BEST INTENTIONS

Your first thought when watching (or writing) a televised cartoon is rarely: “What would the government think of this story?”  That’s good.  Countries where governments completely control the content of the media are sad, miserable, oppressive places, cultures where, at the extreme, you can get fired or even shot for what you write or say.  The Spain of the Inquisition, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China — these were not places to question authority and consequently, not hotbeds of creativity.  So the idea that there have been people pushing to control the content of American television, especially kids’ TV, since the medium’s inception has always been a concern.  Today few young people remember how restricted television programming once was.  On the biggest hit show in the world (“I Love Lucy”), the lead actress, who has married and having a baby, couldn’t sit on a bed with her husband or say the word “pregnant” out loud.  Warner Brother’s gloriously anarchic theatrical cartoons from the 1930s through the mid-’50s were, when screened in the 1970s, censored for violence (sorry Elmer Fudd).  Censoring Bugs Bunny…  The height of this frenzy for “pro-social control” of children’s media was reached in the mid-’90s during our run at X-MEN:TAS.  The “Children’s TV Act” cast a pall over future programming.  Much of what we were “allowed” to create in the following years had to be “educational.”  Our most important notes started to come not from creative colleagues but from child psychologists.  Luckily for those of us who like to create or enjoy quality animated television, the explosion of cable TV channels (looser rules) and the internet (loosest rules) broke through the artificial constraints of the well-intentioned protectors of our young people.  Nowadays you can animate nearly anything you can imagine and find a place for it.  Be grateful.  This is not the norm in the history of artist expression but a rare exception.  Government is important; life without it can be anxious and deadly.  But government is never good at directing artistic creation; though it will never cease trying, it really should.

lowry-article-1994

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