Sep 232008

I love kids shows. That is to say, I enjoy a number of them. I’ve gone back and watched a couple that I used to watch as a kid. Some of them turned out to be terrible experiences (Street Sharks, Biker Mice from Mars) but some of them were more fantastic the second time around, in their entirety (Gargoyles, Roswell Conspiracies and Starship Troopers).

However, there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the new Spectacular Spider-man cartoon series that I don’t seem to recall in any of the previous shows I’ve seen, which is showing the process of making the conscious decision to do the right thing, regardless of how popular or easy it is.

The thing with the Peter Parker of the Spectacular Spider-man show, it seems to me, is that he’s growing up and actually developing a character. Other characters don’t tend to grow up, or simply become more mature, but usually their character traits are left as they are. That is, they do the right thing because they’re heroes, not necessarily because it is the right thing to do, and then they get accolades for it.

Lemme ‘splain, if I remember everything correctly. Peter Parker has gotten a job as a lab assistant at the lab of the Dr. Curt Conners, who, one fateful evening, turns into Lizard (a large man-lizard, sorta like Killer Croc from Batman) and runs away. Peter quickly runs away to don the costume of Spider-man to go save him, but his friends think he’s a coward and he’s abandonning them. Spider-man does revert Lizard back to Conners, thus saving the day, but no one knows about it. Faced with financial pressure after his uncle’s death, he’s also started to take pictures of Spider-man for the Daily Bugle. When the Bugle publishes the pictures of Spider-man saving Conners with Peter Parker’s name underneath it, his friends think that he was not a coward, but instead of trying to help his friends, he smelt an opportunity to make money. He didn’t tell them that his aunt and himself are facing a financial crisis. His friends stop speaking to him.

Peter Parker goes through an internal turmoil asking himself what the point of doing the hero thing is if you get no recognition, get slandered in papers (JJ Jameson keeps doing that) and your friends think you’re a coward. He almost quits. But then he comes to his senses (with a little help from the memories of his uncle) and realizes that he has to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because it’s the popular or easy thing.

The conscious decision to do the right thing, instead of the cowardly thing, or to rationalize that his friends are wrong, or to grow bitter, is portrayed on screen as a very heroic act, in my mind, simply because it as an act of will. It is not something you see on screen much. Heroes will run into a burning building, you expect that of them, but never before have I seen the character of Peter Parker developing conscience and character so vividly or so well.

The other reason I praise this portryal is because I believe this is imitatable by the kids who do watch the show. I was thinking about it and realized that the protagonists of tv shows tend to stock characters, but rarely is there a real human character that I hope kids could relate to and possibly learn from. Now all they need to show is someone telling the truth and people gettin angry at them, instead of how its usually portrayed on screen where everyone falls in love them for telling the truth, no matter how hard it is, cause that’s how it happens in the real world. I think that if you show people doing the right thing and showing them catching flak for it, kids can come to expect that and do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because of some false notion that it might be the easy or popular thing to do that will make everyone happy with them.

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