Thank You, 'Animaniacs'

Thank You, 'Animaniacs'

Why you should watch Netflix's newest retro addition

My generation is commonly referred to as "The Nostalgia Generation," and with good reason. We are the last generation to have had a childhood free of the intrusiveness of smartphones and tablets, but our teenage and adult years have become dominated by them, allowing us an interesting perspective which, coupled with a collective insecurity regarding our futures in the current socioeconomic climate (times are tough, y'all), means that at a young age, we long for what we perceive to be simpler times. Because there is such a decisive split in our lives, we love to reminisce, if it can even be called that, revisiting the things we loved a mere 10 years ago.

Thankfully, services like Netflix offer instant nostalgia in the form of beloved movies and TV shows that defined our lives before Apple took over the world, and this month, they added an under-appreciated classic to its roster: "Animaniacs," Steven Spielberg's loving ode to Looney Tunes and a show that merits revisiting by everyone, not just the nostalgia-obsessed. It is, in a word, genius, a meticulously crafted cartoon that, while a children's show in the most technical sense, is so saddled with adult humor, pop culture references, rapid-fire vaudevillian jokes and musical numbers, and pastiches of actual, refined culture (in the form of parodies of Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, the films of Ingmar Bergman, et al.) that it transcends the confines of children's humor and borders on a show that is admirable in its blending of presentation (a fast paced, high energy cartoon) and content.

The "Wheel of Morality," which offered gems like "early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy but socially dead."

At the risk of sounding emotionally stunted, this show has only gotten funnier in the many years since I last watched it, due mainly in part to the fact that the many, many jokes which had gone over my head as a child are now accessible, while still being fresh nearly two decades after first airing. In one musical number about the elusive and ephemeral nature of fame, Yakko and Wakko, the two "Warner brothers and the Warner sister Dot," rhyme "Sardi's" with "Vince Lombardi's," a clever (and admittedly elitist) line in a brilliantly written song which is but one of five years' worth of a steady barrage of guffaw-inducing, intelligent jokes. In an age where so much of entertainment geared towards kids is nauseatingly saccharine and ingratiatingly anodyne, it's comforting to know that there is a show that can and has withstood the ravages of time and can educate children, however indirectly, while making adults laugh out loud; a mildly-racy masterpiece that is, most importantly, funny.

Rewatching it now, it becomes baffling that this show was created as a Saturday morning supplement for children. Names and characters like Schopenhauer and Marlon Brando are dropped and parodied so frequently that it would almost seem implausible that this show ever found an audience with children, but the Marx Brothers-esque slapstick and colorful (literally and figuratively) irreverence perfectly demonstrate its still-impressive versatility. Pixar might sprinkle a little adult humor in their movies to make them bearable for parents, but only in "Animaniacs" would you find a psychiatrist yelling at the three leads to "stop playing with [the] bust" on his desk, followed by one of them blowing a kiss to the audience and saying "goodnight everybody!"

I have to admit that It's difficult for me to remain impartial regarding this show as I re-watch it because I've come to the realization that it, along with "The Simpsons" (my parents were very lax about what I watched), afforded me my first realizations of the power of culture in our society, from Shakespeare to Seinfeld. Going back to my old proverbial stomping grounds has served as some kind of cathartic experience, explaining my dream of being a cultural critic and my love of a good (read: bad) Groucho-ism. My reversion to the entertainment I loved as a child has fully explained the goals I've set for myself as an adult, and because I owe so much of the development of my own personal taste and interests to this show, I will be forever grateful to the collective genius of Steven Spielberg, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot.

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.

I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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