Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nostalgia, or 'why is it so easy for me to define my childhood on Youtube?'

So, being a non-traditional college student, I'm reminded on a near-constant basis of the passage of time and how it pertains to me-- essentially how old I am compared to the people I'm surrounded by. It's always a little bit jarring when I reference something from my childhood in passing and nobody understands what I'm talking about. My mental self-image tends to be of me about five years younger than I actually am, so when I realize that the people I'm friends with were kids when they were watching the same stuff I was watching in high school, it throws me a little off-kilter.

So, of course, when you get to be my age, and surrounded by people who don't know what a Smurf is (seriously), you start waxing nostalgic about the 'good ol' days' of Saturday morning cartoons, monolithic rental VCRs (the kind that weighed about fifteen pounds, came in a big, padded briefcase, and had the tape compartments that popped up out of the body), and a time when 16-bits was an exciting leap forward in videogame technology. So in honor of this milestone (sort of like menopause, but on a purely psychological level), here's my top-5 list of things that still, at the age of thirty, make my inner-6-year-old gasp and flail with excitement.

This was a show on Nickelodeon way back in the day, and I was hooked on it like smack. My mother, having flashbacks to when my older brother was my age and hooked on Speed Racer, forbade me from watching it for fear of it giving me nightmares. Of course I watched it anyway when she wasn't looking, and if it gave me nightmares, I don't remember them. Over the years, the show faded from my memory entirely, until not too long ago when I stumbled across some fanart or other on DeviantArt and for hours afterwards I was unable to get the theme song out of my head. Seriously, I think the part of my brain most people use for things like remembering how to do math problems is being used to remember music from 80s cartoons.

This is another one that, like many, many skits from Sesame Street, has stuck with me vividly through the years. I am still unable to hear this piece from Carmen without thinking of this orange, imagining the singer making the same rubber band contortion with her mouth, and so forth. I will probably never be able to see an actual performance of this opera without having to excuse myself to giggle in the ladies' room during this number. Jim Henson's legacy lives on, indeed.

Everyone has a movie they loved so completely and passionately as a kid that they'd watch it over and over again, to the point that their parents would hide it for the sake of their own sanity. This was that movie for me. Whenever one of my parents, usually my dad, would take my siblings to get a few movies over the weekend, this was nearly always the one I would pick. I knew exactly where it was at the rental store and would beeline for it as soon as we came in. Not only would I rent it just about every single time I was able, but I'd watch it as many times as I possibly could before it had to go back. My love of this movie has actually persisted-- where most of my favorite childhood shows and films have not held up exceptionally well upon later viewing, I still love this one, warts and all. It's another one where I was still able to recall nearly perfectly all the music, including the background music, well into my late-teens when I was able to find a copy on VHS and relive my childhood whenever I wanted. I'm a bit miffed that this one hasn't made it to DVD yet.

(Okay, I tried really hard to find a clip of Optimus Prime just talking, but evidently nobody on Youtube gives a crap unless he's dying at the same time, and while that certainly brings back loads of memories for me, none of them are happy. So instead you get Peter Cullen doing the Prime voice at a con.)
Optimus Prime was one of the big, big heroes of my childhood, along with He-Man and She-Ra. Oddly enough, the Transformers theme song doesn't fill me with the wave of nostalgia of that those other shows' songs do, but Peter Cullen's voice sure does. I was going to marry that big, hulking robot from beyond the stars when I was six years old, and the sound of that voice still, to this day, fills me with the adoration of my six-year-old self. I remember doing a double-take when Cartoon Network started using him as a narrator for their Toonami lineup and squealing at the nostalgic memories that stirred up. Peter Cullen was by far the biggest draw I had to see the Michael Bay movie a few years back and is pretty much the only draw I have to see the new one in a few weeks. And even at the age of twenty-nine, sitting in the exact same theater I'd seen the original Transformers movie in, way back in 1986 at the ripe old age of eight, as soon as Peter Cullen's voice boomed at me out of the speakers, I was gripped with a sudden and profound terror that I was about to watch him die again. I think I white-knuckled my armrest until the ending credits. I will probably do the same thing with the sequel.

Putting aside all disputes about what show was better, this or He-Man (which I was also absolutely obsessed with), this one wins out for me because She-Ra was, bar none, my defining role-model as a kid. This, He-Man, and Transformers were the triumvirate of shows that guaranteed an absolute tantrum if I missed a single episode, repeat or not. To say that I loved this show is an understatement: I was obsessed with it for years. I can remember being ten years old and drawing one of the characters on my desk at school over the entire school year and being so incredibly proud of it, since it was probably one of the best things I'd ever drawn up until then. I had a good number of the action figures, but my best friend had most of the playsets and the harder to find figures like Peek-a-Blue and Mermista. Unfortunately, on their annual trip to Costa Rica, they'd somehow run into money problems and had to sell her collection, which I think deavestated me more than it did her. On retrospect, there was a really interesting story there but to my 8 year-old self, all I knew was that the really awesome toys were gone. (My priorities were a little messed up at that age.) But between this show and He-Man, just the sound of the Filmation logo that preceeded every show is still enough to make me perk up with excitement. Can't really watch the show itself for more than a few minutes, but that opening will forever make me happy.

So there's my childhood in a nutshell, pretty much. Sure there were other things outside of TV that happened and influenced me, but they're (thankfully) impossible to find on Youtube, so there you go.

1 comment:

  1. Dooo dut do doo.. ahhhyaaayaa, doo doot doo do, cities of gold..