Thursday, June 29, 2017

And cranky mood

Yeah, I've been in a cranky mood most of the day. Most of it is the heat, but also, just looking at the behavior of some of my fellow humans. I want to love my neighbor, I do, but honestly, some of my 'neighbors' seem to work very hard to make themselves unloveable.

I got to thinking about an episode of "The Amazing World of Gumball." I like this cartoon - I know before I've referred to it as "slightly subversive" because it does seem to say or show things that are a little different from the happy, sanitized world of much children's programming. (For example: the episode that takes on the idea of the "bubble wrapped world" where Darwin becomes the Safety Dictator). I remember Jim Henson once said in an interview that he could say things in the "persona" of Kermit that he could never get away with as a human, and I wonder if maybe cartoons are the same way*

(*Also, recently, I've read a few things noting the level of violence and outright horror in some of the G1-era My Little Pony cartoons: essentially fairy-tale violence, but because it was "a show for little girls," no one seemed to notice)

Sadly, I guess Gumball is on its last season. I hope they continue to re-run it and don't just throw it down the Memory Hole like some other Cartoon Network shows, because I like it, and the storylines often contain an interesting moral (and one even more deftly hidden than the morals in MLP:FiM)

Anyway. The episode I was thinking of was called "The Downer." Gumball wakes up in a persistent bad mood. EVERYTHING annoys him. (We've all been there, I think). At one point he wishes everyone would JUST LEAVE HIM ALONE

And somehow, he gets his wish. (After here, there be spoilers, but whatever: the episode is still worth watching).

Anyway, his family disappears. First, he kind of revels in this - he destroys his LEGO set, he stomps around the house. But then he gets hurt and there's no one to offer a "magic kiss" to make it better. (Gumball may be 12, but in some ways he's still really a kid). Gradually, things get sadder and sadder....and Gumball wanders around the deserted city, looking for someone.

There's even a reference (a little bit disguised, seeing as this is a purely secular show) to the Rapture - where "everyone has gone to a better world but me" and he figures all he has to do is apologize (which doesn't work).

Then a dark cloud starts pursuing him. He runs away, finally getting back home, but the cloud follows and engulfs him, and he is alone in the darkness.

Now, if the episode ended here, it would be kind of dark. But Gumball somehow realizes, "If I just *pretend* my family is here, maybe I will feel better...." And as he "pretends," they reappear (First his brother* Darwin, then his dad and mom, and his little sister).

(*From another mother. Darwin is a sentient goldfish with legs; they did a two-parter on how that happened)

As it turns out: they were there all along. But Gumball was too deep in his bad mood to "see" them - or to see anyone else. And really, that's kind of a remarkable extended metaphor there - when we are in a really bad mood (or at least: when I am in a really bad mood), it becomes all to easy not to "see" the other person: you get wrapped up in your own head, you forget that other people have the same hopes and dreams and wants and needs as you do. Gumball was literally so self-centered during the episode he could not see his family.

Of course, there's a concluding joke: they all vow not to let him know they were there all along, to save him the embarrassment of realizing that his mother saw him flush Lego Jimmy down the toilet, or that he poked his father's "moobs" while trying to find something in the "blackness."

(I read somewhere that the writers had to revise the original storyboard for this episode, when it was deemed "too dark" and I am suspecting the concluding joke was added to lighten it)

But it is sort of a nice little story, and I wonder if kids watching it see the metaphor of the darkness and people disappearing.

(There is a version of it up on DailyMotion. Not sure for how long or how copyright applies there, but as of now, you can watch it)

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