The Innocence of Youth

Go Speed.


When I was a kid, I watched my favorite shows just like any other kid my age. If you grew up in the 70s, 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 episodes of the 60s Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward. I had forgotten just how “tongue pressed firmly in cheek” the whole show 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 Meredith, or Frank Gorshin. I saw 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.

My eyes can no longer keep their innocent point of view.

Back to back with Batman, The Monkees were also a daily afterschool ritual of my much younger self. I loved the combination of music and silly hijinks. I sort of looked like Mickey Dolenz in my youth — all crazy curly hair and mugging for the camera. The first record I ever owned was the 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 reading stories about how the show was created than watching episodes.

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 some time, but I don’t even want to watch it because I know from experience that, seen through adult eyes, it will suck.

I loved Ultraman when I was a kid. I have hazy memories of a giant space guy with incredible 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 wrong with it — acting, costumes, the whole premise, for goodness sake. It sucked so bad I let Goodwill have the package. I’m sure someone was happy to buy it.

The sadness I feel at replacing 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 television version of The 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, the work I loved as a kid doesn’t cut it anymore as an adult.

Back when my daughter was much younger, we 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. Maybe early anime still has some holding power?

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 every time he was on screen.

Today I’m old, crusty, and tired, but what I’d give to be in middle school in the late 70s-early 80s again.

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