5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

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.
5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

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.

He-Man and Perseverance

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

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.

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

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.

Transformers and Tolerance

Look at my wiener gun! Bleep bloop!

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.

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

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.

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.

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

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.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Value of History

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

As you know from my previous writing, I would have wrecked April O'Neil. But alas, I was 12, she was a cartoon and you just can't awkwardly grope at a TV's boobs. But I still really enjoyed the Ninja Turtles and even managed to sit through the Vanilla Ice scene in TMNT II without throwing feces or starting a fire. Not a lot of people did that back in the day. Look it up.

While on the surface TMNT was about solving problems via kung fu that never actually seemed to injure anyone, and also the hidden dangers of bathing animals in green ooze that just falls off of trucks in New York City, the entire series had a deeper meaning that was never really made explicit and that, of course, was about the importance of knowing where you came from, of history.


I don't remember this episode, but I want to.

It's no coincidence that the turtles were named after four of history's greatest artists. It had no relevance to anything in the show whatsoever because I'm not convinced the people who produced the cartoon even spoke English, but it did have meaning if you thought about it. These were great minds of the Renaissance who were masters of not just an aesthetic style but of many fields of knowledge. They advanced society as a whole with their example, striving toward greatness. And then they became color-coded ninja reptiles. See where this is going? No. It's cool. It just means shit happened before you got here. Shit happened and we need to appreciate that. Leonardo paved the way for some dude to draw a turtle with a sword named after him, in some small way. It's like beautiful and junk, when you think about it.

Even in the show, Splinter was all about explaining how, even as a normal rat, he practiced kung fu while watching his human master. He learned from those who came before. I had no idea a rat could even do that. No wonder they use them in science all the time.

You have to have a respect for history and what it can teach you, because if you don't, maybe a guy in a spiky metal helmet and an alien asshole brain will just kick the ever-loving shit out of you one day, and because you never learned kung fu, you're just going to take it like a bitch.

GoBots and Not Giving a Shit

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

Oh my Christ. Every child has the innate ability to watch literally anything on TV, just because it's on TV. Put a TV in front of a kid who's fleeing a burning building and that kid is done for, and it'll be all the fault of a Dr. Ho infomercial, because kids don't give a shit what is on TV so long as it's on TV. And that's why the GoBots ever existed.

GoBots were on TV alongside Transformers and were basically the same idea, but they were to the Transformers what Snooki is to Neil DeGrasse Tyson in terms of being able to think. About anything.

There was a fuckin' GoBot named Scooter. Guess what he transformed into. Just guess. How any of the voice actors stayed sober enough to read the script to the end of an entire 22-minute episode is mind-boggling.

5 Life Lessons Learned from Old School Cartoons

What an unwashed dick of a cartoon character.

I'm just going to list dumb shit here because I had to Google GoBots to refresh my memory of this show and it's all flooding back in such a deluge of lazy-ass writing that I am starting to lose my ability to maintain sentence structure. It's like my brain is engaging in sympathetic what-the-fuckery. Anyway, here are some other GoBots characters you should be familiar with: Spay-C the space shuttle; Rest-Q the ambulance; Cop-Tur the helicopter; Spoons the forklift (because fuck you); and Tux, the Rolls-Royce who wore a top hat. I swear to God that shit seriously happened. Some magnificent cokehead at Tonka in the mid-'80s just walked his completely blitzed ass into the office one day and probably screamed at the development team that he wanted a robot wearing a top hat by the end of the day or he was going to literally skull fuck everyone in the building to death.

Have I made fun of Scooter yet? Because fuck Scooter.

You can tell how much I actually disliked GoBots, but still watched Challenge of the GoBots, by how much I'm swearing in just this entry. I literally want to put the word "fuck" in every sentence. The show was so lazy and just had such disdain for its audience that it couldn't care less. It could not care less if you or I or any child even had a functioning brain. There was a character named Pumper, and another character named Dumper, and neither one had a dick or an ass that I'm aware of. There was even a Porsche named Baron Von Joy. Can you get drunk enough to understand that but still maintain the motor control to type your explanation in the comments section? That's rhetorical, because I already know you can't.

And that brings me to the crux of this entry and what I learned from the GoBots. They produced the toys for four years and made 65 episodes of the show. That, to me, seems like a remarkable run of success from some people who clearly had no fucks to give, and that was inspiring to me. If a room full of substance-abusing Asians could export their lazy, ripoff robot cartoon and still convince me to watch it, then no matter how much of a fuckup I turned into as an adult, I'd still get by OK. And look at me now! You just read my whole column.

Check out more from Fortey in 8 Horrifying Uses of Branding (Feat. Hello Kitty Pads) and 5 Awesome Things Monkeys Can Do (Better Than Most Humans).


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