I take a lot of things for granted. When I take the time to look back on my upbringing, and think fondly of the things that shaped my childhood, I often times wonder if without certain, shall we say, ‘influences’ would I have been shaped into the personality that I’m happy to be today. If I look back to the shows I watched and the books I read, while I’ve always had a love affair with the supernatural, I wonder if my Saturday morning cartoons didn’t just tip me over the edge.
Myself, and many other people my age, were spoiled for Saturday morning cartoon entertainment. I know people get nostalgic and will tell you that their own respective generation had the best pop culture but the cartoons of the 80′s were really special: space travel was possible, there was giant robots at your disposal, things were futuristic or high fantasy, super heroes abounded, and a healthy dose of dinosaurs. Saturday morning could start your weekend off before your folks were up and transport you to a crazy escapism that you’d later act out with your friends/siblings/friend’s siblings, etc. I sound a bit like an old fart for saying this, but they were golden times. I forgot that I was abysmal at math, that my teacher frequently caught me reading my novel rather than paying attention, and my eyesight was so poor I never knew what was on the board to begin with. The week’s problems melted away. Those cartoons seeded my imagination’s fertile fields.
So I guess I’m not shocked that my tastes, being what they are, drew the bulk of my early occult education not from music, movies or comic books, but in front of the television. I loved those 80′s cartoons and the ones I gravitated towards always tended to showcase the otherworldly. I doubt very much that I’m alone in this, but I’ve dragged the canals of my memory and I’ve assembled a fairly good list. Being that this what I can recall from personal experience and not an exhaustive list, I give you:
All I Need To Know About The Occult I Learned From 80′s Cartoons.
Beetlejuice: An animated series based on the Tim Burton film had Lydia escaping from her day-to-day to the Neitherworld of the dead to hang with her pal Beetlejuice. I was never clear if they were a couple or just friends, but the ‘grave’ encounters she had while with him, or when he tried to solve a simple problem with his powers produced a skewed effect a la ‘The Monkey’s Paw’. Not too deep, but I did have an affection for the dead after this. I think Lydia’s ability to summon Beetlejuice or else transport herself to the Neitherworld by chanting a little refrain. The emphasized the importance and significance of ritual.
Scooby Doo: The original series planted the seed, but it later grew into strange fruit. While not pure occult, more often then not all the otherworldly magic was explained away as an elaborate hoax. Later in The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo they had more interactions with actual ghosts than just crazy mortals. Scooby and Shaggy inadvertently release the 13 Ghosts and have to return them. Lesson: If you open a portal/doorway/or release spirits, be responsible and clean up your mess. Besides, anything that has the late Vincent Price involved is okay with me.
Mighty Max: Again, there is a acting giant in this: Tim Curry. But I had no idea about that during the show. The synopsis is a young man gets a red hat in the mail that allows him to travel through time and space and defend the world against the Skull Master. It’s fairly dark which for the age group it was geared for, but the sci-fi concept was still pretty neat. But inter-dimensional travel harkens back to the novel reading of Lovecraft. I was impressed with some of the parrells.
Tales From The Cryptkeeper: This was an animated series that was a spin off of Tales From The Crypt. Not terrifying, but definitely dipped into the arcane with a number of episodes that borrowed heavily from folk legend and literature.
Dungeons and Dragons: Anyone who grew up during the hey-day of D&D will likely tell you that their parents may have thought them Satanists. Anyone who has actually PLAYED it can tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The animated series had a group of kids who rode a roller coaster that took them to an alternative dimension where they became D&D archetypes. There was a fair amount of spell-casting to be had, and fighting with dark forces. It didn’t get too much into arcane texts but lightly touched on them and referenced them from time to time as part of a spell or artifact to help the protagonists along.
The Real Ghostbusters: And finally we come to the big one. I watched this as fanatically as I did Jem and She-Ra. But where the others had crazy outlandish costumes TRG had Tobin’s Spirit Guide, introduced me to the Necronomicon, demons, dimensions, and offered the possibility that ghosts were tangible and could be dealt with in a scientific manner. This show fully eclipsed the others for variety of spirits and very advanced humour.
I’m happy that I grew up when I did. When I’ve watched shows lately in hotels on the road I’m happy that I had those shows to help me hone my humour. The shows today seem to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and there’s nothing spooky or scary to ponder. It’s for that reason I thank my lucky stars that I’m note being raised in a Nickolodeon world and I had these odd concept shows to help broaden my early horizons. Besides, it saved me the trouble of learning the pronunciation of the arcane names without the embarrassing circumstances of saying them incorrectly in front of peers.
Still, can’t pronounce Cthulhu correctly to this day, though.
Little Miss Risk