The Innocence of Youth

When I was a kid, I watched my favorite shows just like any other kid my age. If you grew up in the 70s then you probably watched the same programs I did give or take a few. I watched The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. I loved the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. WKRP was awesome.

Recently, I watched a few DVD episodes of the 60s Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward. The DVD just miraculously fell from the sky. I had forgotten just how “tongue pressed firmly in cheek” the whole show really was.

When I was still running around in Keds, I had no idea what camp was or that they were spoofing the whole genre. I didn’t know the pedigree of Caesar Romero, Burgess Meridith or Frank Gorshin. I was seeing a live action Batman and that was all that mattered. Today, the show certainly holds up as the campy kitsch it was, but the wide-eyed wonder of the kid seeing comic books come to life is gone.

Back to back with Batman, the Monkees were also a daily ritual of my much younger self. I loved the combination of music and silly hijinks. I sorta looked like Mickey Dolenz in my youth – all crazy curly hair and mugging for the camera. The first record I ever owned was a Monkees Greatest Hits and I remember proudly bringing it to school when I was in the third grade. I haven’t seen any of the old Monkees episodes lately, but I’m afraid I will be disappointed. I’ve since graduated to the Fab Four instead of the Pre-Fab Four. My daughter knows “Last Train to Clarksville,” but she’d rather listen to “Let It Be.” I’m much more interested in the story of the show actually being created then the show itself.

I have warm memories of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and the various incarnations of the Super Friends. However, I’m deathly afraid if I watch the shows today with my world-weary eyes I’ll hate it. In fact, I know I’ll hate it. Some things hold up and some things don’t. The Super Friends cartoon has been available on DVD for quite sometime, but I don’t even want to rent it for my kid. Because I know from experience that, seen through adult eyes, it will suck.

I loved Ultraman when I was a kid. I had hazy memories of a giant space guy with cool powers beating up the Godzilla rip-off of the week and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I bought the DVD set when it came out and attempted to watch the first two or three episodes. I couldn’t get past everything that was wrong with it – acting, costumes, the whole premise for goodness sake. It sucked so bad I nearly just threw the whole package away and cut my losses.

The sadness I feel at the replacement of wide-eyed innocence with jaded experience and knowledge is profound, but understandable. My ten-year-old self watched the Godfather on TV with my Dad and I didn’t get it. It was the sanitized for television version of Godfather Parts 1 and 2 recut to chronological order and I thought it was the most boring thing imaginable. I needed the experience and knowledge to appreciate the work. By that same token, work I loved as a kid doesn’t cut it anymore as an adult.

Several months ago, my daughter and I watched the first collection of the Speed Racer cartoon and it held her attention. We watched it straight through. Sure, the dialogue was borderline unlistenable in places and Spritle and Chim Chim are still as annoying as, say, Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels, but the stories were pretty good. The Summer semi-bomb, Speed Racer movie is out on DVD and I’ll probably pick it up. When we went to see it at the theater, I thought it was a kinetic fury of CGI, color and a probable mistaken adherence to the source material. My daughter thought it was pretty cool.

She has the eyes of innocence. My eyes can no longer keep their innocent point of view. I mean, I still want to strangle George Lucas for subjecting me to the antics of Jar Jar Binks. My daughter laughed everytime he was on screen.

I know her innocence won’t last forever and that everyone grows up, but what I’d give to be in middle school in the late 70s-early 80s again.