Let me warn you now…this post is probably gonna be a nostalgia overload…but I’m a 90s kid through and through. I had a Talkboy, ooo-yea’d with K-Ci & JoJo, and “It’s Morphin’ Time” was part of my regular vocabulary. I like to think of the 90s as the golden age of…well life in general. The music, TV, video games, movies, books from that decade just seem to be the best. Now, I realize that makes me sound like some guy who sits on my porch every day swinging a cane and yelling for kids to get off my lawn (that only happens on Tuesdays), but upon more thought I think that, at least in some ways, the 90s really was the better decade. If nothing else, it sure was a decade that taught stuff to the kids who lived through it.
I mean think about it. Shows nowadays, especially those aimed at kids, don’t really treat their audiences like they have a brain. I mean sure, you have the preschool shows that teach the really little kids something, but for most kids it goes from watching Face on Nick Jr. to watching people getting face on Family Guy or American Dad. I mean, of course parents teach you and your teachers do to, but you do learn things from what you are exposed to as well. Being exposed to media that forces you to think, interact, and process stuff is very important to a developing mind. I know for a fact it helped me.
Besides of course all the superheroes I read about and watched, the amount of life hours I lost to anime like Dragon Ball Z, Tenchi Muyo, and of course Digimon and Pokemon had to amount to something, right? Of course they did. As convoluted and drawn out as some of these plots got sometimes, they did have plots, storylines, and arcs. Episodes mattered, seasons linked, and stuff happened over periods of time. You can pick an episode of any show at random now and probably easily fall in with what’s going on. Watching and having to follow these complicated shows not only helped me to be able to write my own plots, but also be able to understand how things connect and the possible outcomes of your choices. Even shows on US shores like Gargoyles were heavily praised for making kids pay attention and learn how to put the two from season one and the two from season 3 together and make four in season six.
You could learn other stuff from 90s entertainment as well. I was (and remain) a Zelda fanboy, and if you know anything about the series you know how much brainpower goes into solving those puzzles, especially before GameFAQs became a staple. Playing video games and even watching shows like the Magic School Bus, Wishbone, and Reading Rainbow taught many a kid my age. Even outside of them though, there were still plenty of shows that challenged young people not just to be loud and aggressive, but actually to pay attention to stuff and learn about things. Who remembers So Weird? Are You Afraid of the Dark? You’d be surprised how many valuable lessons and cultural elements kids were exposed to with these shows. What about Nick News? Linda Ellerbee (who still does news specials every once in a while, by the way) made(makes) a living getting kids to care about news. There’s so much to be learned and gathered from exposing kids to stuff, even in small bits, at a young age.
Maybe that’s also why I am like I am now. You know, aware of the fact that racism isn’t dead nor is it just people running around with hoods on their faces. Sure, you had the shows geared towards adults like Living Single and Martin that most 90s kids watched anyway, but you also had Smart Guy, Sister Sister, The Famous Jett Jackson (RIP Lee Thompson Young) that introduced younger kids to issues that they would very likely have to deal with for all their lives. It seems now though, that after the early 2000s passed the world seemed to think that this stuff disappeared, and stop prepping kids for it. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for millennials to understand racism, the only time they got exposed to it was as kids, and after that people started acting like we were post-racial.
Now, I’m not gonna pretend that the 90s didn’t have wild, crazy, silly, or even downright stupid shows around as well. We had our Rockos, our Rens and Stimpys, and so on. I’m not even saying that those types of shows should disappear (that would go against my beliefs). What I do wonder is what taking this type of television away from a generation is doing to them. We know how important media images are to identity and education, so why are there so few shows that really address that anymore? Is it because of technology? I mean, even if Saturday morning cartoons disappeared because of kids moving on, shouldn’t the tablets, phones, computers or whatever they moved on to just take the place of TV? Why is it that there seems to be a movement to keep kids dumb? Is dumbing down TV a part of that? You ask some people and they’ll tell you there is a movement to make TV more “ethnic” for adults, but even if that’s true why does it seem like TV for the kids is moving in reverse? Shouldn’t the kids be the main ones seeing stuff like that? It’s almost like we’re focused on making grown folks feel good but leaving our kids in the dark, and if that’s the case I don’t know about you guys but my kids will be watching reruns of shows from my childhood until their 21. I’d rather them deal with old shows that teach them something than no shows at all.
What are some of your favorite 90s TV shows, video games, books, movies or music? Do you think that nowadays there are enough shows that stimulate kids' minds? Leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share and subscribe!