The consumption of media, at any age, is a direct reflection of an individual’s respective interests, while the effects demonstrated by what we watch can be exhibited in a variety of ways. Sure, for every parent who claims Doom made their son shoot a school full of students there’s another who claims days spent watching Barney taught their kids the alphabet.
In today’s age, more than ever, it seems, young people are judged by the media they consume. In my day (it’s weird I can say that now), various forms of home entertainment were much different than they were today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these “the 90’s were the greatest time ever” nostalgists, but when I’m playing Madden on a 50 inch television it makes me think back to the days when my friends and I played split-screen Goldeneye on a 14-inch screen with bad color quality.
That being said, my childhood was a pretty awesome time to be alive. In the mid to late-90’s when I started to get the hang of what media I liked and journalists could actually find jobs, the internet was taking off in a way exposure to different ideas was everywhere. The cartoons were the best, the video games were the best and the movies were the best, although it’s entirely possible I only think this because I was eight years-old at the time, and I guess it’s possible How to Train Your Dragon really is better than Land Before Time (however unlikely). So, here are four instances in which media that had a profound impact on my life could’ve been much different had the creators taken a different route.
4. Pokemon – The Elite Four gain access to Max Revives
To this very day, the Pokemon games are still enjoyable to me. At 24 years-old, Pokemon has been the one constant media in my life, and it will probably remain that way because of it’s nostalgic effect, transcent appeal and…who am I kidding. Pokemon is really, really fun, and I don’t have to defend my love. To this day, I remember the summer night at my house when my mom returned from Wal-Mart with a Pokemon Blue game for me, and a Pokemon Red game for my brother. Thankfully, she bought batteries too, or I would’ve been screwed because I had been engaged in a marathon session of Dr. Mario on my green Gameboy Color. That night, I played for hours. At first, I liked Pokemon because my friends were collecting the cards and I thought they looked cool, and the Pokemon anime became a mainstay in the Saturday morning cartoon rotation in the Sager household, but when I first played the game, it seriously changed my perspective. Of course, the complexities of the Pokemon universe aren’t entirely complicated; you walk around conquering the land with creatures called Pokemon as you seek to become the very best (like no one ever was, da da da) and, most importantly, take down a multinational Pokemon mafia run by a billionaire owner despite the fact you embark on your journey as a fresh-faced 10 year-old. But, more than anything, the game was about conquering the Elite Four to become the Pokemon League champion.
The Elite Four, not to be confused with the Fab 5, Marvelous 3 or the Gruesome Twosome, was a collection of the four best trainers in the Pokemon land. Each had five of the strongest monsters you could hope to face, and each was progressively harder than the next. You weren’t able to fully heal your Pokemon between each fight, so unless you had plenty of potions on hand, it could’ve been tricky. In fact, beating the Elite Four at my school was a legitimate bragging right, because these were the days before the GTS made it possible to acquire a level 85 Mewtwo before setting foot in the first gym. Anyway, what made the Elite Four most frustrating was their proclivity for using “Full Restores”; an item which fully restores (duh) a Pokemon’s hit points while also eliminating any harmful status conditions. And boy, were they a doozy. Often, you would be down to your opponents final Pokemon, his creature would only have several hit points left, but would whip out a full restore before you could deliver the finishing blow. This happening is how most eight year-olds learned to swear.
Fortunately, though, as bad as the Full Restores sucked, they were nothing compared to what could’ve been; the Max Revive. The Max Revive couldn’t be purchased in the Pokemon Marts, and there were maybe 10 or so hidden around the game for the player to find. Max Revives were a relatively rare item, and for good reason; not only did they revive your fainted Pokemon, they restored your creature will full health. Thankfully, the Elite Four didn’t have the ability to use these
So what could’ve changed?
Everything. It was bad enough nearly taking your opponent out only to see him use a Full Restore and make all your hard work for nothing. But, at least if you were able to make a Pokemon faint, they were dealt with. If Max Revives were usable by members of the Elite Four, the battles would’ve been nearly unwinnable. It was bad enough dealing with Lance towards the end; can you imagine if he brought his fainted Dragonite back to life after you defeated it, but this time, you had to do so without your Articuno because his OTHER Dragonite ruined your life? It would’ve been madness, and also taught every 10 year-old a very important lesson: life sucks, nothing is fair, and you’re going to die someday.
3. Home Alone – What if the bandits were actually good criminals?
Home Alone is one of the quintessential, coming of age movies that’s sort of a right of passage of childhood. It tells the story of a particularly sadistic, but resourceful young lad named Kevin who is abandoned by arguably the worst family in cinematic history while the two most adorably incompetent home invaders this side of O.J. Simpson fail to fulfill their potential as the “Wet Bandits”. Like Pokemon, I still heavily involve myself in Home Alone, and not a Christmas has gone by where I haven’t viewed Home Alone at some point during the holiday season. While the movie itself is less about Christmas and more of a how-to guide for campy aggravated assault, something about it still gets me in the spirit. And it’s hard to argue with the ending; Kevin defeats the bandits, reunited his creepy neighbor with his family and most important, sees his family make it home in time for Christmas. What a story!
Of course, this movie teaches one of the most ridiculous lessons of all time; as long as you make it home by the holidays to find your abandoned son decidedly not murdered, then it really was a great Christmas after all.
However, the McCallisters dodged a tremendous bullet by birthing an Asperger-y wunderkind with a disturbing knowledge in the craft of violent Rude Goldberg apparatuses. Seriously, in the span of one 90’s montage, Kevin turned his home into the most fortified structure in the eastern United States. In fact, the time spent rigging a flamethrower to his doorway, covering his basement steps with tar and constructing a low-tech paint can pendulum could have been used by calling the police or telling neighbors, “Hey, my parents left me here, and these two guys casing my house earlier might come back tonight to murder me, so maybe check on me at some point tonight.” Kevin did precisely nothing responsible, instead opting to orchestrate the zaniest of near-murder of all time, rightfully assuming the robbers would be morons.
Enter Harry and Marv, the aforementioned morons. Despite being a fairly notorious crime duo (they were called the ‘Wet Bandits’, after all) they failed to defeat a diminutive eight year-old boy.
But what if they weren’t totally stupid?
You see, Kevin’s entire plan revolved around the robbers doing exactly what he assumed they would do. In fact, the first two places Harry and Marv tried to enter were the front and back door. My experience in breaking and entering is extremely limited, but it would seem to me like walking into a major entryway and announcing your presence is a pretty un-criminal approach. Harry and Marv cased the house earlier, they knew Kevin was home alone, and they pretty much had blueprints of the layout of the house. If they would’ve gently cracked a window and plastered Kevin’s brains all over the kitchen while his head was turned, they could’ve robbed the entire house without anyone knowing because Kevin didn’t tell ANYONE he was still home. So, Harry and Marv would’ve made off with a huge sack of loot, probably not been caught, and the McCallisters would have one messy situation to arrive to when they got home.
2. Spongebob Squarepants – We subconsciously became more accepting of homosexuality
Spongebob Squarepants is a lot of things, but for the sake of this article I will say this; it’s a darn good television show and its one of the longest-running programs in cable history. It appeals to both children and adults, it teaches good lessons (usually), and it becomes progressively more hilarious the older you get. But, unlike Pokemon and Home Alone, which I speculated on things which didn’t happen, Spongebob is important for something that it actually portrayed, but we likely never realized.
It’s no secret Patrick and Spongebob’s rampant bromance sometimes wanders into “questionable” territory. They’ve done an episode where they played dual dads to a baby clam, they routinely cross-dress, and their friend Sandy the squirrel emasculate s them both on a regular basis. In fact, some critics of the show have openly stated Patrick and Spongebob aren’t friends at all, but closeted gay lovers. What? No, that’s ridiculous. That’s not what’s happening at all.
Spongebob began to reach the height of its popularity not long after 9/11. Between 2001 and 2003, Spongebob approached a Simpsons level of viewership while being thrust into mainstream popular culture. In 2001, I was in fifth grade and Spongebob was my favorite show. In fact, Spongebob usually caters to a 7-13 audience (technically) although outliers exist. Interestingly, people my age probably remember watching Spongebob all the time. People in my age group, also, more than perhaps any other demographic, have become more accepting of alternative lifestyles, including homosexuality, in the last decade. Oh yes, I’m going there…
So was Spongebob shooting subliminal messages into our heads, and if so, were we aware?
It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s definitely an interesting parallel. At the time, most viewers of the Spongebob episode where Patrick and Spongebob both played the dad likely didn’t even think twice about a nonverbal social commentary, and likely laughed about the growing stack of clam poop while mindlessly guzzling a soda or eating Hot Pockets. So, is it possible, repeatedly seeing this message perhaps desensitized, dare I say, normalized the idea of homosexuality in our young minds, so when we grew old enough to form our own opinions about social issues we just said, “no, that’s cool with us.” Well played, Mr. Squarepants.
1. Michael Jordan – Constant media bombardment might have saved his career.
For a lot of people my age, especially those younger than me, Michael Jordan is more of a brand, and idea, if you will. Sure, I’m aware he played basketball when I was a kid, and I even remember hearing his name on television all the time when I was younger. Space Jam is one of my favorite movies and I don’t think I’ll ever see another athlete as dominant as Jordan in my lifetime. He won six NBA titles, five MVP trophies and billions of dollars in endorsements. He also retired from the NBA after his third championship to pursue a baseball career.
You see, Jordan’s late father’s dream was for his son to play professional baseball, which is kind of selfish when your son is already the greatest basketball player to ever live. But, after his father’s murder in 1993, Jordan decided to retire from the NBA to chase his fathers dreams; leaving media, swaths of fans, and the Chicago Bulls front office utterly stunned.
He signed with a minor league team and quickly became was most minor league baseball players become; marginally talented, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Add into the mix Jordan’s stature as one of the country’s premier athletes and you had minor league stadiums selling tens of thousands of tickets to see the career .200 hitter attempt to finally put the ball in play. Yeah, Jordan wasn’t very good. Some dream, pops.
The media had a field day. They bombarded Jordan with coverage, asking him questions about why he sucked so much and constantly reminded him the Bulls were getting spanked by the rest of the NBA. Eventually, Jordan returned to secure three additional titles, and Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets got a firsthand lesson in “savoring the moment.”
But what if the media just allowed Jordan to fade away?
Now, this isn’t to say Jordan wouldn’t have returned without the media heckling him; he was already a three-time champion and, for all intents and purposes, had nothing left to prove in the NBA. He could’ve have lived the remainder of his days playing minor league baseball in relative obscurity while some other team tries to top the Bulls. Sure, Jordan still would’ve been a potential Hall of Fame candidate and might have even had a jersey retirement ceremony, but the three additional titles Jordan won once he returned to the NBA made him into a cultural icon. His six titles transformed him into a brand; a money generating machine with a pretty black face and a billion dollar earning potential. Without Michael Jordan returning to the NBA, millions of 20-24 year olds wouldn’t know the answer to the question “who is the greatest basketball player you’ve ever seen?”