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Action Cartoons

By Abhay Gupta

Back when I was still a kid, we had a fixed formula for what made an awesome cartoon show. This went beyond your run of the mill usual colourful, brainlessly slapstick cartoons like Bugs Bunny and any other Looney Toons products. The cartoon qualifying for awesomeness managed to combine that  spectacular animation with fast-paced, adrenalin-pumping action. And this is before Anime made it big in India. I’m talking about shows like Swat Kats, Centurions, Galtar and the Golden Lance, Ninja Robots, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, etc. You also had shows like Powerpuff Girls, that were action-packed but silly, as well as shows like Captain Planet, which attempted to teach kids values like recycling and living green. Personally, blowing stuff up with massive guns and shiny swords appealed to me more than using elemental super-powers to clean up the environment.
The formula was pretty simple. Have a generic character and give him a shiny weapon. Throw in a dinosaur or a robot or a ninja, or even fighter jets and cool gadgets. Mix them up in permutations if you have to. Have exaggerated fight scenes followed by another generic good-versus-evil showdown each episode with the good guys triumphing and yelling out catchphrases like Razor’s “Bingo” or Captain Planet’s even cheesier “The power is yours!” or even He-man’s “I have the power!” It’s the perfect way to appeal to young testosterone-driven boys who grow up to become young testosterone-driven men with libidos. Action cartoons were, by far, the one genre of cartoons that appealed to all male members of our generation. Who amongst us doesn’t occasionally YouTube the action cartoon oldies of our time now and then just to reminisce about how freaking awesome growing up was?
I mean, sure, school was tough. Homework was dull, teachers nagged, parents exacerbated every situation by nagging some more. Playing cards and fitting in with social groups was either too expensive or too difficult to understand. What better way to connect with your peers than to discuss what happened in the last episode of Swat Kats, breathlessly re-enacting exciting fight scenes and discussing whether Razor or T-Bone was more badass? In my opinion, T-Bone was decidedly more badass, if only because he was far more underrated than his partner and I have a thing for underdogs. Or, if you’d prefer, underkats.
Even today, I wish I had my own jet in a secret base under my building. Or a suit that I could attach a whole bunch of guns, missiles and transportation devices to. Don’t we all, sometimes? I mean, it’d be so useful to fight off bullies if you could instantly attach an RPG to your arm or summon a super-powered eco-freak with a green mullet. And that love for violent content and action grows with us. As adult men, 300, Transformers, Terminator Salvation, Jurassic Park, X-Men, Ninja Assassin and Gladiator are just a small sample of the kind of movies we’d put on our top ten lists. And, going by the trend, they each have one or more of the following qualifying items: shiny weapons, dinosaurs, robots, ninjas, fighter jets (that turned into robots), a good-versus-evil battle sequence and lots of stuff getting blown up. Action cartoons are every young boy’s initiation process into the fast-paced themes of the all-general action genre that is, inherently, male-bait.
Cowabunga, anyone?

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Abhay Gupta
What about me? Well, I don't know really. I could be brooding and nihilistic or bouncing off walls like flubber on crack. I categorize and analyze everything because I get bored easy. I'm a tv buff, movie buff, comic fanatic, atheist and meme-literate. I follow the words of a wise and all-knowing philosiraptor who once said: If one enjoys wasting time, is that time really wasted? And finally, cheesecake.


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