Keep Your “Family Friendly” Bullshit

Keep Your “Family Friendly” Bullshit

I procrastinate. In fact, I procrastinate an awful lot. I procrastinate…but I manage my time quite well, which is why I can procrastinate. I am, admittedly, not the smartest person, but I don’t aim for the heavens. Earth seems much more more interesting to me, we have philosophers and video games here. This is why even at the age of 18, I am able to enjoy some of my favourite things, be it video games, or cartoons (which I still watch, no shame). However, in recent years, I have discussed before, my favourite things have been sullied, sometimes to the point of no return. I know that i am not the only person who fucking hates reboots/remakes of popular shows. I see it as a cash grab. There are very few examples of studios reviving dead shows to commercial success, with praise from both critics and fans alike. A few examples off the top of my head are Samurai Jack Season 5, the last two Tomb Raider games, Hunter X Hunter (2011), Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Dredd 3D and Batman Begins. I find it somewhat saddening that creatives simply cannot flex their brain muscles, take a risk and imagine something new. The same problem exists in the comic book industry where cowards play it safe by instead re-imagining popular characters instead of creating new diverse characters. They would rather take the easy route of making the new Iron Man (Ironheart) a 15 year old black girl, seemingly appealing to the SJW crowd at a time when Marvel is turning against its long time fans. I have no problems with people of colour in media, I’m black, however, I have a problem with rash decisions and bad writing *cough cough Jane Foster is pretty shit*. But that’s besides the point. I am angry, because we, the fans, are being treated like children….no, worse than children, because when I was a kid, there was some well written, mature, and entertaining media out there, while still remaining safe enough for (most) kids to watch.

We have increasingly been subjected to this wave of “family friendly” bullshit where everyone loves one another, is represented equally, and so we can swallow it and play into their narrative. Just flick to Disney, Cartoon Network, or any other kids network. Turn to MTV, where you’ll find the same mindless reality TV, and the one escape, YouTube, is now turning into a toddler’s sandbox because advertisers do not understand how targeted advertisements work and liberals hate PewDiePie (and also, fuck the Wall Street Journal). What happened to insightful media that was unafraid to take risks and make their own decisions? The number has begun to thin, and it seems that it will continue to do so for a while now.

This leads me to the few vestiges of light in the world of entertainment that shine through the ever-encroaching darkness of censorship. Recently I finished watching a show called Gravity Falls. For those of you who don’t know about it, it was a Disney show which aired from 2013 to 2016, but it shines not so bright because of the brand it represents, but because of the content the show delivers. Children’s shows are perhaps, more heavily criticised due to the fact that they have to strike the right balance in terms of entertainment, life lessons and mindless comedy. Too much of one, and it becomes too mature, too crass, or way to mindless. However, a few shows manage to balance the three extremely well, or highlight one so well that it glows fantastically. Gravity Falls is one such show, and Alex Hirsch, the creator did such a great job ensuring the world of Gravity Falls was as real and full of life throughout its 40 episode run. It is filled with lovable, and hated characters, an intriguing setting, supporting characters who don’t just feel like disposables and a plot that can hold its own against nearly all of its cartoon counterparts and even some TV shows. The show truly holds its own as a mystery themed show, incorporating splashes of horror, bewilderment, supernatural occurrences and action.

But that’s not exactly what makes Gravity Falls great. Gravity Falls is an, as of this article, still unsolved mystery, despite many of its biggest mysteries being solved. The show has an abundance of mysteries to solve, filled with intelligent cryptographs and puzzles, backwards messages, and some crazy symbolism. Its puzzles exist both inside and outside of the show, and I’ve been so impressed by the show that I’m thinking of purchasing the three mysterious journals. All the effort in the show makes it easier to love, but it also makes it a prime example of two things. The first, is an abundance of creativity. From creating immensely wondrous creatures and mysteries, to referencing popular shows like Rick and Morty, to quoting the great Jean-Paul Sartre on existentialism. This is someone who was inspired and created his own show, loved by children and praised by adults, created its own mysteries, puzzles, inappropriate, but well-hidden jokes and child-esque comedy. It was unafraid to make its mark in its own way, and succeeded with resounding success. The second thing it accomplishes, is the way it does not throw its punches. It quickly evolves from a child-friendly show with colourful creature, to dark and menacing within 10 episodes. It’s not afraid to show the grim reality of life, and what happens when you grow up. However, because of this, the viewers grow with the show. Life lessons are taught, and experiences are learned, but in no way does it hold back as the colours become darker, the imagery, more violent, and the themes slightly too sadistic.  It also gets bonus points for poking fun at mainstream TV.

Gravity Falls had its ups and downs, but the reason I decided to talk about it instead of say…Adventure TimeRegular Show or Steven Universe, is because Gravity Falls takes me back to the golden age of cartoons, specifically, Cartoon Network. Back when Coop used to talk about chicks in New Jersey, Jack would decapitate Aku’s robots and Courage would battle monstrosities. We allowed ourselves to become so complacent, we were left with subpar shows consisting of vlogging, meaningless banter and twerking(refer to Teen Titans Go, Ben 10 (2016) and PowerPuff Girls (2016)). Gravity Falls of all things has provided something that CN has neglected for years, and it is positively shameful.

I’m not saying we should get rid of all of it. Culture changes for better or worse. Trends sweep the Earth and popular icons do things that we may or not be proud of on a personal level. But we can definitely shape culture, and I don’t want a culture where kids are watching fingerless girls twerk beside an acid-tripping panda. I want something real in my media, even if it is doused with fantasy. Something that doesn’t hold back punches and hits me right in the gut. The older I get, the more I need to be reminded that the real world is getting rougher each day, and if I don’t get those reminders, my disillusioned self will become less disillusioned and weaker. Give me those monochrome shades, and give me that real shit.

 

Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance. Jean-Paul Sartre

A Culture of Poverty

A Culture of Poverty

This is just an observation I’ve made after a few months living in Malaysia after nearly 2 decades in Malawi, and its based on my own personal opinions. Well, Malaysia is a country rich in culture. It has a majority Malay, Indian and Chinese people allowing for a rich and diversified populace with a shit ton of personality (the many uses of lah/can). In the beginning I thought that this was a Malaysia thing. It must be like this because its a melting pot of cultures, right? Well, I began to notice that other students had diverse cultures as well. I really noticed it during the Nowruz festival at my university, where the Central Asian student body converged to celebrate a popular holiday back in their countries. To some, it may have been a normal, almost boring occurrence, but for me it was a chance to see something new, and with my love of learning and the humanities, it intrigued me a great deal (and there was free food), but it also got me thinking. What did I really know about my own culture? Where were our festivals, cultural quirks and exciting oddities. Our many traditional foods, or street delicacies, and our tribal mysticism. I thought it odd that so many other countries, even our neighbours had such diverse cultures compared to Malawi’s. Such interesting histories and backstories. I almost felt ashamed that I could tell you more about the Aztecs and Egyptians than I could my own people.

This deep seated guilt found its way into my heart and greatly unsettled me. I tried to calm my heart by assuring myself that it was just a me thing. My knowledge of Chichewa is shaky, at best. It would be understandable that I barely knew anything about Chewa, or Malawian culture, but this did nothing to help. I am a history buff after all. So, I had to try and find answers, draw up theories and attempt to understand what my actual questions were, and what I know about Malawi. Maybe because Malawians are usually quaint to a fault, however my knowledge of any traditional…stuff falls to the Nyau culture, and even then only because of my Dad, the books he keeps, and my own personal experiences with them (don’t get me started.)

Remembering old conversations with my older sisters, I also realized that there are ab abundance of traditional stories and folklore, however people have simply seized to tell them, favouring perhaps the Christian stories from the Bible. A regrettable loss, in my opinion at least. After a lot of digging, I came closer to my final conclusion by realizing that the further down we go, the less people try to remember the things of the past. This is well documented in many places, but has occurred much too much in Malawi. Our traditional stories and history is replaced with Western stories and media. Is this a bad thing? No, but gradually forgetting your culture completely is terrible.  So, and bear with me here, why is our culture so nonexistent? Well, one of the things I realized is that we’re poor as fuck (no shit Sherlock). And many people around me in Malaysia don’t know how poor we actually are, but Hells are we poor. The wage gap has to be so big right now that there is probably no middle class. Of the 15.9 million Malawians, about 12 million are living below the international poverty line ($1.25 a day)  and the average student to teacher ratio for primary schools is 96:1. But how does this affect culture? Well, really, how can you be celebrating festivals, and basking in a prosperous and fortunate life when you’re so far in the gutter that you can’t see past your own hunger. With the state the country is in, even the wealthy experience a level of discomfort that ranges from irritating, to simply unbearable, whether it be water shortages, or electrical outages. There is nothing to celebrate really.

And when the celebrations roll in, they are usually the usual religious festivals that have taken root in whichever country you’re in, be it Christmas or Diwali.  And most well to do families shy away from the traditional aspects of their culture, instead filling it with Western objects that indicate wealth and prosperity. When you walk into a Malawian house, apart from the food and the language being spoken, there is so little about it that is Malawian. And who can blame them really? Adopting a Western stance can give your children, and your family a better way to live, with things that can make their lives better in a country so abjectly poor. So our generation sticks with other festivals and traditions, shying away from our own, because any attempt to truly connect with our own, means embracing a culture of poverty, corruption, stupidity and sickness. And when it comes time for us to either come home from studying abroad, or find jobs, the torrent of despair and hopelessness drives us away, leaving Malawi with a Brain Drain that will affect us for decades to come until something drastic is done. Daliso Chaponda, who recently received the Golden buzzer is a British-Malawian comedian with some hilarious jokes. But there was a reason he was joking about UNICEF in the UK rather than at the French Cultural Center in Blantyre. He understands true poverty, and he’s seen it, and the difference between poor, and not so poor.. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps chipping away at our cultural and personal identities until it may become truly difficult to really truly call yourself Malawian. Do I have a solution? No, I’m just a critical and broke college student writing blogs in class instead of paying attention to my lecturers, but I write because it hurts more when I stand by idly.

So now, when someone asks me whether I can show them my culture I say “sure, as long as you don’t mind a culture of poverty.”