Saturday, August 25, 2012

Popeye the Sailor Man is NOT FOR KIDS

Popeye seen tossing the tin of spinach away after taking its contents

I used to enjoy watching Popeye cartoons as a child.  Back when I was eight, I used to steal the remote control from my grandpa each time I visited his house.  My next move would then be to tune in to Cartoon Network to see if they had either of my two favourite shows on.  It was either the Tom and Jerry Show or Popeye the Sailor.  Otherwise, I'd give the remote back to him and leave him to watch the news in peace.

Tom and Jerry gave me cheap laughs and taught me two primary lessons: Not to be a bully and to never allow myself to be bullied.  Popeye, on the other hand, made me love spinach betting on the idea that it would help me become strong and overcome oppressive people.  I would begin punching air and imitating his actions the moment he ate his spinach and started beating the crap out of Bluto--all in the effort to save the love of his life, Olive Oyl.

FUN FACT: I used to walk around my village hiding a small plastic container full of water spinach as a precautionary measure in case someone tried to bully me like Bluto did to Popeye.  And, yes, I used water spinach because no real spinach was sold in any grocery store in my city during those days.

Having grown up and become more socially aware, I recently went to YouTube to revisit a slice of my childhood.  I opted to watch an episode of Popeye and noticed how it was no longer a treat to see the violence he inflicted on Bluto.  Sure, the fat man just gets flung to a nearby hill when Popeye punches him.  However, I have personally experienced delivering an uppercut to a bully and it was not pretty.  His mouth bled and it didn't please me at all.  He didn't fly and land on a tree like I comically imagined he would.  Sad, I know, but I was only 12 then.

Popeye cartoons don't exemplify good values and children should not idolise him!

True, he eats spinach (which is indubitable healthy)!  However, if you watch a few episodes again, you may notice that in some of them, he recklessly and irresponsibly disposes of his rubbish!  After he eats the spinach, he is sometimes shown to just toss tins anywhere without thinking about it.

Another photo showing Popeye tossing the tin away after eating the spinach

While I'm aware that it's not the show's intent to popularise littering, such image is subconsciously embedded in children's minds, leading them to do the same thing without giving it a thought.  Subliminal messaging wasn't given attention in the 1930's when the Popeye character was conceived but we have now learned, from modern discoveries in the field of psychology, that they do matter and play a significant role in character development.

If you argue that littering has been minimised over the years of the cartoon series' existence, there are other themes that are worth attention:

- Smoking:  If you haven't noticed Popeye smoking a pipe, you'd have to be blind.
- Destructive Behaviour:  The fact that he tends to destroy a lot of things that come his way without thinking of his actions' consequences!
- Animal Cruelty:  He has been shown in a number of episodes abusing cattle in bull fighting scenes.
- Racism:  In one episode, Popeye and Pappy are shown subduing an island tribe whose population appears to have a dark complexion.  The tribe members are later stacked by the father-son tandem on a rack and labelled "Cheaper by the dozen."  Now you tell me what message that conveys to children!

Popeye the Sailor
Popeye hurting a bull in a bullfight scene
(Self-defence? Why participate in such activities in the first place?)

Popeye the Sailor
Pappy labelling the dark-skinned natives "Cheaper by the dozen."
(I can't understand why you need to add insult to injury after defeating your attackers.)

While I appreciate some themes like the encouragement of eating vegetables and the protection of weaker people and helpless small animals (like that young calf he saved from being killed by Bluto; although he killed a bigger bull in the same episode), I do not recommend the show for young children who are in their formative years.

Popeye the Sailor Man is a cartoon classic but should just not be watched by our youngsters who are in the process of formulating values for themselves.