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The Fairly Bad Parents Why Butch Hartman and Nickelodeon Need a Good Spank
In our wonderful, and not so wonderful artistic world there are two kinds of people who like to make cartoons, first there are the people who make cartoons because they love the art form, and then. There are people who do cartoons for the money and do not give a hoot about the whole process of writing, character development, and only care about how much they are paid for their cartoon once they get it out on TV. I hate to say this, but the creator of the show Fairly-Odd Parents, Butch Hartman, is just one of those people; the people that everyone like Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery tried possibly to avoid. Who gives him the money to create such a show, where parents and teens are earthier ignorant or evil, and characters like Timmy Turner do not evolve or have a moment of complete change or enlightment like in South Park or The Simpsons. None other than my once favorite network which formerly had really good quality shows like Rugrats, Hay Arnold, The Wild Thornberry’s, and the semi-scientifically accurate Jimmy Neutron. This network is none other than the so-called number one kids network Nickelodeon. How this once popular network became a horrifying cartoon hellhole? Stay tuned to this essay, and I will tell you why…
First, let us examine our first criminal on the wall of shame Butch Hartman; surly if you look him up in Wikipedia, you might think that his childhood was perfectly safe and hunky-dory. However, that is not the case; most of the so-called enemies that the main character Timmy deals with are based on real people that the creator himself viewed as evil and or wicked. The main character is based off his younger brother of the same name whom probably had godparents; which may prove that he, like older brothers sometimes do, hated the little brother because he was spoiled possibly by his godparents. Now you know where the idea for the show came from, let us talk about a very philosophical question that all of the great masters like Nietzsche have discussed for many years, “what is evil and what is good?”
For some people, evil or good can be a label for a certain race or ethnicity or in this case, how a person or an age of maturity is viewed by the mark that is given to them. This later on creates stereotypes, when stereotypes are repetitively shown to children; it becomes intertwined into their moral fabric. One example that dominates this show in particular is the portal of the teenage babysitter Vicky whom is considered not just the shows antagonist, but also a true villain in the eyes of Timmy whom is ten-years-old. How does Hartman formulate her to be truly terrifying, more terrifying than Angelica from Rugrats? This is how he does it, remember how in Disney and Hanna Barbara cartoons, the villains are sharply angled, hunched over with a wicked grin, have green or sleazy eyes, and if they are female they have ether a witch-like, sassy , or high pitched voice? These are the perfect ingredients to make a villain; but really, a sixteen-year-old baby sitter; it just does not sound right unless one has abused you. It teaches children that all teenage girls are evil villains, which is a very masculine, juvenile, and ridiculous perspective.
However, in reality, sixteen year olds go through a lot of stress and pressure to become an adult, for girls it is even harder to find your individual identity. Especially in a society, that tells you through ads, movies, and TV shows especially on Disney Chanel that in order to be popular or beautiful you must have lots of money, be skinny, and to have friends that are similar to your body shape and your income. If you do not have the right things then you cannot fit in. this is why there are too many young teenage girls that have eating disorders or psychological problems in American society. In the show, Vicky does not have a single sign of teenage problems or moral dilemmas; instead, she is the teenage girl equivalent of Snidely Whiplash from Dudley Do-Right, or Wildly Coyote, and has stayed that way throughout the show; no enlightment or evolution like in previous Nicktoons.
Now you might say to yourself, “It’s a cartoon, it should be that way!” but have you wondered why it is that way…it is because Butch is using the same formulas that Hanna Barbara cartoons had. Many of them, except Jonny Quest, have stagnant characters, easy to understand plot outlines, short funny and not so funny dialogs (some of which were god awful) , and had events and situations that were extremely over the top and ridiculous. One example is an episode of the Flintstones, where Betty likes baby Pebbles so much that she wishes on a star (sound familiar?) for her own child, and latter on her doorstep is her new baby Bam-Bam. This formula was used repeatedly, because it was the cheapest way to make a cartoon and brought in more money; when other studios saw what Hanna Barbara were doing they started copying their formula. Walt Disney on the other hand was brave enough to say that the formula that Hanna Barbara established was just not what he wanted for his studio or for anyone and complained about their cartoons in particular because the characters were flat, it was easy to understand the plot outline, they moved too fast, and the backgrounds looked all the same. In fact, he was so against the new Hanna-Barbara formula that during production of The Jungle Book he fired several animators for getting away with cheep animation styles. This formula was constantly copied repeatedly by many artists including Butch Hartman who pittiched his idea of Fairly-Odd Parents when he left Hanna-Barbara and came to Nickelodeon.
Now before Butch Hartman made a deal with the Cartoon Devil, Nickelodeon’s cartoons were at the height of their studio’s careers. Hay Arnold was a cartoon that in my opinion really set the stage for cartoon characters that dealt with very realistic issues. One episode has a back-story on why Helga likes Arnold and why she is really angry and downright bossy; it is because her parents liked he older sister better than her and she uses her behavior to mask her feelings of jealousy and pain. Hay Arnold is a great example of how reality can not only dark and scary, but also entertaining and funny. Rugrats was gaining more popularity not only from kids in the 90’s but form teens and adults too, they even made a very successful Rugrats Movie where Tommy now has a little brother named Dill; at first he is jealous but then learns a very important lesson about being a big brother. Although there are some Rugrats purists who do not like Dill, I think it was a factor that made Tommy a much stronger character in the show. New shows were constantly pushing the boundaries on morality, humor, and quasi-educational values; one show in particular was Jimmy Neutron, which had situations and values that were semi-scientifically accurate and not only taught morals on reasonability, logic, and acceptance but had an element of education and jokes about all different kinds of knowledge on science. In one episode, Cindy and one of her friends find an asteroid that has landed on earth with red crystals on it; now in real life there are asteroids with precious metals on them. In fact, this episode in particular is all about asteroid mining, which is a real concept, and that is exactly what Jimmy and his friend’s do, until they find out that the asteroids came from a national park that is owned and protected by aliens.
The good thing about these shows is that the morals did not hit you on the head like an anvil; you had to learn though watching the show, listening to the characters emotions and dialog, and always feel a sense of compassion towards the characters warts and all. To me, Hey Arnold was like watching a play by Shakespeare and Rugrats was like watching a comedic opera by Mozart. However, that was about to change when Nickelodeon was bought up by Viacom and as the Roman satirist Juvinal would say, “It’s hard for people rise in the world when you’re when you talents are thwarted”. This is what happened latter when the executives came up with ideas for shows, controlled the studios with their iron fist and Crimson Chins held high and mighty, and made many studios less creative and more marketable towards children and teens in the form of merchandise and full feature length movies. One example of this meddling is with the Rugrats, which brings us our next criminal on the wall of shame, the executives that came in when Viacom took over the network.
Soon, the executives who messed around with the devopment of the characters thwarted the studios talents and ideas. They were told that in order to succeed they had to sell merchandise, make more movies, and even exploit their characters to advertisements. Before the takeover, there was very little Rugrats merchandise; but when the takeover began their became a huge explosion of not only Rugrats merchandise, but Jimmy Neutron, Wild Thornberrys, and a new character who lived in a pineapple under the sea was getting attention as well; SpongeBob Squarepants. This process of marketing and making movies is the fateful ingredient that made Butch Hartman rise to the top of his game. Even though Fairly Odd Parents was second on the top viewed shows on Nickelodeon, it had so much power over the general audience that made even Jimmy Neutron cringe when they made a crossover with Fairly Odd Parents. However, it was not the only cringing crossover ever made; we all remember when the Rugrats crossover with the Wild Thornberrys came out in theaters and we all were discussed with the dog Spike talking that we wished he had a bar of soap in his mouth… bad Bruce Willis!
However, cartoon crossovers are not a new or resent thing, in fact cartoon crossovers started with Hanna Barbara. One of the most famous crossovers was with the Flintstones and the Jetsons, and others soon fallowed in their feature length films. Although Butch Hartman has not yet made a full-length Fairly Odd Parents movie, he has taken a different the route by making TV movies and two part episodes, which became a source of immense income for him and the executives that bought up Nickelodeon. However, there have been rumors of a movie in the works where Timmy is a teenager (scary!) which has made a lot of hype on the internet. However, we as Nickelodeon fans and Cartoon lovers use the internet to rant about the issue, why not make blog about the corruption of Nickelodeon, and how we can fight against the Fairy Godparents. Better yet, have a Boycott Butch Hartman Day where we can watch our old Nicktoons that we grew up with and vow to not buy Fairly Odd Parents DVDs and not buy Nickelodeon merchandise of any kind. The change starts with you, the consumer, we have the ability to buy things or not buy things based on our opinions and beliefs, not because an advertisement or add told us to buy it, or because a cartoon character is plastered on the box. Together, we can now be the babysitter that thinks Butch Hartman and Nickelodeon need a definite spanking.
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