Thank you for reading my first article here on RetroJunk. The topic today is a retrospective look at some things I wasn't allowed to experience as a child, which for many people is an important experience in and of itself while growing up. Now, I grew up with a single mother who raised both me and my older brother. And I should clear up right off the bat that she was in no way some conservative religious nut; in fact our home was very non-religious. Not atheist, exactly, but more agnostic. The only Bible in our home is that Children's Bible that I got from my Christian aunt. You know, the one with all the pretty pictures?
Anyway, moving on... I'm going to start with what was perhaps my #1 obsession as a child: the Power Rangers. I absolutely loved 'em. But when the series first started (when I was about five), the violence on the show set off my mother's alert system and I wasn't allowed to watch it. However, I finally convinced her to sit down and watch it herself. She did, and saw that not only did the Rangers start off practically every episode doing some sort of volunteer or community work, but there were also PSA's at the end of each episode. They were good messages, like telling kids not to use karate for evil, and the importance in believing in one-self.
The ironic thing? Once I was allowed to watch Power Rangers... I couldn't really watch it. Where I lived, the show aired early weekday mornings, around 7 or 8, and then at 3 or 4 in the afternoons. Well, having a single mother, I had to go to daycare for a few hours before and after school, so my only chance to catch the Rangers was early Saturday morning.
Next up, there was Biker Mice From Mars. Again, my mother's red alert must've gone off. According to her, the title alone spoke of rebellion. I'm not sure why, considering it was about giant humanoid mice that came to Earth to ride motorcycles and had big red antennae on their heads, and helped save the big metropolis (was it Chicago they lived in?) from evil. Still, it was an illegal program in my home.
Even the toys were a huge no-no. Leading up to my sixth birthday party, I told everybody I was inviting that I wanted Biker Mice From Mars toys, even though I didn't really know anything about the show. But they were good friends and obliged, every one of them. As soon as that party was done, my mom told me we had to bring the toys back and exchange them for new ones. Sounds like my heart must've been crushed, and it was, but you know how kids are; as soon as she took me to the store and I got to choose any other toys I wanted, it was like a shopping spree. And eventually, I was allowed to watch the show on a regular basis, and ended up getting a lot of the toys.
Another big obsession when I was a kid was Mortal Kombat. I loved anything macho, with blood and violence and fighting; anything I knew I wasn't supposed to be playing or watching. This was more forbidden than Power Rangers or Biker Mice put together, which made it all the sweeter when I could sneak away to the arcade at the bowling alley and play a couple rounds. Then I heard about this...
... and thus began one of my biggest begging sprees ever. I received a stern "No!" every time, and before I knew it the movie was out on video, but still all I got was "No!" All my friends got to see it (they got to play the game, too), but not me. I remember taking about three hours to watch my Dumb & Dumber tape because it had a Mortal Kombat trailer at the beginning, which I would rewind over, and over, and over again. Eventually, my negotiating skills won me the chance to see it *once*. Just once, at home on video. I was still ecstatic, and tried to commit it all to memory. Soon, I was allowed to rent it when I wanted, and got it for Christmas soon after that. By the time Mortal Kombat: Annihilation came out in 1997, my mom let me see it in theaters. Say what you will, but I was only nine at the time, and it was AWESOME.
She was even more strict about the games, though. While the movies were toned down, taking out much of the blood and guts, the games were still pretty hardcore. I was allowed to rent MK3 for Super Nintendo once. Even when I got my N64 in 1998, the only chances I got to play Mortal Kombat 4, MK Trilogy or MK Mythologies was by borrowing them from my good friend Jaymes, a die-hard MK fan with a much more lenient mother.
I never got to own a Mortal Kombat game until MK: Deadly Alliance in 2002. The ironic thing? I sucked at the old-school MK games, and still do. The only ones I've been good at have been the ones in 3-D, which I can tell are quite a bit easier.
The bans didn't stop at media and entertainment, though. I was also monitored on some of the food I ate and the things I drank. Specifically, stuff packed with sugar. It usually came down to two things: breakfast cereals and pop. Starting with cereal, my mother has never endorsed anything with a colorful box or fun shapes or that came with a toy; basically, anything made with 90% sugar. I begged for Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles or Corn Pops, but usually got Cheerios or Honey Nut Cheerios or Corn Flakes.
The ironic thing? Now that I buy my own cereal, I lean towards the healthy myself. Typically I buy Total, or Start Smart, or Honey Bunches of Oats, or sometimes Kashi brand. But still, once in a while I'll get a second box and indulge in what I still very much crave.
Moving on to pop... or soda, for some of you weirdos out there. The stuff children's blood is made of. We need that sugar rush, as if we aren't already full of unnecessary energy. Now, I shouldn't give off the impression that I wasn't allowed to drink pop at all; it was a staple commodity in our fridge. Usually, the main issue was caffeine, so often I was left to drink stuff like root beer and Squirt. So, there were a certain few brands that I begged to have, but was always given the N-word in response. And by certain brands, I mean...
Yeah, that old stuff. I believed that drinking Surge would practically give me super powers (oh God, imagine if I were a kid now, seeing these "it gives you wings!" Red Bull commercials). But the enormous amount of caffeine and sugar rendered it forbidden. I was insanely jealous of anyone at school who claimed to have tasted it, or if the legends were true, actually had a 12 or 24-pack at their house. And speaking of legends, there was...
This stuff didn't have commercials and I never saw an actual can or case of it until years later, so I couldn't even be sure if it even existed. But the way some kids talked about it, talking about being up *gasp* ALL NIGHT, made Surge look like Juicy Juice. I still to this day have never tried Jolt.
The ironic thing? I try to drink pop as little as possible, hopefully weaning myself off it completely. I usually buy those six-packs of eight-ounce cans, and that lasts me a week or so. Mostly I just drink water these days. And now that stuff like energy drinks have taken the appeal that was once held by Surge and Jolt, I can safely say I've never had an energy drink either.
In closing, I actually do thank my mother, not only for not giving in to my demands, but also for not just saying "no" and telling me to shut up. She'd let me say my piece and waited until she thought I was mature enough before I got my way. I'll probably end up raising my kids the same way...
... no, you know what? Screw that! What the hell was so f****** wrong with Biker Mice From Mars? Didn't make any g****** sense!...