Nintendo consoles as "kiddy" consoles even though ten percent of their games are "M"-rated and the only reason why they call the Gamecube "kiddy" is because of the purple color (which is called indigo) and the carrying handle on it's back. I'll explain why I hate those people later. Disney and Nintendo are known to me at least ot be family compaines (which appeal to all). Many _mature_adults hate the term family because it is often painted in a narrow fashion by moralists over the decades. It's an awful stereotype to protray because not all families have children to begin with and more importantly; very few families today act in such a prudest manner.
Animation is different now. Ever since the Simpsons came to the air in 1989; there has been a strive to make cartoons much like live action has been for quite a long time. However; there is one question we should be asking ourselves: Is this the future of animation? And if so; it is turely _mature_ of just stuff that adults do that might or might not be legal or even moral for that matter? What I mean is; does the material insult your intellegence as a _mature_ adult or does it make you think like a _mature_ adult? This is not an editorial about marketing cartoon to children because it is nothing to do with them. This is about marketing adult cartoons to adults and weither or not they should be marketed as _mature_. Like the children shows of the past and present; adult cartoons have been a hit or miss affair (in quality). You still have to dig deep to see some of the real gems in the rough in terms of quality. However; there is a cartoon block on television that might just kill the entire concept of adult cartooning in one fell swoop and that block is called The Strip (even the name itself spells trouble) which is on a new cable channel called Spike TV. Well; the cable channel isn't really new at all because it was previously known as The New TNN; which was a channel previously called The Nashville Network (which boardcasted country music and infomericals called Amazing Discoveries in the mornings). I will not go into the problems with Spike TV (namely Spike Lee's lawsuit) because this is irrelevant to the editorial. Spike TV is now the first network (which is false since it is a cable channel to begin with) for men apparently.
Now don't get me wrong... I don't believe that Spike TV is a bad channel. I do watch World Wrestling Entertainment and I also like the show Slamball! which is a pretty cute show and an alternative to watching the NBA. However; for the most part, it is clear to me that Spike TV doesn't have much of a clue about the real feelings of men and let alone ignores women in general. However; to be fair, Spike TV unapologetically states that their channel was designed with men in mind to combat the Oxygen Network (which is another cable channel) which that channel was made for women in mind. So the whole thing evens out in the end. For additional information; Canada has MenTV which some considered a better alternative, or so I've heard. Spike TV goes for the pandering card in almost every show they do (although Star Trek: TNG is understandable). The fact is that The Strip is quite possibly the worst offender of all the Spike TV programming out there and as you will see; it will be the key player in killing the concept of _mature/adult_ entertainment and animation.
There are three cartoons in The Strip block: Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon, Gary The Rat and Striperella. The last one in question was already cancelled before it even began and they were showing the four episodes that were completed. Not to mention the fact that the name of the cartoon is distrubing much like the name of the cartoon block. Gary The Rat stars the voice of Kelsey Grammar and Striperella stars the voice of Pamula _Lee_ Anderson. Striperella was created by Stan Lee (which is a huge shock considering the kind of person Stan Lee is known for) and the New Ren & Stimpy show is a remake of the famous _classic_ created by John K. (who is also making this one without the restrictions provided by Nick; more on that later) Now you would think that with these famous talents present at the helm that there would be some hope for these animated series. However; they don't even come close. These cartoons seem to pander to the following adults: Men who like porn in general, men who cannot tell the difference between _mature_ and porn and men who cannot process a critical thought at all. Women and intellegent men need not apply.... Here I go in the critical analyist of these series and believe me; despite the disgusting nature of these production; I was able to keep my composure in writing this:
[1.] Ren & Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon: This is the remake of the popular cartoon in the mid 1990's created by famous animation artist John K. John K. is considered a God in the world of adult animation and has had a lot to say about the state of animation (a lot of it which is valid). The original was a very famous cartoon in both a good and a bad way (decried by parent's groups as being gross which is ture) It was famous for it's grossout humor; but it had decent writing and many of the jokes were funny. It spawned the catchprase "You eediot!" which is funny onto itself and had a cute theme song. Considering the record of remakes (He-Man, Justice League, TMNT etc.) you would think that John K. would create a great remake. However; it is far from it ; even the Strawberry Shortcake remake wasn't nearly as bad as this show. I read from the buildup to this series from an animator (who didn't animate TaleSpin thank goodness) stated that they _believed_ in the John K. mantra of drawing funny, well-drawn cartoon. The statement without context is all well in good; however, do you know just how stupid that sounds? Does the phrase _Watchable_ have any meaning for you? Look; I agree that we earn the right to see funny, well-drawn cartoons. Heaven forbid we don't; since I've haven't seen a lot of it in children's cartoons lately. However; how can I enjoy them as such when I'm forced to close my eyes every half a minute or so? That in itself redefines the concept of a really bad show. I officially take back everything I ever said about Dentention and The Cramp Twins. Sure these two degrade twins and the concept of school (along with Recess; but at least they attempted to improve themselves in the second season); but at least the gross stuff is more tolerance. Say; close the eyes every three minutes or so. What I see here is basically seeing Poor Ren & Stimpy doing or being the victims of sexual acts which would be considered a criminal offense. I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP! I'm not going to list examples on this website because I'm not going to stoop to the lows of some people (at least two of them have signed my guestbook in a sexual matter). I'm also not going to get into the matter in the fact that homosexuals or bi-sexuals (namely Ren & Stimpy) were used in the sick jokes because that also steps over the line. The real question is this: Do any _real_ adult watch such a _show_ such as this? I highly doubt it. I'll explain this at the end of the editorial. The sick thing here is that this show has started by showing a pilot episode with absolutely no plot and little storyline to speak of. It's an half-hour of UNWATCHABLE sight gags that show just what kind of person John K. really is and he basically insulted most of the audience (particually the people who watched the original) who do have a small level of moral fiber in their own bodies and souls. I guess Nick has done something good after all when John K. to tone down the original Ren & Stimpy (a move which John K. hates with a passion.) because the original; while having it's share of cringeful moments, did have half-decent plots and a few moments where the show showed redeempation. I see nothing of the kind in the remake at all. I'm glad Nick has disowned this series for good since it is an _mature_ (I hate that word now!) series in which John K. has no one to tell him to tone the show down.............................AND THAT'S NOT THE WORST OF THIS REMAKE! When the second episode aired; there was a sudden shift in the fact that the gross-out factor was toned down quite a bit and there was an actual plot (as small as it was). This basically insulted the intellegence of whomever was left watching this _show_ if you can call that now. I could go now and whine about delays and ripoffs from the original R&S; but I have two more shows to review. The bottom line is that the new R&S alone is going to cause pain and suffering to those who dare watch it. Parents and Adults in general will hate it all alike. John K. might be a good animation artist (and R&S: APC is well animated; I'll give them that much only); but, if we want a ture, pure _mature_ cartoon; John K. is _not_ the person to do it. Avoid this show like the plague (-*****).
[2.] Striperella: This is a superheroine show starring the voice of Pamula "Lee" Anderson and was created by a famous cartoonist known as Stan Lee; the creator of Spiderman. The storyline here (and that's amazing in itself considering that it's the former star of Baywatch) is that Striperella is a stripper of late night and superheroine by later night (which is a clever reconstruction of the newspaper reporter by day, superhero by night phrase.) She has to fight cheap villians who are causing evil to a city. Now the good news about this show is that Stripperella is a lot tamer than Ren & Stimpy (think any 18+ show on Teletoon) and there were some funny villians out here. Hey; even I was laughing at the villian who only put a bounty on Stripperella's head for eight dollars. However; if Stan Lee thinks that this superhero series is _mature_ then he's wrong by a longshot. Look; if Stan Lee wants to create a mature cartoon; then he is free to do so. After all; I always believed that anything Stan Lee does is not kids stuff to begin with. However; the question must be asked: Is this show really groundbreaking to justify the _mature_ content? I watched it and the answer is no. What I see in Striperella is the same storylines that have become a chiche in superhero cartoons. It just so happens that there is adult content in it. I do find the show somewhat funny; but not in a good way. For example; I find it funny that Pam Anderson has a _no nudity_ clause in her contract and yet she is seen stripping on several occasions. Doesn't that count as nudity? In another example; didn't anyone notice just how shallow the characters are? I have known Stan Lee production before and they are quite deep to say the least. This deepness and complexity gave this otherwise kids-type show a huge level maturity. Ask anyone who has ever watched Spiderman in many of it's forms (myself included) and they will tell you about such things about the origins of the characters. Now personally; I'd rather go for TaleSpin complexity through interactions rather than flashbacks which Spiderman depends on. However; flashbacks are still better than what we got here in Striperella. What I see here is a bunch of characters who serve little purpose other than to show how _mature_ it is. The animation is also nothing to write home about either. I have seen a lot worse (101 Dalimations, Jabberjaw and Teamo Supremo [which out of editorial sake; I will not use Gabe's version of the title Teamo Stupido] come to mind). However; it's just nothing special either. As I stated before; this series was effectively cancelled before it was even released and Spike TV was showing four or five episode. I will say this that I will not cry a river of sadness (except for joy) when this show leaves the air forever. While Striperella is a lot more watchable then Ren & Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon; that isn't saying much at all. Another show to avoid (-**). However; for Stan Lee there is still some hope left for him as Spiderman 3D has been considered great in several circles. (Which was shown on MTV which says a lot considering the bashing of this cable channel from Pandora; rightfully so.) I'll know for sure when YTV boardcasts it this fall. (along with InuYasha (which is very gutsey move on YTV's part), Dragon Ball GT and the original Dragon Ball.)
[3.] Gary The Rat: This is an animated series that stars the voice of Kelsey Grammar. Gary is an anthromorphic rat who plays the role of a vulgar-sounding lawyer who is supposed to be witty. The promos however signify trouble for this show from the very start (as in no animated scenes.) Gary is figurally speaking; a lawyer and calls the profession a moral sewer. This to me is a knack onto the stereotypes of lawyers and reinforces the awful stereotypes (if you believe that the Conserevates who love to use that stereotype to no end just to play mind games on the Liberals) that all lawyers are evil, greedy and wicked. I'll admit that there are overzealous lawyers out there who go way too far and sometimes tort reform is needed since judges are willing to believe them. However; as I stated before on the Comment Board; if we didn't have lawyers, then everyone would be killing each other for justice and nothing would be settled. When someone refuses to take responsability for _his/her_ own actions; a lawyer is the best and sometimes the only way to go. Gary The Rat doesn't help that image at all. All right; now let's look at this as a cartoon series besides the fact that I've seen enough lawyer and courtroom drama's in live action as it is. The question that we must ask themselves again: Does this show have any groundbreaking elements to justify the _mature_ elements in this show? Personally; I want Gary The Rat to suceed because Kelsey's acting is very good and I like animal/anthromorphic characters. Sure there are people out there saying that the use of animals is limiting the animation. That was 13 years ago and yet; human animations are a dime a dozen nowadays. Is it any better now? No; I didn't think so. The answer to the question is a very sad no in this case. Unlike Striperella, the show does have some depth to it and unlike Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon it is very watchable. However; this show is dull as dishwasher and there is nothing that I haven't seen before in live-action outside of the grossout factor present in all three shows. I couldn't stand Gary because outside of the very good acting; his character is not very interesting. To make matters worse; the animation (particually the backgrounds) was the worst of the three. It is quite subpar to say the least. The bottom line is the show tries to impress me (which the other two lack); but it simply doesn't work. All I see here is just another live-action drama show that only attempts to self-parodizes itself. (*1/2)
So why is this block dangerous? Think about this for a moment; we all know that some parent group who decries such coarsening of the culture. That in itself is not dangerous considering that they do it to 90% of popular television series anyway. The real danger is that these group will have more ammo to censor our media and now the people who see The Strip as it is might just agree with them (even those who disagree with them otherwise and I didn't include the names because there are six other groups outside that.). This could have a ripple effect in that every adult/mature cartoon series could be denuonced regardless of its use of content. In other words; a block like Adult Swim could be targetted as obscene just because the content exist rather than the context. Look at the six episode series FLCL; a brand new show on Adult Swim. It has been described as a sex fest by some in the know. However; unlike The Strip; everything seems to have a purpose and a meaning. There is a very deep plot and many who have seen it say that it's taking that way too lightly. Still; the fact that it has sex elements in it; it will be pointed as blame for corrupting minds regardless of age (even though we are corrupted to begin with if I'm not mistaken). The creators of Spike TV have basically put the concept of adult animation at risk with this move and there's little the public can do because we're the ones denouncing it.
To end my editorial; I'll take a look at the word _mature_ itself. It's been a word that has been pushed around for the last decade or so by the marketing manager of entertainment. It seems to me that everytime I see a show that displays plot, character,meaning (or refreshing gameplay if it's a videogame) I always think that it should be what a mature series is. That's what I always think about whenever I see TaleSpin. However; marketing managers say I should avoid TaleSpin like the plague because it's _kiddie_ and it would _kill_ my _maturity_. They say I should watch shows like South Park because if I do; then I'm a _real_ adult. I take offense to that because that's not what mature really is. _Real_ adults don't like South Park; they destest it because it simply doesn't appeal to them. I don't have to look far to prove that since I'm 26 years old and a man (which is the target demographic for these _shows_.) I heard on a religious show on this very subject and they were talking about a talented teenage girl who was suing her parent because they were cheating her out of her earnings. They actually praised her for being _mature_ because she _earned_ that money. I know that there are some people out there who will say that she was dishonoring her mother and father by suing them; however, wouldn't it be be just as (if not more) dishonorable (and inmature) to steal a person's earnings (even if it was for their own good and more importantly, this girl will become a future mother someday too)? Now if the girl was acting in an immoral matter towards her parents; then she's being dishonorable and I can understand the parents in this matter; however, I don't see her doing that in this case. That very same show described mature under this definition: A person or something that is intellegent, thoughtful and complex. That is exactly what I was thinking of. They considered the definition of mature as proclaimed by marketing manager as a lie because what is so mature about such material that exists on The Strip (sex, dirty humor, violence etc.)? At least Teletoon is smart enough to admit that their 18+ shows are not mature. The only people who would watch such shows and like them are men who love mindlessness in general and children who simply don't know any better (I'm talking about a certain group; not children in general); thinking that the adult claims of the word are ture. If the entertainment industry wants to make _adult_ (and the key word is adult in this case) entertainment; then that's their business. I am not a prude. However; I don't want them calling it _Mature Entertainment_ because it is not. Hey; Dentention is more _mature_ then The Strip ever was; and you know my feelings on that program. That's a scary thought. indeed.
In my opinion; the real kind of mature programming is more G-Rated then you think and it's time that someone in the marketing learns to grow up....FOR REAL!! That's my opinion; I welcome yours. See you next time.