Weekly Whack: In Defense of the American Childhood
In Defense of the American Childhood
April 14, 1996

A quite unfortunate incident occurred this past week, when a seven year old girl from California, Jessica Dubroff, died in a plane crash during her attempt to be the youngest person ever to fly cross country. Now I'm not going to jump on the band wagon and blame the parents for pushing her at too young of an age, because I know that if she had succeeded then we all wouldn't be so critical. However what did greatly disturbed me about Jessica's parents, was that they never allowed any of their children to watch TV, or play with toys. Now that is just sickening. Her mom was even quoted as saying that she greatly dislikes the typical American childhood. Being a product coming fresh from a typical American childhood, I took that comment personally. So I took a critical look at my childhood, paying close attention to the two 'vices' of TV and toys, and tried to determine what kind of impact it had on the person I am today. I came to the conclusion that if it wasn't for these 'vices' I would have ended up being an entirely different person, a person who, instead of writing a Whack right now, would be probably writing a forty page manifesto.

Let's begin with TV. Just giving off a rough estimate, I would say that eighty percent of what I know, I learned from watching television. The idiot box is quite the opposite of that. The idiot box has made me, and countless other people, a learned man. For example, public education doesn't cover Fidel Castro until up around the 7th, 8th, or 9th grade levels, but I knew about him well before that. How did I acquire this knowledge of Fidel Castro? It wasn't by reading. There aren't any children books about Castro. Judy Bloom never wrote about Castro. If you go to a children's library, you won't find a book called 'Beezus and Fidel.' And my parents were definitely not the source. My father never sat me down and gave me the Castro talk. None of my bedtime stories ever involved any bearded Cuban revolutionaries. My mom never sang me songs about socialism and cigars. The only possible source for this bit of knowledge was the TV. Apparently during my many hours of watching television as a kid, I came across something about Fidel Castro, and it stuck with me. And this is the exact same way I acquired the majority of my knowledge through life.

Television also contributed in many others ways in making me a better person. How could a child raised on 'Different Strokes' grow up to be racist? How could a child raised on 'Who's the Boss' grow up to be sexist? And how could a child raised on 'CHiPs' grow up to be a criminal? The answer to all three questions is simple: no child could. These three shows, along with a good majority of what was on television as I was growing up, taught me good old fashioned American values. I am what I am because of what I watched on television. And there was no greater factor that contributed to my sense of humor than TV. Face it, there is a lot of funny stuff on television. From the Nickelodeon classic 'Turkey Television' in my early years, to MTV's 'Half-hour Comedy Hour', to 'Saturday Night Live' during the Dana Carvey/Dennis Miller era, TV has always been a source of laughter for me. Even the stuff that was not supposed to be funny, like Bob Ross- that painter with the afro on public television, and the famous "I've fallen and I can't get up" lady, provided endless hours of laughter. You can call it an idiot box, or a boob tube, but I call it cable-ready culture.

Now is a good time to turn off the TV, and open the toy box. There is absolutely nothing wrong with toys. Toys are inanimate objects that are used in countless number of ways according to the inclination of the child. If a child is bad, he will use a toy gun to go on a shooting spree, killing all the make-believe postal workers in his backyard. If a child is good, he will use a toy gun to fight crime, tame the Old West, and make sure no Mexicans get across the border and steal American jobs. But for a child to play with toy, he needs some trace of an imagination. Therefore, toys foster the imagination, and an imagination is a good thing for a child to have. If she has a good imagination, you don't have to put your seven year old girl on a real plane to fly across the country, all you have to do is give her a cardboard box, and she could fly to the freaking moon if she wanted to. When I was a kid, I went further than Lewis and Clark combined without leaving my playroom, and without missing lunch.

There are also educational toys, that do a little more than just foster the imagination. The best example are board games. I learned deductive reasoning by playing Clue. I learned perseverance by playing Chutes and Ladders. I learned vocabulary by playing Scrabble. And I learned the unpredictability of childbirth by playing Life. Who needs books when you got board games? While I'm on the topic of board games, I would like to bring one of the most popular board games throughout the world: Monopoly. Monopoly is a great game, but I never learned anything from playing it, because I never finished. Millions of people own the game of Monopoly, but very few people can claim that they played a complete game. The reason is simple: it takes too damn long. If you try and play Monopoly with four people until all but one person is bankrupt, it will take about four weeks. I don't know why, it's one of the great mysteries of life.

Well I think I played enough for one week, so to conclude, only idiots call it an idiot box; you are what you watch; and Monopoly monopolizes times.

Now for this week's special feature, Feff's top ten favorite Transformers as a kid:

10. Megatron
9. Kup
8. Springer
7. Optimus Prime
6. Huffer
5. Kickback
4. Ultra Magnus
3. Scrapper
2. Jazz
1. Pipes

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