A long, long time ago on a winding red-clay road in rural Georgia, my sister, brother, and I looked forward to watching Saturday morning cartoons. Not that we had the endless selection of viewing fare available to children today, mainly because, unlike today, with its countless cable channels, many of which air cartoons and even animated series, in the 1950’s there were only three channels. Yes, that’s right, three channels. What’s more, there were no remotes, so we actually had to get up and cross the room to switch TV stations.
Anyway, number of channels and lack of remotes aside, Saturday was the one and only day of the week when cartoons were shown, well, other than on the Walt Disney Show, which aired on Sunday nights. Then again, come to think of it, they also showed cartoons on the Mickey Mouse Club, the one television show my sister, brother, and I were allowed to watch on weekdays after school, but only if we’d done our homework and finished our chores, at least until we became teenagers when we instead watched American Bandstand. But wait, I digress; back to Saturday mornings.
My siblings and I would line up on the floor in front of the black-and-white TV, sometimes munching on potato chips and slurping Coca Colas or Nehi Orange drinks, and giggle maniacally over the antics of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, Sylvester and Tweety, the Tasmanian Devil, the Roadrunner, and Wile E. Coyote.
Yet, we not only laughed with them. We also cried with them. We sympathized with their losses and disappointments. We felt their pain. We celebrated their victories, however small, and we cheered when they overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But how could we not? After all, they were real to us—just as real as the flesh-and-blood actors in movies and TV shows—just as real, in fact, as we were, so we could relate to them—see in them a measure of our own humanity.
And perhaps—just perhaps—this is why cartoons are still so popular today: Children of all ages, including me, and from all cultures and all walks of life, can relate to the characters, glimpsing in them that universal thread that binds us all together—the ability to fall down and somehow still manage to find the courage to stand up again, brush ourselves off, and start all over again. Like our favorite cartoon characters, we too triumph over adversity, and in the end, we too endure.