Cartoon Crazy

Puspita Das Barbara analyses the runaway success of cartoons like Doraemon among today’s kids

Nobita ko test mein zero milta hain, main bhi zero launga (Nobita gets zero in his tests so will I) declares four year old Titu confidently. An exasperated and worried father wonders what next. If you are not nodding your head in similar exasperation and wondering Nobita who, then lets get introduced to this fictional character who has taken today’s cartoon world by storm.

Master of an oversized robot cat, Doraemon, he bungles through all his tasks, is lazy, hates homework, does poorly in school and depends solely on Doraemon to bail him out of all his troubles. Doraemon is a 22nd century robot cat that has landed in today’s world and now lives as a member of Nobita’s family helping them with his 22nd century gadgets. The place of origin of this cartoon show is Japan and he took that country by rage when he arrived in their world.

Today Japan has moved on and Doraemon has found a new home, India. Gone are the days when cartoons meant a sweet looking mouse and a cackly voiced duck. Gone are the days when a cat chased a mouse and brought the house down. Yes, Mickey mouse and ‘tom and jerry’ are now vintage cartoons that adults still reminiscence about and enjoy watching occasionally as it brings back sweet memories. Ask a child of this century who his favorite cartoon character is and pat will come the response, Doraemon.

What is the draw of this cartoon I wonder? As a mother and an adult whose childhood was spent in the company of Goofy, Mickey, Donald and chipmunks I was puzzled by my children’s lack of interest in those cartoons. Were they not timeless? I found myself asking. How come the children today can barely sit through an episode of Mickey and Donald while they can watch re runs of Doraemon?

The analyst in me just could not rest till the answers to these questions were found. And some answers I did find, not totally satisfactory perhaps, not resting all my doubts yet but a fair assumption of why the psyche of today’s child is drawn to a cartoon where they have a fumbling character over the sweet and simple cats and mice of yesteryears.

Let’s first understand the world of today’s children. In comparison to our childhood they have an exposure to much more facets of the world today. Their competition is tougher, their survival skills much more developed and their understanding and grasp way ahead of where we were as children. This awareness of the world also means that they understand in some subconscious level the competition out there, and that is why a character that is so incompetent perhaps touches their heart. It probably helps reassure them that its okay to be less than perfect.

It perhaps helps ease the tension of being perfect children or maybe it just takes them into a fantasy world where it’s okay to be imperfect. Perhaps they are no different from us after all. As children cartoons were about make believe, about a child’s imaginary world of fun. Perhaps today they find that make believe imperfection just as much food for fantasy as we did then. And then again, maybe it’s not so deep after all. Maybe its just that times have changed and so have tastes. What was sauce for the geese is no longer sauce for the gander. They have moved on, grown up into a different world and so their cartoons have changed. A more real cartoon easier to associate to in a more real world today, compared to the simpler cartoons belonging to an era when childhood was simpler. Not that they mind the occasional Tom and Jerry. No, they enjoy them too.

But given a choice between seeing a cat chase a rat, and seeing a robot bring out his high tech gadgets, todays high tech savvy children just find it more interesting. What will Doraemon’s gadget be today, must be the highlight of their fantasy. A secret wish perhaps to own such a gadget master? Childhood is the same after all. Remember your secret wish to be the princess in the fairy tale or the knight in shining armor? Doraemon just helps them live their fantasy. Times have changed, its only fair that fantasy worlds do to.

In the meanwhile, as parents we can just hope that Doraemon the helpful cat robot with fantastic 22nd century gadgets is the one they hero worship and not Nobita the bungler. Ne, children today are too well grounded to do the latter I say. Or are they? Guess some questions will never have a definite answer. And perhaps, its better this way. Let the child be I say. Let him find his own world and let him build on his own dreams. We have lived ours, been the princess to the prince. It’s their turn now to be the tech savvy gadget guru to some poor bungler who needs their help to survive. I end with two images from each generation, very different from each other; or if you look closely, just the same – a child’s favorite fantasy coming to life.

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Puspita Das Barbara is a law graduate. who later trained in the service industry and worked for American Express pre-childbirth. Post motherhood, by choice she put her career on the backseat and has been a full time dedicated mother of two girls aged 7 and 3, as of today. When her elder daughter was of school going age she joined as a Kindergarten teacher in Maple Bear, a Canadian international school and worked there till the birth of her second child.

Her stint with writing started about two years ago when a few poems and articles that she had put forward in her blog were appreciated by her friends and family. At the insistence of one such friend she took part in a national level short story writing competition. She made it into the winning list and had her first published story in the book. She has also had a poem featured in another's blog on poetry and a short story featured in an e-magazine. She has since continued to create and write for herself and her close knit ones. Getting her work published is not really on her mind as of now. Currently, between homeworks, annual days, swimming classes, etc. she manages to do a little bit of freelance content writing.