Nuggets of Wisdom

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Buddy Bears

Last week saw the introduction of Starlight Glimmer, a cartoon character who epitomizes the dogmatic belief that “equality” and unity can only come about through blind conformity. She, however, was not the first cartoon character to lampoon this cartoonish notion.

Back in the 1980s, there was a huge push by television networks for children’s programming to emphasize the message that we all need to “follow the group” in order to “get along”—that everyone should agree with one another, and that anyone who disagrees was merely a “whiner."

This conformist, collectivist mindset was most apparent in such shows as Dungeons and Dragons and the infamously-but-aptly-named Get Along Gang, and it was the propagation of this mindset, coupled with the “feel good” self-esteem movement, that would breed an entire generation of thin-skinned narcissists who insisted that everyone agree with their opinions (i.e.: Tumblr Social Justice Warriors).

Mark Evanier, a writer for children’s shows during that time, was disgusted by this trope and how writers like him were forced to implement it into their shows through executive mandate—so much so that when he began writing on Garfield and Friends, he decided to satirize the cartoonish mindset with the satirical cartoon characters, The Buddy Bears.

Oh, we are the Buddy Bears, we always get along!
Each day we do a little dance and sing a little song.
If you ever disagree, then it means that you are wrong.
Oh, we are the Buddy Bears, we always get along!
Their song pretty much summed up their character. They were a television troupe that, like many cartoons at that time, emphasized going along with the group to get along. Their overtly-saccharin personalities often served as a foil for the more pessimistic titular character Garfield, who often found himself butting heads with them whenever they appeared.

In one episode, "Big Bad Buddy Bird", the bears are joined by Roy Rooster, who quit his job at U.S. Acres and was cast as the character “Big Bad Buddy Bird.” As his stage name suggested, his role was to disagree with the groupthink opinions of the other Buddy Bears, and because this obviously made him “bad”, he would be promptly punished by having a safe dropped on his head. The sheer trauma forced onto him caused him to snap and try to tell the children at home to have their own opinions, think for themselves, and not go along with what everyone else thinks—which inevitably got him fired!

Of course, we can all take solace in knowing that life truly isn’t that harsh for people who differing opinions. If you express a dissenting opinion, especially on the internet, you don’t have to worry about having a safe dropped on your head. You just have to worry about anonymous haters sending you death and rape threats, hacking your account, doxing your personal information, or even sending a SWAT team to your house through a false alarm.

Sweet Celestia, did cartoon propaganda severely foul up my generation!