Why Modern Cartoons Are Garbage

My son, who is two, has learned how to climb out of his crib. It’s a time of mourning in my house because we no longer have the luxury of knowing he’s safe while we sleep. It is now more and more likely that my kid might be the one taking a joy ride in his sister’s battery-operated Jeep at two in morning, vexing local police. The other night at 3 a.m. something rumbled into my room. It was the boy, pushing his yellow dump truck filled with toys around my bed. Putting him back to bed becomes an exercise in patience as I continue to nab him on the way out of his room and replace him in his bed (rinse, repeat, no one gets any sleep). This morning he woke up at 6:30 and we did this for about a half hour until I gave up. He used to sleep until 9. What happened?

The only bright spot of these extremely early mornings is Tom and Jerry. I don’t have cable anymore, not having the extra $200 a month to pay for what has become a giant rip-off. Like many Americans we’ve switched over to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Recently, we added Sling TV to our streaming services because they carry sports. But what I’ve also discovered on Sling is a channel called Boomerang, which plays nonstop old school cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo. I don’t know what’s wrong with modern cartoon makers but the sound of them will drive you into a mental institution. Shows like SpongeBob are destroying humanity—and my sanity. . This is why in my house we watch Mister Rogers (ah…calming!) or Bob Ross on Netflix (happy little trees).

But today I rediscovered the joy of Tom and Jerry. How genius is it to set a cartoon to mostly classical music? This ensures that if you are doing dishes the background noise isn’t going to drive you to drink. Tom and Jerry is also very watchable. I rarely sit down and watch something with the baby because I have stuff to do, like the never ending pile of laundry, but Tom and Jerry is so good that I watched an entire episode this morning and laughed myself silly at that terrible cat and mischievous mouse.

Most children’s cartoons these days are frenetic, loud, confusing and just plain awful. A few parents I know just love that SpongeBob SquarePants and can’t understand why he’s banned in my house. I loathe the sponge. I watched it once and that was enough to know that garbage wasn’t coming into my kids’ brains. I couldn’t explain what it was about it that I despised, and have trouble explaining to inquiring minds why my kids can’t watch it. I just know it’s terrible. Turns out, I was right.

CNN reported on a study from the University of Virginia that children who watch fast-paced shows like SpongeBob literally can’t think afterwards.

Researchers from the University of Virginia showed 60 4-year olds a 9-minute chunk of what they call an “animated kitchen sponge” cartoon. The experts then tested the children’s memory and thinking skills and compared their scores to other youngsters, who had watched a slow-paced educational cartoon or drew pictures with crayons and markers.

The pre-schoolers who watched the fast-paced shows did much worse on the thinking tests than those in the  two other groups, who scored about the same. The researchers suspect that the brain gets overtaxed or tired from all of the stimulation from the fast-paced cartoons leading to lower scores.

I didn’t need the study to tell me this because I can’t think when those shows are on! My brain shuts down and all I can think is “turn it off….turn it off…TURN IT OFF!” and I dive for the remote and sigh with relief when it goes dark. This is why Mister Rogers is so superior to anything on television now. The slow pace encourages thinking. The repetitive music and songs encourage learning and tap into the need children have to repeat things over and over while at the same time not driving parents absolutely mental. While I wouldn’t put Tom and Jerry in the same “learning programming” category as Mister Rogers, it doesn’t have the frenzied, demented pace as modern cartoons. The music is mostly soothing and the animation is beautiful. Maybe I’m biased because I have golden memories of snuggling with my dad on our hideous 1970s floral patterned couch watching the famed cat and mouse and other classics, but I think there is something special about classic children’s programming.

What was your favorite cartoon growing up?