NOT STOKED: Cartoon Network kills surfing– those bastards!
By Matt Walker
Davey & Goliath? Sure. What harm could come from spending each Sunday with a talking dog and a sexually repressed religious fanatic? (To his credit, it had been at least two years since former cult member David Berkowitz — aka Son of Sam — killed six New Yorkers because his neighbor's Labrador retriever, Harvey, told him to.)
But for some reason the prospect that his seven-year-old son might grow-up to imitate two bumbling beer factory workers, or their partially retarded neighbors, was too risky. And though it worked — sort of, I still pledged a fraternity — I've never recovered. And I've avoided that same impulse to kill my first-grader's television over something like hardcore silliness.
Enter Stoked. The Cartoon Network's new series (airing Thursday night), which follows six wacky 'groms' — their emphasis, not mine, and boy do they emphasize — with summer jobs at an idyllic, surfing paradise called — wait for it —Surfer's Paradise.
It don't take Nostradamus to forecast this one, but think North Shore meets Scooby Doo. Except the mystery is how to surf all summer long. And the forces of evil ain't a mask-wearing amusement park operator, Lance Burkhardt or Vince from Da Hui — it's the writers and producers. Not only do these thugs pound the sport of kings, they riddle it with bulletholes, making swiss cheese of our sub-culture in mere seconds with a staccato assault of stolen lingo, cliche dialogue and, of course, heaps of bad stereotypes.
There's a black guy called Johnny who not only can't surf, he doesn't even get a cool name. (Sorry, Buttons). A mix of Machado and Spicoli named ''Broseph.' (Et tu, Transworld?) And of course, the mandatory soulful, goateed old dude who claims "I'm the Kahuna." No, you're the douchebag. (Or at best, a kook)
And let's not forget the pair of matching his-and-her shredders named 'Reef' and 'Rip" ala Kelly and Lisa — except they say the girl might surf better. (A thought guaranteed to keep both genders giggling — but for different reasons.) One Keala-be. One baby Rell. Plus a 16-year-old, pro-ho-in-making, Emma, who, according to her bio: "totally loses it around guys she crushes on" and "can't surf, but is determined to rip [her clothes off, maybe?] by the end of summer."
And, as if TV ain't brain-melting enough, they also manage to undo a whole year's worth of schoolwork, from math — "Gromfest starts in 12 weeks and three days!" Don't you mean 3.1 months? Reduce, dammit! — to my personal pet peeve: pronunciation.
For the record — in case some Malibu SUPper's butchering a script as we speak — the emphasis in 'double overhead" is on HEAD – not 'over.' (Blue Crush made the same offense repeatedly.) Seems trite, but it's annoying — and telling. Like hearing some Ivy Leaguer say "TEE-vee" instead of "tee-VEE" — your degree may boast "Brown" but your diction screams "Rube."
Even geography and physics take a hit, as Surfer's Paradise promises "dozens of point breaks." That's right: DOZENS. As in at least 24. All in a single resort. (Take that, Typhoon Lagoon.)
Actually, it's too bad Disney wasn't involved — as in Walt Disney. Back before they froze the animation genius somewhere inside Mickey Mouse's colon, it took three years to finish a cartoon. At that rate, we'd only have to suffer through these shenanigans a couple times each decade. (The modern difference between most mainstream two-dimensional surf tales – say Blue Juice and In Gods Hands. ) Unfortunately, these days, a factory full of ink-pen wielding South Koreans can unleash Point Break-like damage every single week. All summer long.
Think of the kids! Now, scores of teens, tweens and ne'er-beens — I can already see pregnant Roxy chicks pressing their wombs to the screen in 30 minute increments — are gonna come away with an unattainable image of surfing. Dreaming of impossible moves like "Air 3600s" and one-armed hand stands. Of double-over-HEAD waves "almost every day." Not to mention "miles and miles of uncrowded beaches." (Not if this show takes off.)
And perhaps that's the real root of my disdain — not fear for our children but hatred of them. The same anti-outsider, anti-crowd, localist mentality that penetrated my psyche milliseconds after I first stood up. At an age not too far after dad dictated my viewing habits. An age, not too far from where my son is now.
Or maybe, I worry — again, selfishly — that his impressionable young brain will process this tripe and stick to his boogie board. Or worse, he'll get turned off riding waves completely and continue on his current path of Star Wars, Bakugan and Ben 10, a slippery path that'll have him rolling 20-sided dice and hoarding hit points into his thirties.
More likely the problem is even more narcissistic. That surfing might not just change in theory and image, but in reality. My reality. A phobia that only gets worse with each year, as fresh new blood enters the water, while I get grayer, slower, balder and hairier.
Truth is, if the cast of Stoked is steering 'The Mystery Machine’, I'm Old Man Mr. Withers getting left in the dust. They're the fun-loving bunch racing off in the future; I'm the cranky bastard shaking my fist, and screaming "meddling kids!" — while secretly hoping they drive off a cliff. Except maybe one.
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