Friday, February 11, 2011


(Eric in 2011: Once again, the events of the world conspire against my natural mellow nature. Today's flashback takes us back yet again to a happier time...unless you were a cartoon kid being used as a teaching tool.)

Most of us remember the police officer that showed up to tell our elementary school class drug horror stories designed to scare us straight. Some of us even remember taking the list of spices alleged to have psychoactive properties in the booklet the officer gave out and trying something with them ("I think I'm feeling it...did we use all the mace yet?"). I'm convinced they put those in the "information" booklet just to give the more gullible kids something to try and fail at.

However, now it's the information age, with computers, the Internet, flying cars...all that whatnot. So of course, we can't just have community outreach programs to keep the kids on the straight and narrow. We have to have websites like Arizona's Law For Kids. And since it is the Internet, Law For Kids has to have awful cartoons.

As educational tools, the cartoons just don't cut it; in a few of them it's impossible to see what the point is. And kids can tell when you're just not trying. For our purposes, which is cheap laughs at bad art, it's a goldmine.

Let's go over a few of these:

DRAG RACE DISASTER (Flash animation): Chuck, Elsie, and Melissa are kicking back, doing a little drunk driving and drag racing to start the weekend off right, and Chuck cracks up his car trying to outrun the cops. To undercut any moral they might've had, we find the kids riding bikes on the sidewalk on a sunny day. Come on, guys, this is supposed to be "scared straight" territory! At least show them walking sullenly everywhere they go, or in a hospital bed. THEN we'd know that "Chuck, Elsie, and Melissa were lucky." The real kicker is that they make a big show of naming the kids, like they're more than barely animated ciphers. Really, if they're not even going to have dialogue, why bother?

It's also an interesting touch that the guy is the only one drinking a beer, while the ladies are downing wine coolers. Female teenage alcoholics are apparently much pickier these days. Some of the boys, on the other hand, are still trying to drink that blue stuff they dip the barber's combs in because they were told it'll really get 'em FACED.

I have a theory that after losing his license, Chuck became the kid in the Chronic Future video, which is another strike against drunk driving.

JOYRIDING: We see a boy and a girl get into a car, a cop pulls them over and frisks them. The girl says "But I wasn't driving!" and the state trooper barks "EVEN THE PASSENGER GETS IN TROUBLE!" At least I hope he's a state trooper; his hat is a little bit too plain to be a genuine officer. It's possible that he's a mentally unbalanced guy who always wanted to be a cop, but ever since the accident cost him his eyebrows, he drives around in a shoddy imitation of the uniform he admires, a flashing light he bought at Radio Shack wired to the family sedan. On weekends, he pulls over "race mixing" teens to lecture them (with brute force) about BLOOD PURITY. She was just riding in a car with him, officer; no hanky panky involved. Ah, but EVEN THE PASSENGER GETS IN TROUBLE, as you will soon find out after the strip search.

I'm sorry, I got freaky there for a second. Of course, the cop is legit, since this is a site about kids and the law, but what law are they breaking here? From what we're shown, they were pulled over and frisked by an angry trooper for not wearing seat belts. Arizona is obviously taking "click it or ticket" a few steps beyond. Next step: death penalty for jaywalkers. The kid on your shoulders while you cross against the lights gets tossed to foster care because EVEN THE PASSENGERS GET IN TROUBLE.

LEARNER'S PERMIT: Pretty benign, although that kid does have a crazed glint in his eyes. I'd rather not be stuck behind him in traffic. Also, it's nice to see that Arizona put a DMV station in Gargamel's house instead of one of those stuffy concrete slab buildings. It gives license renewal a nice homey feel, and keeps the Smurf population under control.

MARIJUANA and SCHOOL THREATS : There's a reason I'm taking these two together (and you should read them in order for the full effect), because they both use a kid they call M.P. We're not really supposed to be thinking about continuity here, but taken as a sequence, does this tell us that smoking pot turns you into a squealer? A kid lights up a doobie, and all of the sudden he's ratting out teenage Hank Hill for making prank calls. They call him "Tommy" here, but any Dragnet fan knows that the names in the case histories are changed to protect the innocent. So M.P. gets Hank/Tommy permanently expelled, jaw hanging open in shock, and they still toss him in prison five years later. Maybe he's just overly paranoid, since he's already breaking a few laws and probably got pulled over by the fake state trooper earlier in the day.

The dangers of being in a Mike Judge cartoon.
Actually, all these kids look unspeakably afraid, like they were clued in to the fatalistic drama their ethnically-diverse lives were being plugged into. They're in a constant state of terror because they know that no matter what good intentions they have, turning in guys who make death threats or trying to get friends off the weed, M.P.'s still going to end up in jail by panel 5 for lighting that blunt, while Mikey is fated to be a nameless drone pointing at an incomprehensible chart. Or maybe the artist just got lazy and used clip art.

It's interesting that the Principal's desk plate is turned facing himself; maybe he just needs to keep reminding himself that he's not the janitor.

--Original post: September 23, 2004

1 comment:

Eric said...

If you tried those links in the past month, by the way, you got 404'ed, as the website got a long overdue overhaul. Some (but sadly not all) of the law toons have been moved to the SC version of the site. Hope this helps.