As adults, I think most of us have come to accept that the shows we loved as kids were maybe not as perfect as the haze of nostalgia made them seem. The nature of kids’ shows is that they tend to be pretty clumsy with their metaphors, absolutist with their portrayals of good and evil, and hesitant to address any concepts that are too “complex.” My last Throwback Thursday looked a 90’s show that was virtually unwatchable, even for nostalgia’s sake: a bland, shallow, under-developed money grab, cruising along on the wakes of better action cartoons of the era. All the way at the other end of the watchability scale is the show Gargoyles, a childhood favorite of mine that has more than stood the test of time. If you ignore the third season and forgive the bad Scottish accents, Gargoyles was about as perfect as a cartoon of its era could possibly be. It thrived on tough subjects and determinedly defied convention to make a truly exceptional show.
The 90’s was a weird time for animated children’s shows. Voice acting and animation standards were both painfully low, but because shoddy production didn’t cost much, it seems like if you could throw together a concept in under twenty seconds, network executives would give you a primetime spot. In 1995, Anthony and John Gentile, living as they did in this golden age of anything-goes production, presumably hit a massive blunt and then pitched something along the lines of “What if… Mad Max, except like throw in some Star Wars shit and like… there are dragons”. Out of this visionary dream came Dragon Flyz, a children’ show about a barren earth shattered by nuclear war, where a tiny group of survivors has built a floating city to escape the irradiated wreckage of what they call “Old Earth”. Also dragons exist now and you can ride them. How? Nuclear mutation. Don’t think about it too hard, okay, there are just dragons now and they understand English and it’s cool as hell. They eat lava.
In recent years, nostalgia has been a driving force in the geek industry. Reboots, remakes, and old properties have dominated sales to a considerable degree. This is interesting, but a lot has already been said about why we feel nostalgia (and here, via Science Friday). I want to focus more on how this effect is important.