Cartoons and drug education
Just say No! Nancy's gift to disaffected youth everywhere.
Nancy Reagan did us a disservice with her "Just Say No" campaign of the eighties. Now before you get offended and go looking for that article on the Bionic Six, hear me out. I remember being a kid and having messages about drugs constantly thrown in my face. You heard about the dangers of drugs from special speakers at mandatory school gatherings. You heard about drug dealers from a D.A.R.E. ad you saw in your latest Spider-Man comic. You watched one crummy network, cartoon all-star,afternoon special piece of junk after another in which little animated kids would be approached by little animated playground dope peddlers asking them if they wanted to try drugs.
This notion never really sat well with me as I got older and reflected back on those messages. As a kid, when you were watching those morning cartoons; you were hyper from all the sugar in the cereal you ate as you watched your toons while harassing your sister with the Boglin your aunt gave you on your last birthday. In other words, you're not exactly focusing your complete attention on any one thing at that time. Everything you hear and see on TV is going in one ear and out the other. But, the images and sounds become trapped in your subconscious none the less and this was what cereal and toy advertisers were hoping for when they bombarded you with a zillion ads while you desperately waited to see if Chaka was going to be eaten by the T-rex.
However I believe Nancy held false hope in attempting to apply the same tactic to childhood drug education. In my opinion, the young viewer is simply left with a kaleidoscope of images or messages that can end up getting blended together and compromised like a game of "Telephone". A kid sees images of toys followed by cereal, followed by candy, followed by more toys, followed by little cartoon pills in the palm of some cartoon character's hand... What kind of subliminal association is a child's mind supposed to make from that? A lot of great things followed by "something that looked like candy but I'm not sure". I remember getting Sweet Tarts on Halloween and how my friends and I would laugh as we gobbled them down, pretending they were pills.
The five and six year olds don't usually have a whole lot of money to spend on drugs, whereas the older kids who usually aren't even watching cartoons anymore do. Do you see what I'm getting at here? I believe kids should be allowed to be kids. I'm not saying they should be completely sheltered, but I do believe they deserve a little discretion from the adult world until it's appropriate. Why put the idea of drugs in a kid's head before he even understands what they could possibly be? It's that kind of asinine adult thinking that's responsible for the lack of innocence in children. Tell them about what you feel are the dangers in the world, but don't fill their heads with the it. We're only innocent for so long, it's a shame when a misguided parent or teacher comes along and invites a great big ugly world in our laps before we've even finished our Froot Loops. It's even worse when Bugs Bunny does it.
I believe these associations can be destructive later in life without our ever even being aware of it. Think back to those days. How many times did you see Slimer, Bugs Bunny and other Saturday morning favorites come together in the war against drugs? How many times did Pee-wee warn you about smoking Crack? And now these messages...
P.S. To any scoffers out there, I realize that Cartoon All-Stars came out during the Bush Sr. administration, I'm just using it as an example of a certain type of programming.