Why is this generation so dark and depressed? This question has been doing the rounds in our minds for the past few days. Depression was always present throughout the ages, it is just that due to better communication tools, today we know people are suffering. But that’s not the only case, we grew up watching some of the darkest and deepest shows and we didn’t even realize it.
In November 16th, 1958, two animators named, Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, released a short film called ‘’Blue Cat Blues’’, which stared two characters they created, one of a cat and the other of a mouse, who were named Tom and Jerry. In the film Tom is seen in love with another female cat, who is, well, a Gold-Digger. But that’s not the problem, the problem is Tom is so in love that he sells his house, car, and also himself, in order to buy gifts for his ‘’love’’. Eventually Tom’s ‘’love’’ marries a man, who can afford better gifts than Tom, and Tom commits suicide, but is saved by Jerry. Jerry too is in love and plans to marry his love. Soon Jerry witnesses his ’’love’’ with another man in a car, and a sign on the car says ‘’Just Married’’. Both, Tom and Jerry sit on a railway tract, as a running train approaches them.
Of course, the film was aired only once, and never again, because people were shocked, especially children. But this underlining theme of darkness and death is present throughout the Tom and Jerry series. In episodes when Tom approaches a female cat, and has to compete with other male cats to get her attention, bringing her expensive gifts, and eventually falling short to win her heart. This show was dark, we did not realize it.
Japan was not far behind, Shin Chan is based upon death. The story goes that Shin Chan was a 5-year old kid bearing all the qualities that we see in the series, and he also had a little sister. One fine day in the market, when his mother was buying vegetables, his sister crawled to the main road, as Shin Chan went to save his sister, an approaching car hit the two, and both of them died. His mother went into depression and later on started drawing the memories she had with her kids, with crayons. Thus, the real name of the series, Crayon Shin Chan. She made quite a few drawings before she passed away. Shin Chan’s father took the drawings to manga artist Yoshito Usui, and requested him to make a manga out of the drawings. Usui liked the drawings and decided to do so. But Shin Chan’s father was nowhere to be found. He just went away. Usui created the manga, and later on a television series was made out of it. Usui never revealed this story until few days before his death.
Shin Chan is a dark comedy, but we never realized it. In episodes Shin Chan referring to his father not being able to pay-off the house loan is a take on the Japanese economy. Shin Chan packing up adult magazines in his school backpack, which had models with voluptuous breasts on cover, is a commentary on the obsession Japanese men have with big breasts. Shin Chan was for the adults, and in many countries episodes were heavily censored.
Doraemon’s principal character Nobita Nobi has constant fear in his heart, about not being able to marry his lady love if he does not succeed in life. The society pressurizing someone to achieve something, even if the person is not build for it. Nobita being told to be good at studies even though he is not build for that, and also being bullied for being weak, mostly mentally. Nobita’s insecurity about his lady love falling for someone smart and successful, is a lot more than what it looks like.
Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean, got dark at times. In one of the episodes Bean’s car is seen being crushed by a military tank, as Bean passionately enjoys a cupcake. The scene is a lot more than what you see. The scene depicts the Government ignoring people’s rights and eventually their rights, being crushed under government rule. One thing we know Mr. Bean stood for is self-love, but it also had a lingering aloofness attached to it, talking to non-living objects and believing they are our friends, hating being around people, and lacking communication skills.
The fact that we did not realize all these things while watching these shows when we were kids, is not the problem. The problem is we realized all of these after we had experienced these in our lives. Heartbreaks, disappointments, death, loneliness, is all what these shows were hiding behind their humor, just like life, and that hits hard. The realization that our childhood was made up of all the things that we were about to face later on in life, stings right in the heart. Our childhood was made up of all these things, we lived it, we are living it. Our childhood was dark, and we did not realize it.