The '80s were a wonderful time for pop culture. Disco was dead, movies were defined by “Star Wars”, and “He-Man and the Masters Of the Universe” proved absolutely anything could be made into a half-hour toy commercial. Unfortunately, the '80s proved that last one deeply, painfully true with these five who never should have been near an animation studio.
“First Blood” is a great action movie, but it's also a serious study of a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, unable to return to civilian life. He's pushed too far by the abuses of small-town police and has to return to the military because he's too psychologically broken to do anything else. The sequel threw that all out for deciding one man could single-handedly win the Vietnam war, and then the third one saw Rambo buddying with those cuddly…Afghan…Islamic terrorists.
Seems like great fodder for an '80s cartoon, right? Death, violence, psychological trauma, mistrust of authority…didn't the Bugs Bunny cartoons have those? No, we meant when you saw them sober. Amazingly, nobody realized just how mindblowingly inappropriate making a cartoon out of an R-rated series of movies dealing with America's still healing wounds from Vietnam was, and this thing actually made it to air.
Speaking of death, bleakness and violence, does anything really say “kid's stuff” to you like a movie about the afterlife and yuppies moving into a charming country house and turning it into a trendy hellhole? Because kids totally care about the tension between urban values and country living. That's something kids discuss a lot at grade school, along with trade imbalances and the latest episode of Meet The Press.
Granted, the cartoon is actually pretty fun in that early '90s “we can finally admit boogers exist to kids” way. But we're just wondering how many kids went down to the video store and saw their favorite hero, Beetlejuice, on a movie cover and insisted Mommy and Daddy rent it. Although come to think of it, that was probably healthier than most of the sitcoms on in the early '90s. What distorts your sense or reality more: one Tim Burton movie, or a season's worth of “Family Matters?”
“RoboCop”, the movie, is, no joke, one of the greatest action movies of the 1980s. Movie studios saw the work of Paul Verhoeven, a Dutch director who put out brutal satires of sexual mores and social hypocrisy (read: funny movies with lots of boobs), and thought “That guy should totally be making action movies!” So they handed him a story about a cyborg cop…which he turned around into a mocking satire of everything that sucked about Hollywood action movie. The gore, the violence, the fascist tendencies that were common in the genre, the mindless consumerism, the shameless pandering…all of it.
Then everybody missed the point completely and it became an enormous hit. Verhoeven's been getting paid for years to call people morons to their faces. Nice work if you can get it.
Anyway, the brutal satire of “RoboCop” really doesn't scream “children's cartoon”, but this was the '80s! By God, if there were toys that could be sold, the studio was going to sell them, and no fruity foreign director was going to get in the way of good business!
Somehow, we think Verhoeven just found it too funny to refuse.
The original “Gojira” is a movie about a country trying to deal with the atomic bomb. Seriously, if you only know Godzilla from the goofier later movies, the first one's kind of a jolt, what with the solemn choirs and the footage of people suffering from radioactivity and the woman holding her kids to her talking about how they'll be with their dead father soon right before Godzilla stomps them flat (yes, that happened in the original).
It's bad enough that was turned into basically a series of kiddie movies, but then the “Independence Day” guys got their hands on it and turned it into a giant iguana stomping New York for no explicable reason. Then this cartoon was made.
The cartoon's substantially better than the movie, but still, there's a reason that the iguana showed up in a later, real Godzilla movie…and got raped.
#1) Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris has had a lot of scary and inappropriate moments in his career, mostly due to his horribly inflated ego. “Walker, Texas Ranger” managed to handle sensitive subjects like AIDS and illegal immigration with all the subtlety of a wedgie while featuring Norris staring down a bear and revealing he keeps a rocket launcher in his pickup's gun rack (we assure you: these are both real moments in the show). Meanwhile, he was cranking out a long series of terrible “Rambo” ripoffs mostly notable for being even more violent and stupid than the originals when he wasn't turning out movies like “Sidekicks”, in which a teenager blatantly suffering from mental illness is encouraged to study martial arts instead of being given some anti-psychotics and told that fantasy and reality aren't quite the same thing.
The guy has basically made a career out of beating up people he doesn't like and announcing “I'm so awesome!” The only time he's shown range was when Bruce Lee beat it out of him. What's amazing is that this guy ever had a career.
Which makes “Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos” kind of disturbing, reading less like a cheap kid's show to move toys and more like an attempt to indoctrinate kids into the Cult of Chuck. The concept was created by Norris and we're deeply, deeply concerned that Norris really does see himself as the leader of a team of “radically diverse” karate champions fighting a secret conspiracy headed by a man named “Super Ninja”.
Mark our words, “Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos” is going to be a tragic document one day. Chuck Norris is going to burst into the Texas state house, kill a few doughy legislators with his bare hands, and then be gunned down proclaiming he saved the world from VULTURE. You heard it here first.
By Dan Seitz