Because of the magic that is Hulu. I have been able to relive part of my childhood. Some of the greatest 80s cartoons are on there and I have added all of them to my watchlist. This past Sunday, I sat down with my coffee and diabetic friendly breakfast and started watching a cartoon that I made my mother break traffic laws and the laws of physics so that we would be home in time for me to watch.
That cartoon would be He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
I would sit in the floor with my He-Man and Skeletor action figures eyes glued to the TV. I remember I had tons of those action figures! Oh, and Castle Greyskull! You had to have Castle Greyskull! The He-Man guys would fight the Star Wars guys and let’s just say that Castle Greyskull was ran by the Empire at one point due to the cunning use of an AT-AT and superior fire-power.
But I am digressing.
I was hooked on all of the 80s cartoons (and toys). He-Man, G.I.Joe (who had to team up with He-Man to get Skeletor & Cobra Commander out of Castle Greyskull one time), Transformers (Megatron and Skeletor didn’t get along), Thundercats, BraveStarr, and the list goes on. So, I was always watching these cartoons as a kid and also playing with the toys and emulating what I saw them do on TV.
Now, back to the present.
When I was watching He-Man on Sunday, something caught my eye during the credits. There was a credit to a man named Donald F. Roberts for psychological and educational consultant. I was intrigued by this. Why would Filmation need a PhD holder as a educational and psychological consultant? I mean, this was 1983, the year of Lawn Darts and skating boarding without a helmet. Why do we need this for a cartoon designed to sell toys?
Then it hit me.
Cartoons in the 80s had one common theme to them (besides everyone being a horrible shot and bad puns). They had a morality message at the end of the show. These consultants, one in particular that did consult work on BraveStarr, were there to make sure that the cartoons had educational and moral value. Usually, the entire show taught the lesson and it was summed up at the end, but in some shows (like G.I. Joe) a lesson had to be given at the end to give the show educational and/or moral value. Not that it was mandated in the 80s, but it was “encouraged” by the FCC to keep the kid’s TV programming watchdog groups
happy content quiet.
Then another question came to mind.
With people my age (the ones raised watching these cartoons), did these cartoons form or help form our sense of morality and common sense? Was Generation X raised by 80s cartoons?
I started watching more of episodes of He-Man and I did start to remember some of the morality messages at the end of the shows. I remember some of the ones at the end of G.I.Joe (which is how I know how to put out a grease fire , approach a stray dog, and not to try and move a downed electrical line BTW) and I know that other shows like Transformers and Thundercats also had these same messages. Now I just can’t help but wonder if that the reason I know that eating strange berries in the wild can be dangerous is something that I learned in school, from my mother, or from Orko.
My curiousity got to me and I researched more into 80s cartoons and it turns out that EVERY major 80’s cartoon had a psychology, education, or communications PhD on staff as a consultant at one point during their run. One consultant, Robert L. Selman is actually a PhD from Harvard and wrote a section of a compendium for moral development called: “The Relation of Role Taking to the Development of Moral Judgment in Children” and assisted Sunbow Productions with G.I.Joe. Probably most notable is Dr. Gordon L. Berry. He consulted on BraveStarr and multiple other shows not only in the 80s but also in the 70’s, including Fat Albert and quite a few more current shows. It’s guys like these that we should thank for adding value to the cartoons that we hold dear.
So, a big thanks to He-Man, Duke, Optimus, and all of these PhDs that helped raise me during the 80s. Apparently I learned something from what my mom called brainless TV watching!
And Now I Know!
(Had to be done.)