By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Teachers often warn parents about summer “brain drain” – when weeks away from school cause multiplication tables and state capitals to fall right out of kids’ heads. But I’m not worried about what may be draining out of my kids’ brains because I’m supplementing their book knowledge with some important lessons on life – which we are happily learning from Looney Tunes.
As a parent, one of the things I’m proud of is that all three of my kids are connoisseurs of classic cartoons. They can appreciate a one-liner by Bugs Bunny and a temper tantrum thrown by Yosemite Sam. Unlike today’s cartoons, Looney Tunes, which were produced from the 1930s to the 1960s, taught kids the cornerstones of a healthy sense of humor – irony, silliness, sarcasm and falling anvils.
Most modern cartoons and kids’ programs have been sanitized in a vat of political correctness and then stuffed full of “positive messages” and “educational opportunities,” which may be nice but also causes them to be only slightly funnier than, say, a painful wisdom tooth extraction. Somewhere along the way, producers of kids’ shows replaced humor with syrupy sweetness combined with songs that make a parent want to throw herself from a moving minivan. (That’s right, Barney, I’m lookin’ at you.)
On the other end of the spectrum are what I’d classify as “crude cartoons” which are usually so full of snarky attitude and bodily function humor that I’m quite sure the cast of Jersey Shore probably grew up watching these things.
So in our house, classic Looney Tunes is the cartoon of choice. During these past few weeks, when the temperature on our driveway has been roughly the same as the surface of the sun, we’ve stayed indoors and watched quite a few Looney Tunes episodes. I’ve been watching cartoons right along with the kids lately because I take my research as a columnist so seriously. Here are my “Top 5 Life Lessons”, gleaned from a few hours of summertime Looney Tunes.
1. We’re all chasing something. (Happiness, success, money, love, fame, Road Runner, Tweety Bird, or perhaps a “wascaly wabbit”.)
2. Products don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. (If the Coyote had been able to read some Acme customer reviews online before ordering, he could have saved himself a LOT of trouble.)
3. Quick thinking and a good disguise will often save the day. (While being pursued by a monster trying to steal his brain, Bugs Bunny once pretended to be a hairdresser and gave the red-headed monster a permanent using sticks of dynamite. Genius.)
4. Sticks of dynamite thrown in anger instead of self-defense will always boomerang back to you. (Cartoon karma works the same way in real life.)
5. Gravity always wins.
I’m such a believer in Looney Tunes’ life lessons that I recently bought myself a T-shirt from Target that has a picture of Wile E. Coyote on it along with the words “Super Genius.” When I got home, I put it on and waltzed into the playroom to show it off to the kids. My 9-year-old son spotted the shirt, elbowed his little brother and motioned toward me, saying “Oh, look. It’s Mom E. Coyote.”
It was a classic one-liner worthy of Bugs Bunny himself. I’ve never been more proud of him.
And tha-tha-tha-tha-tha-that’s all, folks.