I love many things. Among them: ’90s cartoons both good and bad, and themed series of blog posts. So I figured, why not combine those loves, and write a themed series of blog posts about cartoons from the 1990s? Better yet, why not designate a day for these posts, forcing me into blogging consistency? (This idea was shamelessly stolen, as usual, from the blogging habits of Final Girl’s Stacie Ponder.) And since, in my childhood, the day on which I mostly commonly watched said cartoons was Saturday, I figured this would really tie the theme together. Ergo: Saturday Theme Songs. Ideally, I’ll post a video (see above), then a paragraph or two of explanation, and everyone’s all the more nostalgically happy. (If you weren’t a child in the ’90s, I’m sorry, but I may try to diversify chronologically.)
So, we have X-Men: The Animated Series, one of my favorite cartoons from elementary school, and one which I stand by. The reasons why are all there in the opening sequence. It fully realized the diverse ensemble from the comic books; it had kick-ass, if occasionally ridiculous, animation (e.g, LASERS everywhere!); and of course there’s that wordless, effective, and unforgettable theme song – interspersed with the sounds of Wolverine’s claws and more LASERS. This sequence does as well as any Wikipedia article in introducing new viewers to the show, and even conveys a sense of its wide-ranging (if also a little ridiculous) emotional pallette and epic conflict.
Rewatching this opening just makes me fall in love with X-Men all over again. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but that’s part of the point, as it is with much superhero media; it wouldn’t be the same without mutants fighting killer robots amidst lots of LASERS. There’s a reason we call it “cartoonish.” But it’s more than just the ridiculous, flashy, excessive awesomeness. This show has everything that a 7-year-old with artistic designs could want. It’s got all types of characters imbued with fantastic powers, giving plenty of opportunities for audience identification and onscreen drama. (I can still recite some of the complex relationships that formed within the X-Men.) And it’s wildly imaginative, with a number of well-developed story arcs delving into time travel, space pirates, alternate dimensions, dysfunctional (mutant) families – i.e., everything I was interested in as a child. (Fuck yes, alternate dimensions.)
And, believe it or not, the show even had moments of great writing and intense poignance. It may look like the same old superhero nonsense, and to some extent it carries over many of the nonsensical superhero traditions, but I’ll continue to defend the pathos and grandeur of the sprawing X-Men mythos. And, in my opinion, the animated series was one of the best-ever translations from a comic book title to TV. This was a kid’s show, broadcast in the mid-afternoon, that addressed institutionalized oppression, bigotry, and harrassment in most of its episodes. It talked about self-loathing, police states, and political assassinations. It presented a black woman and a disabled man as dependably wise and badass authority figures. And it taught a generation of children how to react when you learn your father is a space pirate. X-Men: The Animated Series, like its theme song, was clearly awesome.