October 15th, 2007

hoard potato, tv, movies

The Hoard Potato: Of Munks and Morons

Of the previews currently showing in the theaters, the one that fills me with the most looming dread is the one for Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Oh, I don't dread the movie itself. It looks kinda cute.

I dread the inevitable parade of bitching and moaning from twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with the 1980s Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon. People grouse about how the Baby Boomers think the entire 20th Century was All About Us, but my little stars and garters, it's Gen X and Gen Y who treat their childhood mass-market pop-culture as sacred writ.

I most especially dread yet another screeching chorus of "Hollywood is Raping My Childhood!" Let's, just for a moment, set aside how obscenely inappropriate it is to trivialize the verb "rape" for something as puerile as a remake of mediocre cartoon. Instead, let's look at just why specifically inappropriate in this instance.

  1. That '80s cartoon you all remember so fondly? That was the inferior copy, compromised and sold out to better push sugar cereal and crappy toys to the kids of the day. And yeah, that's you, Mister and Ms. Rape-My-Childhood. It was clear to all of us baby boomers who cared to tune in that the '80s version was a schmaltzy, dumbed-down version of the anarchic brilliance of the original 1962 Alvin Show. They turned one of the great trickster characters into the insipid centerpiece of yet another Get Along Gang, just like every other '80s cartoon that wasn't explicitly action-adventure.*

    We were, of course, full of crap. The '60s show wasn't that great, and the '80s show wasn't that bad.

    So shut up.


  2. The new movie is being produced by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., who is also providing the voices of Alvin and Simon -- just as he has in every recording of the characters since 1972, when his father, the creator of The Chipmunks, died. Ross, Jr. is responsible for the late '70s revival of the characters -- and for that late '80s cartoon that brought them to the attention of Generation Rape-My-Childhood.

    This guy literally grew up with these characters: "The Chipmunk Song" was recorded when he was 9. Personally, I think the reason they continue to be a steady presence in the market is because, in addition to his marketing savvy, he has a genuine and sincere affection for them, and it shows. Unlike the heirs of, say, Jim Henson, Badgasarian has a keen insight into the essence of his father's creations, and what made them successful in the first place -- in this case, a clever recording gimmick and a knack for making a buck with it.

    In other words, these characters aren't your childhood. They're his.  

    So shut up.


  3. Yes, there's scatological humor in the trailer. It's brief, perfectly in character, and surprisingly tasteful. See my note about "anarchic brilliance", above; if the cultural climate had allowed the senior Mr. Bagdasarian to include poop jokes, I suspect he might have succumbed to the temptation.

    So shut up.


  4. (Addendum, 13:52) Most importantly: you're not the target audience.

    So shut up, and let the kids enjoy their movie.



Now, I'm hardly the Chipmunks' biggest fan. Hearing the original Chipmunk Christmas Song once a year is about as much of their music as I can endure. The highest praise I can dole on either version of the cartoon is that they don't immediately force me to scream and leap for the remote if I happen to encounter them on one of the 500-odd channels the cable pumps into my living room. I almost certainly won't see this movie on the big screen, and if if I watch it on DVD, it'll be because my stepdaughter rented it for the grandspawn.

While I do respect Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. for his handling of his father's creations, and for keeping them from becoming yet another lost property of some faceless entertainment megacorp, I am not, in short, defending The Chipmunks, the upcoming movie, or Hollywood in general.

I'm just telling you Rape-My-Childhood assholes to Shut. Up.


*'80s cartoons that were explicitly action-adventure were never as good as Jonny Quest, because nobody ever got shot or threw a barrel.