Nutrition Animation (Part II): Contemporary Cartoons
Youthful populations currently spend their time at home watching TV, playing video games, socializing through social media, and watching videos on digital platforms. Home activity is predominately spent through sedentary activity and unrefined nutrition. Although media influence is shrugged and minimized, it must be explored to provide a different angle to explain worldwide phenomena.
There are links to animated programs that have a direct link to nutrition perceptions for better and worse. This is a succinct, yet profound, two-part analysis of cartoon messages associated with food. The main conclusion is that Classic Cartoons are more likely to send optimistic nutrition messages through popular and timeless animated icons than Contemporary Cartoons.
The 90s demonstrated excellent balance between optimistic and pessimistic views on nutrition and lifestyle through animation.
Doug and his friends demonstrated favorable views on nutrition, recreation, lifestyle, and fun as animated preteens. There was a culture associated with healthy produce: beets. The most popular band was The Beets [emulation of the Beatles]. The Beets sing health-conscientious songs such as “Killer Tofu” with the following lyrics “I like sugar cereal/ But it makes my teeth bacterial/Don’t eat too too too much fried food/ Ay ee oo/ Killer Tofu/ OO ee OO/ Killer Tofu!” The most popular sport was Beetball [emulation of Baseball]. The most popular snack was beets.
Recreation interests were evident among both male and female characters. Such interests included basketball, swimming, football, and a community fitness event. Doug proved the most athletic character Chalky wrong when he broke the sit-up record of the event. However, sexism in athletics was evident when his crush Patty Mayonnaise was kicked off a recreation team because she was a female. This led to her creating her own underestimated yet intrinsically triumphant co-ed team.
A prominent episode was in Home Economic class where Doug and Patty made a pleasant and surprise hit of a dish by accident. Patty’s basketball spinning skills were used to spin pizza dough like an Italian TV Chef that Doug saw while they were brainstorming an idea. The bully character Roger made Banana Pudding that he personally did not like [due to fraction subtraction errors within following the recipe but that is another long story 😊]. The trio collided into each other with culinary products and Banana Pizza was born. Doug episodes always demonstrate nutrition balance for youthful fans to emulate.
Fast food culture is evident due to a popular teen hangout spot named the Honker Burger. Doug’s dog Porkchop ironically eats from the salad bar. Although the Honker Burger is a popular hangout spot on the show, hobbies, homemade meals, and recreation balance out these choices. The preteens also walk around the mall together at the Four-Leaf Clover Mall. Cafeteria cuisine is satirized in one episode where Doug draws the uses of Magic Meat [hockey puck, toupee, etc.]. Artwork confiscation causes protest and pandemonium in a preteen school while involving the student body of Moody School: Doug’s older sister Judy’s creatively gifted art school.
A prominent episode of Doug was when he gained weight while visiting his grandmother. His grandmother let him binge watch TV while feeding him excessive ice cream and baked goods. Doug reached his weight loss goals in a healthy way. He wanted to lose weight for his friend Bebee’s pool party. He had a calendar with the pool party date to hold himself accountable daily. He followed a Fitness Video program of actor/fitness figure Ronald Weisenheimer [Arnold Schwarzenegger emulation]. He ate nutritiously [especially beets] and exuded willpower when tempted with donuts. His best friend Skeeter ate donuts because he perceived himself as “too skinny for a pool party”.
Doug reached his weight loss goal. However, he was still unhappy with his stomach that his sister lovingly joked about that he always had. Nevertheless, he broke the ice at the swimsuit pool party. Everyone was too insecure to swim regardless of the high temperature and humidity [including his athletic crush Patty- she did not like her “bony shoulders”]. The episode came to an optimistic resolution when Doug emulated the accent and muscle flexing of Ronald Weisenheimer to make others laugh and have fun.
“Hey Arnold” is an animation series set in New York City. A concern for inner city youth as a Nutrition Counselor/Writer that frequents NYC and Chicago is that there is a lower likelihood of physical activity and organic nutrition due to unsafe neighborhoods. However, the animated youth adapted in this series through a healthy combination of book smarts and street smarts. A popular hangout spot for the nine-year-old characters was the baseball field named “Gerald Field” [named after Arnold’s best friend] that the youth converted from a lot covered with litter.
Other recreational interests depicted in the series were team sports such as hockey, basketball, and league bowling. However, cynical gender roles were depicted as tomboy Helga was deemed “not girly enough” to be invited to a conventionally feminine slumber party with activities such as facials, manicures, and pedicures. The episode ended optimistically when Helga’s best friend Phoebe told her she liked how honest she was and did not try too hard to be a “girly girl”. She is also placed in the “friend zone” to her crush Arnold. Arnold misunderstood her mistreatment when she really has strong feelings for him.
Nutrition was reflected in a Healthy Food theatre production at school where Arnold and Gerald were the Fruits [Strawberry and Banana]. Other characters were Dairy [Milk and Cheese] and Legumes [Beans & Peas]. Arnold and Gerald played hooky and went Downtown to escape strict Theatre Director Helga. However, the boys returned to school just in time for their scene. A summer episode involved a heat wave. Arnold’s kooky and energetic grandmother was acting more “normal” according to Arnold himself due to the heat draining her enthusiasm. The ice cream truck driver purposely withheld a cold comfort food to the point of a truck-flipping uproar by the children while shouting “No Ice Cream…No Peace”. The children were alleviated by proceeding rain. Water is more nourishing than ice cream for a summer refreshment.
The main characters in this animated series were infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Nutrition consciousness was appropriately more evident among the adult characters than the childhood characters. Adults cooked recipes such as Ginger Chicken and healthy BBQ alternatives. New neighbors such as the Carmichaels were welcomed to the neighborhood through gelatin dishes. Feminist character Betty DeVille brought a dumbbell-shaped gelatin dish. Elder character Grandpa Lou Pickles enjoyed fishing and Corrugated Bran Puffs cold cereal. Wheat germ was a pantry item in the Pickles residence. Jewish holidays such as Passover and Hanukkah were celebrated, honored, depicted and evident among dinner gatherings for every generation.
Consumption of healthy vegetables such as broccoli dramatized in a nightmare of Drew Pickles, father of Angelica Pickles, the “three-foot monster” whose favorite food is cookies. Drew’s nightmare involved Angelica calling an attorney to sue her parents. The etiology of the lawsuit is that Angelica wanted to avenge the forced consumption of broccoli at dinner. She was told to go to her room with no usual dessert for disrespecting her parents. However, the episode concluded with Drew permitting Angelica to try various vegetables when she is ready.
Pop culture phenom within Rugrats such as Reptar the Dinosaur and Dummy Bears elevated popularity of sugary cereals and sweet snacks such as chocolate bars with neon green filling. This reflects the glamorization of sweet and salty foods among youth when amplified through mainstream media. However, the main characters demonstrated natural energy levels and adventurous spirits as kids while maintaining healthy vigor and weight. A humorous episode involved the Rugrats playing football with a coveted chocolate milk bottle while the fathers watched a football game.
One Saturday Morning Lineup
Recess, Pepper Ann, and The Weekenders were some of the cartoons in the “One Saturday Morning” lineup of the late nineties to early 2000s. A pastime of mine was to watch cartoons and eat cereal in my pajamas on Saturday mornings after a week of school early in the morning. However, this waned as I got older and more interested in year-round athletic competitions as a teen.
The essence of this series made comical light around the importance of Recess at school. The main characters had various demeanors, interests, and temperaments. However, they all expressed themselves in recess through athletic, scrappy, cerebral, artistic, or poetic means. Every child is different, and this show promoted differences. Recess should be the most important subject to enhance childhood health and therefore enhance the minds, hearts, and spirits of the youth to excel in other branches of academia. First Lady Michelle Obama emphasized physical activity for youth in her Let’s Move Campaign.
Pepper Ann was a relatable character that was “too cool for seventh grade”. She loved to skateboard, rollerblade, and play soccer. She encouraged her fans to be athletic trailblazers while embracing quirks.
The Weekenders depicted a group of four best friends that like to go to the arcade and a pizza parlor with a new motif every episode. Although the weekend lifestyle of these friends is depicted, the quotidian lifestyle from Monday through Friday was left to the imagination. In sharp contrast, the weekend lifestyle of Recess characters was left to the imagination.
Veggie Tales is an animated series that teaches moral values of Christianity through vegetable characters. It launched in the early 1990s and is still on air. However, it deemed NBC controversy due to the mentioning of God for a youthful audience. An example is through values of self-esteem due to God’s love and creation of His children. Although the essence of the message is optimistic and nutritious, it has a niche market [conservative Christian children]. Furthermore, Veggie Tales does not reflect ironies associated with Christianity. Studies demonstrate that Christians are the most likely to have sedentary lifestyles and poor diet choices. Christians are more likely to be overweight and obese than other believers such as those of Judaism, Muslim, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Most popular twenty-first century animation series have main characters that eat junk food and/or drink alcohol gluttonously.
According to TV ratings, Spongebob Squarepants is the most popular animated series among children. He works at fast food restaurant “Krusty Krab” with American staples such as burgers [Krabby Patty in this case]. He deems the Krabby Patty as his favorite food. Although the audience is predominately little children, the undertones have adult orientation. Many animated series have youthful appeal due to animation. However, the subtle, subliminal, and overt messages have jokes and plots that adults would understand more than children.
Animation Domination Lineup
FOX has various animation series that are collectively coined “Animation Domination”. These series include The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and Bob’s Burgers. Although the shows are rated TV-14, children are technologically advanced and absolutely can turn a TV on to any program to their liking. My six-year-old niece successfully navigates through Apple devices whereas Baby Boomers have a harder time. Bob’s Burgers encourages a fast food culture. Other main characters such as Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson display actions, words, thoughts, and lifestyles of alcoholism.
Peter was given mass amounts of alcohol to play the piano better. Homer chokes his son Bart. These married men socialize with their friends at their favorite bars “Moe’s Tavern” and “The Drunken Clam”. Recreation spectating is more common than recreation participation. Masculine and feminine empowerment outings are unnecessarily fused with substance use and abuse. Local and franchise sporting goods stores are going out of business. These animated fathers are obese as well. Peter wears a hypocritical T-Shirt that states “No Fat Chicks”.
What were your favorite cartoons as a child? What were your favorite cartoons as a teenager? What were your favorite cartoons as a younger adult? How has each of these programs, and perhaps others that I did not mention impact you as far as facts, opinions, and perspectives were concerned? Are there animated programs that you stopped watching? As an adult with impressionable youth within your family, are there animated programs that you do not let children watch or that you allow your children to watch? Although controversy of other elements of lifestyle and humanity are depicted in these programs, what other ways have cartoons affected you? Feel free to share your memories, experiences, thoughts, questions, and concerns. 😊