In the shank of my youth, Nickelodeon was the purveyor of awesome programming. Everyone who was anyone stayed in on Saturday nights to watch the Snick lineup — depending on which season we’re talking about, one could expect an all-star marathon of shows including All That, Roundhouse, Ren and Stimpy, Clarissa Explains It All, Keenan and Kel, and The Journey of Allen Strange. I practically planned my life around my favorites just to make sure I could watch Shelby Woo solve her latest mystery or pretend to enjoy Are You Afraid Of The Dark? in front of my older, cooler brother. And what did all of those hours devoted to the big orange couch get me? I’ll tell you what: A life built on deception. Below are four lies that Nickelodeon put forth as axiomatic truths, each followed by a short biography of how they wreaked havoc on my existence.
Lie: It’s neither derogatory nor impolite to bestow offensive nicknames onto your friends
Show: Salute Your Shorts
Remember Camp Anawanna’s Eddie Gelfen? I’m sure you don’t because no one called him that. Instead, little Eddie, that loveable chubster, was only ever referred to as Donkeylips. Nowadays you can’t call someone a butthead without getting subpoenaed by stopbullying.gov, but back then Snick was all like, “yeah, kids, call your friends the most offensive thing you can possibly think of — it’s hilarious!” The problem, however, is that on a scale from one to hilarious, malicious monikers generally fall somewhere near rude. Observe: In high school, my brother used to hang out with this kid who had tiny ears. While I’m sure most people noticed this about him, they managed to refrain from pointing it out. I, however, took to calling him “small ears” whenever he was in my general vicinity, as in, “Hey, small ears,” or, “Welcome back to our humble abode, small ears,” or, “Can you hear me with your small ears, small ears?” It didn’t quite click that calling this person “small ears” might be taken in an offensive manner — in fact, I thought it was completely acceptable (what Budnik says goes, right?!) Wrong. Small ears Matt was affronted and I looked like an idiot, all thanks to Salute Your Shorts.
Lie: Picking your nose is socially acceptable as long as you find an orange flag up there
Show: Double Dare
Look, I’ll admit it: I used to pick my nose as a child. But that’s only because Double Dare double-dared to defy every Emily Post-ism and made it seem cool. There were a total of zero boogers in the giant papier-mâchénose that was part of Double Dare’s final obstacle course; instead, contestants found whipped cream and chocolate sauce and that oh-so-elusive orange flag in there, along with a rollicking good time. Watching said climacteric event only inspired me to do some digging of my own — what kid wouldn’t go nose diving for an orange flag whose monetary value was equivalent to a Casio Keytar?Unfortunately, however, “But they do it on Double Dare!” didn’t get me very far whenever I got made fun of for being wrist deep in my own nasal canal.
Lie: Winning a piece of the Aggro Crag is akin to winning the lottery
Mike O’Malley and Moira “Mo” Quirk are the biggest charlatans of them all. I used to lust after the tiny, glowing piece of the glorious Super Aggro Crag held high above each Guts victor’s head because it represented everything I lacked: athleticism. Since I was better than bad but worse than mediocre at most sports, I’d stay indoors, watch other kids hustle up and down the Extreme Arena, and fantasize about being them, all while eating ice cream and contemplating the fact that my thighs rubbed together. I may not have been Guts material, but boy did I fantasize about besting that Crag, slamming actuators that would reward me with a satisfying surge of confetti and glitter along the way. It was the ultimate measure of self-worth: win Guts and you win life. Well guess what: That jagged piece of plastic made by the children of a Chinese sweatshop isn’t nearly as cool as winning an award for beatboxing (which I have — what now, O’Malley?) Athleticism be damned; I’ll take swag any day of the week.
Lie: A chemical spill won’t kill you; it will only make you stronger
Show: The Secret World of Alex Mack
If you delve deep into the pop culture archives, you’ll note that chemical spills/radiation drifts/nuclear power plants are no laughing matter — one day you’re a normal kid and the next you have a mutinous evil twin protruding from your sternum. In a typically contrarian fashion, however, Nickleodeon examined the other, more non-existent side effect of hazardous materials. Enter Alex Mack, who ends up with some super cool super powers after fortuitously being doused in chemicals: turning into a puddle of molten silver on a whim, telekinesis, the ability to become a human glowworm — the girl’s hands could shoot electricity at anyone who pissed her off, for Pete and Pete’s sake. In the real world, that’d be like having tiny cans of mace sewn into your fingertips with which to ward off attackers — a.k.a amazing. TSWAM preached the benefits of biohazardous agents so convincingly that it had me wishing I could dive headfirst into a reservoir of nuclear waste sans hazmat suit, and I think we all know where that would’ve gotten me…