As you may have guessed from my other articles, I spend a lot of time alone, plotting. However, when not plotting, I like to relax with a bit of the old pop culture mental masturbation that I fit into my schedule after the regular, hand-based kind (or warm, damp bread if I'm feeling festive). Though I'll be the first to point out how vacuous much of modern entertainment is and how utterly awful TLC can be (I did, in fact), there's a lot to be said for TV, film and even Internet comedy. People not only need a break from the monotony and horror of real life sometimes, they deserve it. You're not a machine. Go watch Storage Wars.
Entertainment can have value for any number of reasons, but if it can help you learn something while keeping you entertained, well that's even more awesome. I've been learning from TV all my life.
#5. He-Man and Perseverance
I feel sorrow for the legacy of He-Man, who's fallen on hard times in recent years. Once he was Eternia's mightiest hero, and now he's in a bunch of homoerotic YouTube videos dubbed over with a 4 Non Blondes song. Prince Adam, you deserved better.
When I was a kid, He-Man was the ultimate pop culture hero. He transcended mere cartoons and action figures and merged awesomeness in heretofore unheard of ways. One of his action figures actually stunk. It straight up smelled like shit. On purpose. That's the level of caring Mattel had. They said, "Listen, this skunk man action figure could just look like the progeny of a badger and Steve Buscemi, who by the way isn't even a celebrity yet so no one knows who that is, but we demand more. Make him stink." And so it was.
Oh look, a chance to use a picture of Fisto.
He-Man was the prince of an entire planet that consisted of maybe 100 people. Of those 100, 20 were total assholes who worked for Skeletor, who Wikipedia tells me was an evil sorcerer from another dimension and not just a surly local with a severe skin condition. What did Skeletor want? He-Man's power, and maybe the loyalty of those other 80 people. Or money. A cool motorcycle. Skin. Who's to say? He was pretty inept, and most of his plans failed miserably. But he did have one redeeming feature, and that was perseverance.
In point of fact, I didn't learn much from He-Man exactly, but Skeletor was a hell of a villain. Why didn't he ever quit? His extremely loose goal is to take over Castle Grayskull and then somehow control the universe as a result, despite the fact that all Castle Grayskull seems to be able to do is turn Prince Adam into a Chippendale and roid rage his cat. Despite this, he devoted his entire life to his vague goal with only morons to help him, even after losing time and again to the same guy, pretty much the same way. The man (skeleton) never gave up, and that's admirable.
#4. Transformers and Tolerance
Before Michael Bay got his sticky, jam-covered fingers on it, the Transformers franchise was a pretty solid form of children's entertainment. You had robots, from space, that could turn into other shit. That's three awesome things in one. The adult equivalent would be like a taco truck staffed by busty ladies who want to play video games with you. That's adult, right?
The basic story of the Transformers was that the Autobots and the Decepticons were at war on Cybertron, and not even over how all their names were very clumsily robotic in nature and how it should have been obvious to anyone that a group calling themselves Decepticons were about as untrustworthy as a gang called the Rapey Stabbertons. They end up fleeing in search of Energon and continue their war on Earth. More or less.
The terrible toll of interstellar warfare.
Do you know what the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon is? It's a sticker on your chassis somewhere. In some iterations, robots just change faction all willy-nilly, so there's really no difference at all between them other than that snazzy decal they like to show off. Sure, the villains had either cooler or more whiny voices, but that was about it. You couldn't judge a book by its cover in the Transformers universe, else you might think poor, stupid Grimlock with his dim-witted speech patterns and T. rex exterior was evil. But he wasn't! He was good, man. And similarly, in Beast Wars (I'm such a nerd for knowing this), Dinobot even started as a Decepticon but then traded in his sticker for some Autobot racing stripes. It was just that easy.
The Transformers were willing to accept anyone into the fold, be they car or dinosaur or spider. It didn't matter. Everyone was equal if they were willing to carelessly wage a war on another planet at the drop of a hat for barely any discernible reason whatsoever. And that's a beautiful message.
#3. G.I. Joe and Education
The men and three women of G.I. Joe are a highly trained force of pan-military experts in the fields of all things from ninjaing to scuba diving to being a vaguely homosexual sailor with a parrot. Their mission is to fend off the sinister forces of Cobra, who are possibly terrorists, but are very likely an inexplicably well-funded group of misfit mental patients. They genetically spliced together their own leader from the DNA of various historical monsters, never once pausing to consider why it would be a bad idea to make a person out of the parts of other terrible people. Honestly, who does that besides whoever made the Koch brothers?
I credit G.I. Joe for teaching me the value of getting an education, and not just because of those PSAs they tossed at the end of every episode, but because of the way every character was clearly an idiot. Like mythically retarded, in a way that whole cultures in bygone eras would have told their children about in hushed tones around the fire to keep them in line lest they ever start firing lasers haphazardly at their enemies each and every week with no tangible results ever being achieved.
Just the tip, baby!
No one in G.I. Joe ever accomplished anything that I am aware of. As I mentioned, Cobra managed to clone a leader out of the DNA of winners like Attila the Hun and Vlad the Impaler, which is like building yourself a bicycle seat out of hot forks and a guy who keeps kicking you. But on a more basic level, did anyone on either side ever manage to actually shoot someone with those lasers? Ever? Whole battles took place with both sides just shooting blue and red lasers randomly at the same guys they had fought wars with the previous week and nothing ever happened. I can't even be sure there was property damage.
Had even a single member of the Joe team or Cobra taken the time to learn how to shoot a gun, their entire lives would have been vastly different. One guy, that's all they needed. Both teams even had a ninja assassin in their roster, and still no one ever died. Come on, man.
Like a two-week stint at a firing range and a whole war would have been won by a single guy. If that's not a commentary on the value of education, I don't know what is.