Well, here it is. The summation of much of the world’s woes, as once again, revealed through the horse world. The fox guarding the chickens. The corrupt judge sitting over his son’s trial. The blind man driving the automobile (no offense to the blind intended, the way technology is headed, it’s only a matter of time).
The first is that the BLM went back on it’s word and went ahead with a mustang roundup they’d promised and sworn was cancelled. Color me shocked. A branch of the government, lie to it’s citizens? Of course they would. What bothers me is that no other branch of the government seems interested in holding them accountable. You have perjury and animal cruelty in one fell swoop, yet no one ever arrests them. What does it say about our government, that it is no longer being held accountable to it’s citizens for such misuse of funds and power?
The second is this bit of news of the confusion over slaughterhouses. Now the Native nations – and for the moment, I won’t try and sort out which ones – are apparently divided, with some in favor of it. Some still believe the horse is sacred and are firmly opposed. But the others claim ‘overpopulation’ and ‘overgrazing’ and insist that slaughter would solve their problems.
I can’t help note that if so, they should be trying to get the slaughter plant, with its associated environmental hazards on their own reservation land. Apparently they don’t mind foisting it off on someone else. They don’t seem to be vying for the jobs associated, they just want the horses gone.
I don’t claim to know what the ratio of horses to other livestock is on the Native reservations is, or whether they have a problem. I do know slaughter isn’t the answer. But it’s a sad thing to think that people some of whom have been called ‘people of the horse’, and for some of them, still think it sacred, would consider this an acceptable solution. What is it about today’s society that people are so ignorant and determined to remain so in the name of greed and convenience?
Third, is the trial of the Tennessee Walking Horse trainer. Now what makes me shake my head at this is on the Ethics committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer’s Association. Ethics. Oh, really, ethics. The man thought nothing of soring and intentionally injuring these animals for a ribbon, prize money, or trophy. I can’t imagine why anyone would reward anyone for cruelty. But the idea of the man being on an ethics committee!! It’s incomprehensible. Talk about the blind leading the blind!
Compromise in art can be maddening. Art can be many things, many mediums. It can be the fine art hanging on the wall of the museum, or even what’s on the front of a cereal box. It can be a play or a movie or a TV show. But all of these things are compromised by the very basic need of funds to create.
Even in the olden days, the famous artists like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo needed patrons. That meant the patron could influence and command what art they were able to concentrate on. Wars stole supplies that would have been used for art and magnificent potential pieces like Da Vinci’s horse waited long after his death to come to life.
Changing demands mean right now photographic manipulation has largely replaced illustration on movie posters and book covers. And once again the artist must choose between money for supplies or changing what they would do. Already one had to fit their creations onto certain products, now they had to alter technique.
Compromise in Storytelling – TV and Movies.
As for TV – oh dear. Television in and of itself has changed. HD is obvious and recent. But what’s more, so has the need for commercials. Those in charge add little pop ups to the bottom or the side, a rather shocking distraction from the main action. Apparently whoever invented them for web browsing decided to take them somewhere without a pop up blocker. Sometimes clever product placements appear in the show – like White Collar’s Ford Taurus and Apple ads or even the fact that HP computers are all thru the FBI office. Some aren’t so clever. But ultimately, commercial time is extended. And it chops into the show, cutting off bits and pieces.
As for movies on TV, that’ s even more of a compromise, because sometimes they just aren’t designed with commercials in mind. They were meant for the big screen of a theater. The end result of adding commercials sometimes seems like they took the old fashioned film reel, put it on the wall like a dart board and threw the darts at it. Then they spliced in commercials where ever they pleased and chopped out however much they needed too.
Changing the Message of the Story
The problem with these compromises is that sometimes it changes the entire message of the art. Take Disney’s Miracle of the White Stallions. As a child, I never understood why it was called ‘Flight of the White Stallions’ on TV but listed as ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’ elsewhere. Then I got the DVD. The message was immediately obvious. For on TV the flight of the lippizans and the Spanish Riding School from Vienna was just that. A run to where they were found by General Patton and offered protection. But the ‘Miracle’ part had been left on the cutting room floor to make room for commercials. The miracle was the many people who braved the Nazi’s wrath to help smuggle them out in spite of orders to keep them there. I had a similar shock with one of my favorite incarnations of a Christmas Carol: called “Scrooge” and starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. It was a musical. The TV version chopped off a whole section where he wakes up in hell. I had no clue it existed until I bought the DVD.
Sometimes these actions seem downright sacrilegious. I loved ‘A Night Before Christmas’ by Rankin Bass (who also animated Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer and the Hobbit) as a child. But when I came back as an adult I was horrified to find that the whole thing was chopped to bits. The whole message of hope and faith was whittled to nearly nothing by commercials. One whole song was wiped out completely. As for Rudolph, I no longer know which is more accurate: the one I saw as a child or the one with the music changed but obviously part of the original show. I prefer either to the whittled down version. I find it rather amusing as well. The rather sexist message of the reindeer refusing his mate’s desire to help search for her son, for instance. “This is man’s work.” Hah. Apparently he failed to realize that disqualified him too, he was a reindeer, not a man!
Who makes these decisions to alter someone else’s story? At least with something like Star Wars and it’s infamous ‘Han shot first’ debate, the change, however controversial, was made by the creator. But who decides it’s okay to shred a children’s classic? Or remove a TV show’s funniest moments to cram in one more commercial? It doesn’t seem to involve planning to work around the original story line or message and leaving it intact. It apparently does not take into account the work of the artists involved, actors, directors or creators. Nor does it take into account the fans. And if it doesn’t take into account these, than surely it does a disservice. For by altering the story, they are diminishing the chance to make new fans. New fans, who would buy those DVDs, or collectibles or in turn support shows like it in the future.
I don’t claim to have a solution. It takes creativity, perhaps, to even work with the commercials, to interweave them into the program without breaking it’s momentum or damaging the story. Perhaps it takes training though if anyone is trained for this (beyond the ‘we need more money’ end) I don’t know.
But if they aren’t, maybe they should be. For television, movies and streaming media are our modern storytellers. They help us know the monsters can be defeated and challenges overcome. They let us escape our own problems to find a new point of view and things to get excited or laugh about. But only if the overcoming and escaping doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor and replaced with another ad for kitchen cleaner. Speaking for myself: I don’t find it inspiring to see one more commercial to ‘buy more.’ I already know how to do that. I really think we all do.
For some peculiar reason, many an adult turns up their nose as if a cartoon is unworthy for adults. I’ve never really understood why. A cartoon is just a story, told with artwork in sequence. It’s not guaranteed even to be rated for kids, some are actually rated mature. Even those with a kid friendly rating are not free of true storytelling excitement. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves had a wicked queen trying to kill the beautiful girl. Those stories are very tame compared to their original counterparts. The original fairy tales are a good deal more frightening. But the timeless tale of good versus evil still is clearly represented.
Adults create these stories. They usually write the stories, do the artwork, and ‘act’ the voices. True, if the cartoon is for kids, they have to get inside a child’s viewpoint. But look at it from an adult one and there are things about the stories one rarely notices when one enjoys it as a child. They have meanings: for good or bad, even if they are unintentional.
I always identified more with Road Runner and Tweety as a kid when watching Looney Tunes: but they weren’t always nice. While I didn’t want the Wile E Coyote or Sylvester to win, now I see that they were dreamers chasing the impossible dream. One might – from a pessimists point of view – say they suffered greatly for their ambitions. They were dropped off cliffs and smacked with frying pans on a regular basis. Well, really can you blame them for just being what they are? They were predators and hungry. And would you really want your kid to drop his adversary off a cliff? Or even develop Bugs Bunny’s sarcasm? I suppose he might encourage carrot eating. I’m not trying to bash Looney Tunes. They were great fun. But don’t tell me these were really written with kids in mind!
On a more modern basis, I’ve watched Ben Ten grow up. Ben found an awesome device called the omnitrix, which turns him into a variety of aliens. These enable him to battle evil alien invaders, under guidance of his Grandpa ( a ‘plumber’ a code name for a secret group that defends earth against aliens) Aside from being impressed with how many imaginative aliens they invent, they also show Ben regularly learning (often the hard way) about cooperation, appreciation of family, and thinking ahead.
Transformers have been recreated a few times. The impressive computer animation goes along with the timeless tale of friendship and loyalty between very different beings. My Little Ponies also have such tales for a younger set – but even adults have refused to give up their hopeful message.
As for Star Wars the Clone Wars, the tales are anything but dumbed down for kids. The original Star Wars tale dealt with Anakin’s fall – becoming Vader and his redemption by his son. Now we see him as the hero he was meant to be. But we also witness the trauma of warfare. It’s a confusing era in the Star Wars galaxy. His apprentice wrestles with the responsibility of losing men in battle. Even the villain Ventress searches for a place to belong. But the timeless values of loyalty, honesty and friendship are there. But only for kids? There are episodes that might give some nightmares. The answers aren’t always so clear. Tell a lie to save lives? Sacrifice a few to save many? These are not stories where what the right answer is comes easily. And since we know it ends where Revenge of the Sith begins we already know, to our dismay, that not all of our favorites survive the conflict.
As for style, there is something for everyone. We’ve come a long way from the hand drawn art of Snow White and early Mickey Mouse. Now we have computers to allow smoother animation and programs to make them appear almost three dimensional. Where does ‘animation’ begin and live action end in stories where an alien being is created entirely on computer but yet still interacts with humans?
Cartoons for kids? I’d rather have those then much of what is passed off as adult programming. I want a story, I want characters that make me want to root for them and scrambling to tune in when they are in trouble. I want stories with heroes. I love the animation: it makes it complete. I want the cake, the icing and even the ice cream. And why not? If I have to go to a kids channel to get it, fine. Their stories are still often resonating with the messages of myth and legend, of heroism. Kids aren’t perfect – not pure innocence, for they can be greedy and bullies and violent too. But they are still learning and growing. And while the stories often come attached to toy promotions, at least those toys promote the same values. (Except perhaps, for encouraging greed.)
So down with this absurd notion that cartoons are for kids. Cartoons are for everyone. If you can’t find one you like, I’d bet you haven’t looked too far.