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April 26th, 2004

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08:19 pm - Mark Evanier on groupthink and cavaliers
An interesting and scary bit from Mark Evanier, a veteran television writer. In this article on his website, POV Online, he discusses writing for the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon and, more importantly, on the messages he was ordered to deliver to the impressionable tiny tots:
The kids were all heroic -- all but a semi-heroic member of their troupe named Eric. Eric was a whiner, a complainer, a guy who didn't like to go along with whatever the others wanted to do. Usually, he would grudgingly agree to participate, and it would always turn out well, and Eric would be glad he joined in. He was the one thing I really didn't like about the show.

So why, you may wonder, did I leave him in there? Answer: I had to.

As you may know, there are those out there who attempt to influence the content of childrens' television. We call them "parents groups," although many are not comprised of parents, or at least not of folks whose primary interest is as parents. Study them and you'll find a wide array of agendum at work...and I suspect that, in some cases, their stated goals are far from their real goals.

Nevertheless, they all seek to make kidvid more enriching and redeeming, at least by their definitions, and at the time, they had enough clout to cause the networks to yield. Consultants were brought in and we, the folks who were writing cartoons, were ordered to include certain "pro-social" morals in our shows. At the time, the dominant "pro-social" moral was as follows: The group is always right...the complainer is always wrong.

This was the message of way too many eighties' cartoon shows. If all your friends want to go get pizza and you want a burger, you should bow to the will of the majority and go get pizza with them. There was even a show for one season on CBS called The Get-Along Gang, which was dedicated unabashedly to this principle. Each week, whichever member of the gang didn't get along with the gang learned the error of his or her ways.

We were forced to insert this "lesson" in D & D, which is why Eric was always saying, "I don't want to do that" and paying for his social recalcitrance. I thought it was forced and repetitive, but I especially objected to the lesson. I don't believe you should always go along with the group. What about thinking for yourself? What about developing your own personality and viewpoint? What about doing things because you decide they're the right thing to do, not because the majority ruled and you got outvoted?

We weren't allowed to teach any of that. We had to teach kids to join gangs. And then to do whatever the rest of the gang wanted to do.

What a stupid thing to teach children.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 05:40 pm (UTC)
I watch Bob The Builder every day, and Lofty, the crane guy, irritates the hell out of me. When Bob asks "Can we fix it?" Everyone says "Yes we can!" except for Lofty, who says "yeah, I think so."

And of course it works out okay because really, the show is for 3 year olds. But someone needs to give Lofty a shot or something to fix his poor self esteem.

This doesn't even get into the issues I have with Spud, this lazy scarecrow that always ruins the jobs, steals stuff, lies about it, and still somehow gets forgiven every time.

It's like teaching children to vote Republican and like it.
Date:April 26th, 2004 05:47 pm (UTC)
It's like teaching children to vote Republican and like it.

YIKES. And you're probably right.
So, ah, if anybody needs me, I've retired to central Siberia. До свидания!
[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
And here I thought I hated Eric because he was Ralph Malph.

Good article.
[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)
I remember the episode of The Flintstone Kids where we did the JUST SAY NO! thing. Was very popular. As the youngest member of the cast, I didn't really *get* what exactly was being said, other than Drugs Are Bad, Mmmmkay?

But, watching the episode again, the central message seems to be, "It's ok to belong to a gang just so long as they don't smoke weed."

And I contributed. I still get paid. *huge fucking rolleyes* If they could see me now... Oh, the Libertarian me...
Date:April 26th, 2004 07:57 pm (UTC)


This is especially what I hate about the Happy Tree Friends.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 09:18 pm (UTC)
Actually, that's often taught in bike safety courses -- whether it's to keep kids from dicking around and swerving out into a car they didn't know was coming up fast behind them, or to help a new generation of kids grow balls of steel, I'm not sure.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 09:46 pm (UTC)
Cause she's Mr. Body Massage Machine.

[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 09:57 pm (UTC)
When I was learning to bicycle, on winding dirt roads in rural Virginia, I was taught this rule (which applied to walking on the roads, too). It's not really so you can see oncoming traffic - it doesn't really help with that - but it's so that the traffic you can't see, coming up behind you, is on the other side of the road.
[User Picture]
Date:April 27th, 2004 12:19 am (UTC)
I was taught that for walking on the roads, too, in rural Vermont. But not for biking; Vermont law is that bikers have to keep to the right and obey traffic laws as if they were cars.

Not sure what I would have been taught there as a child, since I grew up and learned to bike while living in suburban Ohio. I have a feeling it would be on the order of "Biking on the road? Uh, honey, don't do that, please." At least given the drivers on the roads near my house.
[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 10:53 pm (UTC)
There was an episode of US Acres that had the hapless duck character audition for a show called "The Conforming Bears". He got to play the non-conformist.

"What do you want for lunch? I'd like salad."
"I'd like salad too."
"I'd like a sandwich, but it's good to go with the group. I want salad!"
"I want steak!" And then, *wham*, a safe falls on his head.
[User Picture]
Date:April 26th, 2004 11:25 pm (UTC)
That's hilarious, because Mark Evanier went on to write for Garfield & Friends.

I sure hope that was his clever jab back at the Standards & Practices of the day.
Date:April 27th, 2004 05:32 am (UTC)
And here I thought they taught children to get eaten by giant multi-headed dragons.

At least that's what I got from the series.
[User Picture]
Date:April 27th, 2004 11:35 am (UTC)
And Chief Justices of the Supreme Court.

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