Back in the 90s there was a popular cartoon series called Sailor Moon.
It gave hope to all the girls who watched it because it was about their future world. The main character was a 14-year-old and in the eyes of the then 8-year-olds was a “grown up”. Despite her prettiness and popularity, she had flaws in her personality and she hated school. She also dreamt of meeting Prince Charming one day.
To accompany this series there was a participation programme for kids between the ages of 8 and 11 called Solletico. We saw kids dressed like kids (jeans and pullover) and kids who did things that kids typically do, that is, they played games like Giant Connect 4, String Spaghetti and colouring games.
While the first showed the world in the future, the second was firmly anchored in the present. There were also various advertisements such as the ones for Barbie dolls. Barbie was a grown up who did seemingly grown up activities like the shopping. She also did occupations like a vet, a doctor, a teacher or a shop assistant. In short, there was a clear distinction between children playing at grown ups and the model of the adult world seen through occupations and ideals (like being pretty, strong, courageous and well loved by everyone). To complete the picture there was a family sit-com called Vicky . It gave a stereotyped (“standard”?) view of the family (father, mother and children), yes a little eccentric but closely united. On the whole, there was a general harmony given by the programmes that did not harm the general message.
Since the 2000 everything has changed
The first thing to change was the advertisements; the appearance of The Bratz dolls whose only aim in life was to be trendy (shoes, heels and makeup) and who at the most become pop stars. The doll who imitated the adult real world saw a halt in sales ( and received orders from high up) that they had to change radically Barbie’s style. They fell back on fairy tales and out came fairies, mermaids and princesses. Pure fantasy and pop stars have taken the place of educative programmes which have gradually disappeared. The only reference to the adult world is that singers exist whereas mermaids don’t.
Today, there are The Winx which unite two games; they are fairies, they fly and possess magic powers but at the same time they have a modern grown up look. In fact, in the first three series they are actually aged between 16 and 18 and still go to school. In the last series they are 20-year-olds who work, have boyfriends and have a lifestyle a bit too much like pop star. Relationships seem normal enough for they represent the future like Sailor Moon did. What has changed is that the other type of programmes, the “containers” programmes which normalised the situation, have disappeared. In place of Solletico, there is Musicgate , a programme where the children are the protagonists of the show. They are “fake” children: they wear grown up clothes- mini skirts and scanty tops, they pose as adults , they speak, dance and sing like Britney Spears. In sitcoms today, the family is substituted by pseudo-12-year-old girls who live alone, who create problems with their boyfriends (boys think more about football and their best mates than girls in real life!) and with their girl friends in such a way that they look like they have come out of an episode of Beautiful.
Cartoons are not the problem
It is not the cartoon itself which has changed for worse . It is the combination of advertisements, sit-com programmes which are homologated in the same way; they confuse ages, they are constantly attentive of their looks, fashion, makeup and boys and want to be at the centre of attention. Games have disappeared and pop stars are now the models. We cannot lay the blame on cartoons, deep down they are the only things which have kept the same principles (love and friendship). Let’s change the rest which is totally false and harmful.