Various and Sundry Cartoon Thoughts

Most of my viewing habits lately have been directed towards cartoons. Maybe it’s because I find the rest of the entertainment world increasingly hostile, or just because I enjoy the medium, but in any case I’ve been watching a lot of animated shows lately.

Stories, I find, are like relationships: made up of thousands of individual moments adding up to an overall tone that is either positive or negative. Either you like the person and feel better for having known them, or you dislike them and would prefer to having nothing to do with them. Then again, there are the ones who simply pass you by without leaving much of an impression. So, of the cartoons of recent years that I’ve watched, here are some general thoughts:

Avatar the Last Airbender is pretty much top of the heap: less a great show than a great fantasy-adventure that happens to have an animated show for its medium. Rich, beautiful, mostly positive (some lame feminist agitprop that really doesn’t fit the setting is probably the worst of it), filled with great characters and a wonderful story almost perfectly told.

My Little PonyFriendship is Magic, of course, I love. It’s certainly an acquired taste that not everyone will like, but man it hit a note with me with its timeless setting and storytelling, complex and charming characters, and especially its strong moral emphasis. I love moralism and ethical philosophy, and this show is not only all about that, but actually seems to know what its talking about. Great humor and some beautifully creative animation add to the charm.

Phineas and Ferb is another one that really speaks to me. In a world full of despair, resentment, and pessimism, the cheery good-will and hope that forms the core of this show is a breath of fresh air. It’s all about nice people doing nice things and enjoying life, but manages to do it in a smart, hilarious, and deceptively thoughtful way so that it doesn’t come across as the least sappy or contrived. I think Mr. Disney would have loved it; it’s espouses exactly the kind of hopeful can-do optimism that he did.

Gravity Falls I have mixed feelings about. Its really well written (for the most part), and its high moments are fantastic. I laughed hard and even choked up a few times. There’s a lot of creativity, and I enjoyed the fact that the show was willing to get really dark and scary at times. At the same time, though, there’s a mean-spirited, cynical side to it that I did not like, and when it’s bad, it can be really stupid. Plus it’s kinda ugly and there are some moral issues to it that would definitely prevent my showing this to my kids. I’ll have to delve deeper into it later.

Milo Murphy’s Law is the sequel series to Phineas and Ferb, by the same crew, so you know this is gonna be good. Like its predecessor, it boasts great characters and a refreshingly positive attitude, while being even crazier and more off-the-wall, with things like time-traveling secret agents, pistachio monsters, a teacher who may or may not be a vampire, and so on. It’s more serialized than its predecessor, with more of an overarching storyline, and though so far it’s not as good as Phineas and Ferb, it’s pretty close.

-The Ducktales reboot is too young to really say for sure, but so far the signs are very positive. I didn’t really watch the original, but the rebooted series is a ton of fun, and I love that Scrooge is allowed to be an actually heroic capitalist, and even to espouse solid principles about hard-work and self-reliance. The characters are all a lot of fun, there’s some intriguing story developments in the works, and I’m honestly eager to see where they go with this. Plus it has Kate Micucci as Webby, who also voices Milo’s sister Sara in Milo Murphy’s Law, and I’m kind of in love with her voice, which is the most adorably charming croak since Jean Arthur. It also has Donald Duck as a main character: what more needs to be said? It’s Donald Duck! You’d have to work hard to make him not funny.

Danny Phantom, you know what I think of that. A decent show that could have been fantastic if they had put a little more effort and imagination into it.

Sonic Boom is not very good, but it’s kind of charming for that very reason: less like they were really trying with it than they were just having fun playing with these characters. It’s pretty funny and just kind of relaxing to put on and enjoy. I can’t say it’s a good show, but it’s entertaining and pretty harmless.

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Various and Sundry

– As mentioned, I suffer from some pretty bad insomnia, to the point where I often can’t sleep even with sleep aids (they just make me more tired). I also have mild to moderate depression. The two do not mix well. Most nights I get to spend hours lying there, exhausted but unable to sleep and with nothing to distract me from the lovely thoughts of failure, incompetence, and regret chasing each other round and round my brain.

My post on beauty rather blew up: four-thousand views and over three thousand shares in twenty-four hours. Yet only twenty likes; I think I touched a nerve or two with that one.

-Some of the responses have, predictably, taken the form of the offense fallacy: if you don’t like what someone says, construe it as an insult, either to yourself or someone else. Most people will rush to assure you they meant no harm and not even notice the fact that not liking the implications of an idea isn’t an argument for its truth or falsehood. And since just about everything can be taken as an insult if you try hard enough, it’s a very handy little trick.

-It occurs to me that the mere fact that disenfranchised populations have been able to win themselves the vote rather tells against the necessity of granting them voting rights. The mere fact that they were able to successfully agitate to have the franchise extended to them shows that they were capable of affecting public policy without the right to vote. True, it was much harder and could only be done with great effort, requiring it to be reserved for matters considered of grave importance…which is another point against extending the franchise (since every change brings unexpected consequences, the harder it is to make serious changes the better). You know, more and more I find I’m theoretically against the idea of universal suffrage.

One More Thought

To add to the first thought below: There is also a difference between ‘conceptually justified’ and ‘practically justified.’ That is, something may be morally justifiable in an abstract, conceptual form, but its implementation is beset by so many moral caveats as to be practically illicit. Thus, one could make the argument that, say, slavery in and of itself  (the legal state of owning another human being) is not morally wrong, but that practically speaking it can’t be implemented without moral abuses and so should be considered immoral.

Various Short Thoughts

-There’s a difference between making a moral argument and a factual argument. If you want to argue that, say, the death penalty is immoral, well and good; we can have a debate on the point because arguments can be made on either side. But if you want to argue that the Bible forbids the death penalty, then there’s no debate: you’re simply wrong, because, as a mere matter of fact, it doesn’t. The same can be said for slavery, war, and so on.

-I don’t know if it’s callous of me or not, but whenever I hear of big sex scandals like the one current rocking Hollywood, my reaction is always “what did you think was going to happen?” For the past century or so, all the ‘best people’ have been championing what they call ‘sexual liberation.’ What about the record of human experience made you think that removing almost all social and legal checks on mankind’s most fickle, voracious, and unreasoning appetite, while simultaneously minimizing standards of interpersonal courtesy and decorum would turn out differently? That’s not to take away any of either the guilt of the perpetrators or the innocence of the victims, of course, but to add a bit more blame to the mix. This is what your new, liberated world looks like.

-Actually, “what did you think was going to happen?” is a pretty good response to most of our current social, economic, and political problems.

-On that note, something we need to relearn is that morality is a continuous whole: you can’t cut out or compromise on any one part without doing damage to the entire structure. Every aspect of our lives effects every other aspect, so that dishonesty, cowardice, or weakness in one will cause deterioration in the others. This doesn’t mean all sin is equal, but it does mean that all sin is bad and has a cumulative effect on our character. This is something everyone used to know (“he who is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones”), but which we today have forgotten.

-By the way, one modern work that does get this and explicitly makes a point of it? You guessed it; My Little Pony.

-I notice, incidentally, that ‘sexual liberation’ tends to go hand-in-hand with Marxist thought. I also notice that the ‘fruits of lust,’ as described by St. Gregory and St. Thomas, are…revealing.

“Blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world and abhorrence or despair of a future world.”

Not only do these pretty fairly describe the modern world, but they also are exactly what a Marxist / materialist philosophy would consider desirable for the majority of men. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing an essay exploring this in detail, though I think to do it right would require more research than I’m currently able to devote to it. I put it here for your consideration.