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My mom is a sweet lady. I love her dearly. I have to admit, though, that it can be a little taxing when your mother is a person who’s never said a swear word or taken a sip of alcohol in her life. That even extends back into my childhood. She was all about wholesome family entertainment, so it was a struggle to convince her to let us watch anything. We had to be surreptitious about “The Rugrats,” “Doug,” and “Darkwing Duck.” Don’t ask me why. She always just chalked it up to the presence of “bad attitudes.” The funny thing was that she was never against violence, so the Batman animated series, “Gargoyles,” and X-Men shows were all fair game. I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either. However, there were certain shows that many of my friends were also banned from watching that we would all often have to sneak over to one guy’s house to watch when his parents were gone–and they were the best ones.
1. “Power Rangers”
This was always a weird one. It’s not that “Power Rangers” had anything immoral or problematic in its plots or characterizations. The problem was that it was a show about kids who had been recruited to wage karate on the universe. When you put that idea into the brain of a 10-year-old hopped up on Surge, you’re bound to get some kick-driven skirmishes as a result. I’m confident that there are dozens of middle aged white guys who got into karate because of Bruce Lee movies, and they were able to make a living as instructors solely because of the existence of “Power Rangers.” Every kid who watched that show knew exactly which character he or she was and why, so the next logical step for him or her was to take classes in a strip mall to hone his or her skills. Saban Entertainment ended up costing a whole generation of parents a good chunk of change on mostly useless martial arts classes.
2. “Married… with Children”
I’m sure a lot of this had to do with it’s late night syndication time, since the series ended when I was only eight. I always thought Al Bundy was the funniest dude on the planet, with his goofy ass faces and woman-weary ways. Plus, I was basically getting to see jackass Kevin O’Shea have to put up with a burdensome family, so that was great. I’m confident that many of the things I believe about what it means to be a man were spoken by Al Bundy. I get why my parents tried to keep me away from it though, given how much he loved his strip clubs and nudie mags. Oh well.
3. Anything On MTV
The MTV logo was basically the symbol of the anti-Christ for most parents in the ‘90s. It promoted everything they were afraid of–sex, parties, rock and roll lifestyle, contempt for authority, and angry black men. Granted, you could probably have said the same thing for why their parents wouldn’t let them listen to Zeppelin or why their parents’ parents were forbidden from speaking of Elvis, but that’s the way it goes, right?
4. “South Park”
“South Park” is an incredible feat of pop culture. It has managed to stay relevant for almost 20 years while still remaining fresh. What started as an edgy comedy about third graders with potty mouths turned into one of the smartest social satires to ever exist. I learned to swear by watching “South Park.” Hell, I still learn from it. Matt and Trey are experts at crafting stories, and they take their work more seriously than most Oscar-winning writers. Watch their guest lecture at NYU’s film school. It’s incredible. And my parents thought it would lead to me becoming a foul-mouthed, inconsiderate, adult baby. Oh wait…
5. “The Simpsons”
This whole column has basically been one big treatise on how my parents failed to prevent me from watching anything, but this was their one win. They were so hardcore about “The Simpsons,” they would change the channel even if it was a promo. One time, I got my ass lit up just for tuning in secretly for, like, five minutes. That was the end of that. By the time I was old enough to start watching whatever I wanted, I was already too invested in “Family Guy” and “South Park” to add another off-color social commentary animated series to my queue. So, sadly, I’ve never really watched “The Simpsons” in my entire life, and I now think it’s too late for me.
Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad. You prevented me from being a part of a cultural touchstone. I hope you’re happy.