We’ve already discussed how the Disney movies we so loved as children were able to insidiously mislead us throughout our youth, now it’s time to address the similar untruths propagated by Nickelodeon, the Dear Leader of all things kid’s television. From live action to cartoon, these shows were filled with the kinds of lies that would prove to make navigating real life — and all its longer-than-thirty-minute difficulties — all the more difficult as adults.
1. Living unsupervised in New York City is fine for a 9-year-old.
Aside from having what is undeniably the most awesome bedroom in the history of modern architecture, Arnold of Hey Arnold! taught us that parental (or grandparental) supervision was at best, unnecessary, and at worst, a hindrance to all of life’s awesome possibilities. From dawn until dusk, the kids of that show just ran around what appeared to be Harlem, or one of Brooklyn’s less artisan cheese shop-filled neighborhoods, with complete impunity. They had all kinds of adventures with characters that ranged from the friendly neighborhood schizophrenic homeless person who thinks he’s a superhero, to the slightly older kid who apparently has been given up on completely by society and lives, years on end, on the stoop of an apartment building. But no matter what their exploits, including single-handedly transforming a trash-and-hypodermic-needle-filled lot into a baseball field, parents were just not necessary. And here we were, just looking to go to the end of the street to ride bikes without our parents’ company, and you would think we asked to play with their kitchen knives. No, in all reality, parental supervision would be the one thing we could consistently count on — no matter how much their presence and minivan humiliated us.
2. If we got to go on Legends of the Hidden Temple, that monkey statue would be done in ten seconds flat.
There was no show that incited armchair quarterbacking at such a young age quite as much as Legends. Watching that show, you could almost not hear the sounds of the action above you and your friends yelling at the television to hurry the f-ck up because that mountain wasn’t going to climb itself. And though, deep down, we probably knew that we would come in last place and forever shame our team and our families, the show was able to convince us — if only for half an hour — that we were Olympic athletes that would beat that show like it owed us money. Oh, what fools we were.
3. The Chokey Chicken is just the innocent name of a fast food joint.
For some reason, the censors took a look at Rocko’s Modern life — one can only imagine they had a few too many martinis at their power lunch — and just went, “Yeah, f-ck it, they can do whatever they want.” A brief look back through that show will reveal almost endless sexual innuendo, from playing a game where you spank monkeys with paddles, to a doctor grabbing Rocko’s eyes like testicles and telling him to cough, to Heffer (a male, mind you) getting hooked up to a milking machine by accident, and having to “break up” with it in the morning because it just wasn’t going to work out between them. Aside from shooting several miles over our head with the majority of the humor when we were young, the show also gave us the false hope that all kid’s shows would be so funny for adults. Looking back, there are few shows that can consistently make a grown-up laugh the same way the kids are cracking up around them, but this one never fails to disappoint.
4. Ren and Stimpy was a children’s show.
Speaking of shows that you can look back on as adults and enjoy… what. What is this show. No, I mean I know what the show is and I get how brilliant and awesome and innovative it is — and obviously there were other shows that had their share of double entendre and adult humor — but this one is just absurd. It almost feels like a prank that the networks were pulling on parents, as clearly their children were going to go from watching this show, to reading a lot of Hunter S. Thompson, to dropping out of school and doing hard drugs. There is almost no episode you can look back on without at least the fleeting feeling of, “Holy sh-t, I watched this when I was 8?” From the grotesque, almost trippy extreme close-ups to the subplots about selling rubber nipples or the horse that’s being locked up and assaulted in the basement of the neighbor’s house, it is just clearly not a show for kindergarteners. However, we can only begin to thank the network for providing stoners with endless hours of quality television to gawk at. They were truly doing the Lord’s work.
5. Black people were turquoise.
Though Nickelodeon definitely made some strides in terms of diversity, featuring characters of a lot of different backgrounds (though let’s be honest, it was still pretty homogenous — it is television, after all), there was the bizarre choice of putting what was clearly a rather stereotypical black character in Doug, have him be the best friend character and everything, but I suppose in a last-minute decision based on having too much turquoise paint, made him blue. And yes, granted, Roger Klotz was lime green and there were other characters of strange colors, but there were no other actual black people on the show. There were other people of all normal skin colors, but no black people. Just the one turquoise guy who busts out in break dancing and impromptu raps from time to time. I can only imagine that children who grew up in the middle of Utah, or some similarly mayonnaise-on-a-snow-covered-white-carpet-colored area, spent most of their childhoods imagining that one day they would go to a party filled with Smurf-colored people who would teach them how to freestyle and wear parachute pants.
6. Amanda Bynes is the perfect human specimen, and she will never do any wrong.
I cannot fully express how sad I was when I saw the mugshot from Bynes’ recent DUI arrest. With her glazed look and pink (?) hair, she seemed to have fallen into the same easy trap as all of the former child stars who came before her, cracking under the pressure of being famous since you were more or less a zygote. Amanda was supposed to be different, she was smart and hilarious and made awesome movies even after her Nickelodeon heyday, things were going to be better for her. And yet, here we are, learning that — no matter what Nick tried to convince us — she’s just as human and as fallible as any of us. Granted, she’s not exactly at Lindsay Lohan-level horrifying crash-and-burn, but things could certainly be better. I recommend that we give her a couple particularly satisfying indie scripts and nominate her for a couple awards, let’s all help her get back on track. We can do it.
7. Having metal parts in your body makes you a wizard, essentially.
Until about the age of 13… let’s be honest, 18, I thought that anyone with a pacemaker or other such a metal device inside them was more or less magical. They could overhear phone conversations, pick up the top-40 station from the next city over, and maybe even read into our minds a tiny bit. It wasn’t until I actually learned a little bit of science in school that I realized, hold on, it probably doesn’t give you magical powers to have a tiny transformer lodged somewhere near your stomach. But Pete and Pete was just “realistic” enough when I was growing up that I honestly thought it could have been based on a true story. I’m only glad that I didn’t let my idiocy be known by asking my great aunt with the hip replacement if she could stand next to the window so we could get some music in this piece.
8. There would eventually be things scarier in life than Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
I honestly thought, watching that show and being on the verge of peeing myself for the entire thirty minutes, that it was only a warm-up for what would prove to be far scarier movies, television shows, and books throughout my life. When I was an awesome teenager, I would be watching all kinds of movies where people were getting hacked up or sexy people at prom would be getting chased around with a hatchet, and I would eventually be completely un-scareable. Are You Afraid of the Dark? was supposed to be my entry into the world of watching scary stuff and being a general badass. Little did I know that it would prove to be the scariest thing I’d ever watch, and that even now, just listening to the bwaa-bwaa music that came on at the beginning with that creepy ass swing going back and forth is enough to send me hiding under my blankets and ugly crying into my teddy bear. Sure, I’ve seen scary movies since then, and maybe even read a book or two that put me ill at ease, but let’s be honest — nothing will be scarier than that show was. Nothing.
9. Kenan and Kel were going to last forever.
Between All That and their eponymous show, we were more or less led to believe that Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were destined for long-term TV stardom and the kind of friendship that fades, gently, into the horizon. Little did we know that while Kenan would find a renewed greatness on Saturday Night Life, Kel would fade quickly into obscurity, never to be heard from again. I don’t like my Kenan without a Kel. There is no North Star when there isn’t someone lovingly reciting an ode to orange soda. And yes, I know that they were going to have to grow up and change eventually, but I guess I just wasn’t ready for it. I suppose I still secretly hope that one day, Kel will host SNL and there will be a full episode of picking up where they left off, the most dynamic comedy duo of our young lives. We need you, Kel.
10. Anyone can do extreme sports. Anyone.
There was a small, maybe one-or-two-year period in my life where I was beyond convinced that I could surf, I could skate, I could parasail over a gorge and then drop down feet-first onto a wheelchair that I would then proceed to ride up onto the sides of the valley while doing crazy ass flips. That period, it should be noted, was called Rocket Power. That was the period of my life when I took my Razor scooter off sick jumps (only to land painfully on my face), with no preparation aside from a brief “woogity-woogity” and a thumb wiggle. I was suddenly a combination of Tony Hawk, Shaun White, and a cartoon character with awesome parents that did. I had dreams of the X Games, and those dreams were crushed when I realized that I was just a pasty little ginger with the athletic ability of a wet noodle. I can only hope that someone’s Rocket Power dreams worked out better than mine.