Youth Culture Forever

gabe_johnson_simpsons-1 By Sam Bruns

There was a time when at a certain age people had to stop watching cartoons. It was a symbol of growing up. The day that you shut off "Tom and Jerry" or the "Looney Tunes," and turned on "M.A.S.H.," "Newhart," or—I shudder at the thought—the news. However, it didn’t take long for a few talented artists to resent that part of their young adulthood. Thus, the Simpson family was born.

Now I’d be lying if I said that "The Simpsons" was the first example of adult cartoons in the history of television. Back when Hanna-Barbera completely ruled Saturday morning television, they made "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home," an "All In the Family" style cartoon series that was short-lived and not very popular. Looking further back you see family-style comedies such as "The Flinstones" and "The Jetsons." Even early "Mickey Mouse" cartoons were enjoyed by children and adults alike when you look back at their acclaim.

What made shows like "The Simpsons" different is that they were designed primarily for a post-adolescent audience, while most of their cartoon predecessors were still writing with all ages in mind. It was 1989 when Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie—along with about one hundred other recurring characters—were given their own half-hour slot on Fox network.

Over the next decade they would not only break into the hearts and home television sets of millions of American families, but they would inspire a myriad of cartoons to come. Now, the show will see its end within the next television year, and though some will say its end is long overdue, it certainly makes you wonder what the program's lasting impact will be and what will happen to adult animation in the future.

"The Simpsons" began like any other family-centered sitcom: a dysfunctional family dealing with the typical problems while a wide array of kooky characters intervened throughout their lives. Even though they had the near limitless creative possibilities that animation can provide, creator Matt Groening continued to portray the show as a loose interpretation of his own family. The characters on the show are even named after his own immediate family.

Over time however, Groening would become one of the first to learn about the power that animation has as a social or political statement. In the Comedy Central documentary "Six Days to Air," "South Park" creator Trey Parker states that their show would not be possible if it were live action, and that an animated show's portrayal of controversial issues and graphic content would be rejected outside of a cartoon world. As Groening began to realize this, he began to push the show even more, tackling issues such as immigration, organized labor, marital infidelity and suicide. He also realized that with a team of talented voice actors and the freedom of animation, he could develop the shows supporting characters in a long term fashion that no one had really done before. An entire town of characters was created, which is probably what allowed the show to run as long as it did.

Within just a few years, there was an entire array of new cartoons that were unique and pushing the envelope. "Beavis and Butthead" portrayed the MTV generation with an irony that went over the head of most teen viewers. "South Park’s" uncanny ability to mock whatever was the height of pop culture at the time was not only impressive because of its wit, but because of how quickly they were able to pull it off. This has made it quite possibly the greatest satire of our lifetime. "The Boondocks" caricatured the relationship between blacks and whites with characters who are based in extreme stereotypes and characters who are extreme realities.

Even today we see boundaries being pushed. Shows like "Bob’s Burgers" explores what it's like for a relatively functional family to juggle money issues and chase dreams. "Rick and Morty" pushes the science fiction and family dysfunction even further and includes numerous themes of abandonment and unhappiness. "Archer" can almost be seen as a character study of social and mentally unhealthy individuals who just so happen to be kick ass spies, and "Adventure Time" does …something. I’m really not sure what it is yet, but its fun as hell. I could go on, but for your sake I will stop here.

As for the future of the industry, time will only tell. The sitcom is on its last legs and at times it even seems that reality shows are coming to their demise. Animation will be harder to kill, but that doesn’t mean its end is outside of the realm of possibilities. Regardless, smart writers and talented animators will continue to work together to solve the world's problems one chuckle and a few tears at a time. We find ourselves in a changing and increasingly unstable social and political climate, so there is bound to be some inspiration there, and who knows what it will be. We do know that these shows have become more than just cartoons to us. Through these cartoons, we have seen statements made, authorities challenged, and hypocrisies revealed. Our desire to keep being kids can’t be shown more clearly than through our need to keep watching cartoons. It's these cartoons that are inspiring us to grow up. This is our generation's medium to laugh at how stupid the world is, and the medium keeps on providing. For now, we simply say goodbye to "The Simpsons," the most recognizable television family in the United States.

The Self-Starting Generation

In this day and age, we often need more than just a college degree. We need years of experience in a job we haven't even gotten yet. The job market is not just competitive but an all-out war to see who can butter up their resumé more to get the job. It's a subject that the entertainment industry seemed to be ignoring, but is now growing in popularity in movies, television and in Chicago, the theater.

“Self Starters” is a new musical to hit the streets of Chicago. This musical has great comedic attributes while also talking–and singing–about something that is so real today: the harsh reality of possibly never getting a job in a career that goes with your degree. It also just so happens to star one of North Park's own: Jonathan Love. He was one of the play's producers as well. I caught up with Jonathan to talk a bit about the play.

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Hannah Thomas: What attracted you to this project so much that you became apart of it?

Jonathan Love: I was actually kind of pulled into it. I met Gretchen (one of the producers) through the improv scene here in Chicago. She told me that her and some of her friends had been working on a musical. That is how I met Danny and Andi (the other two producers). They needed someone to play the role of "John." I remember being absolutely enamored with the opening number, from that point on I was hooked.

H: What is your favorite memory from being a part of this project?

J: One particularly challenging process was making rewrites after we premiered the show in June. We took each scene and would play them out, eventually straying from the script and improvising as our characters, with certain goals in mind as far as what to explore. It led us to a lot of laughter and some pretty sweet new material.

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H: What is the biggest thing you've learned while being a part of this project?

J: We first got together to work on this project about three years ago. Three years. We actually tried launching this show twice before we did it in June. Both times we all got so busy with school and work and other projects that we didn't have the time to actually make any headway. Danny, Andi, and Gretchen are some of the most creative and driven people I know. They never once let these hiccups stop them from trying again. They never let this idea slip from their minds. It finally paid off when we were able to enter MCL's Premier Premieres festival for original musicals. All of a sudden we had a deadline. It was happening. After the response we got in June, we were able to ride that momentum into securing a run now. All because we didn't stop believing in what we had created.

H: How do you believe this play can relate to college students and fresh-out-of-college students today?

J: The job market is a lot harder to break into than it used to be. A lot of college graduates are moving back home and working any job they can get until they "start their career." I am not at all knocking the value of a liberal arts education. I certainly wouldn't be in school if I didn't think education was valuable. I think the ideas behind careers and vocations are changing, and a lot of young people are finding fulfillment doing what they want instead of doing what society expects them to do.

HT: This musical has a great scene where two of the characters are talking about getting real jobs with their degrees, but because of the experience the job requires, it's nearly impossible to have all the qualifications for that job. Some people have stooped to the level of lying on their resumés, like the clever men in this musical. Also, some people get a job that pays well, but it has nothing to do with their degree and they hate it. The only reason they stay at the job is to make ends meet and to live the lifestyle they choose.

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At the end of the musical they talk about becoming your own “self starter” as in starting your own business or finding how to make money while doing something you love. So, to fellow college students and recent graduates, don't give up looking for the right fit for you, whether it's for a degree or job. If you’ve tried the interview and resumé thing and haven’t found the right fit for you, make your own. Find people that love what you love and build a startup. Jonathan and his fellow producers received several no’s before they got their chance to put on their production. If someone tells you no,  just find a different way to fulfill your dream. 

By Hannah Thomas

Frightening Night for a Festival

By Sam Bruns

It’s the pumpkin onesie that your mom picked out for you at Target when you were less than a year old. It’s the first twist-tied plastic bag filled with Jolly Ranchers and Laffy Taffy that your teacher handed to every child in your Kindergarten class. It’s the first year that you’ve successfully convinced your parents you were responsible enough to go trick-or-treating without them, and the first year that you’ve successfully lied to them, reciting cleverly rehearsed plans to still peruse for candy, when in reality you would be at pitifully-costumed get-together in some kid named Dalton’s basement. It's when you’ll soon spend one day a year pretending to be scared by a seven-year-old’s zombie make up while you hand them a Twix Mini and for some of you, it's when you will pick out that pumpkin onesie, send a child to school in costume, know when you can trust them, and pretend to know they are telling the truth.

 

Halloween is one of those few holidays that has a vital role for all ages, but what about us? What do you do on Halloween night in your twenties? You could bounce from party to party, or bar to bar admiring the extravagant and costly ensembles of those around you. Yes, you could go to parties for a few hours, or you can go to one for seventy-two.

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"Party," not "concert," is the best possible word to describe Chicago’s Freaky Deaky festival. The three-stage, three-day celebration of all things dance drew a crowd of twenty-something party people who seem to embrace everything millennials hate about other millennials. At times it was a gathering of debauchery. Too many drugs and too much alcohol was dispersed among a sea of Native American headdresses, Osama Bin Laden masks, and other culturally offensive Halloween costumes. However, the weekend did have its redeeming qualities.

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Friday night came and with it, emergencies that removed high-card performers Action Bronson and Tchami. However, Halloween day itself brought the festival back into some sort of swing, but it was Sunday that truly brought the fest to a tolerable level. Hip-hop acts like GoldLink and Chicago native Vic Mensa were both crowd-engaging and soulful on a level that some could almost consider thought-provoking.

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Alternatively, acts like Mac Miller gave a trivially weak performance of already weak music. Established producers A-Trak and Oliver Heldens performed on a level that most festival DJs could learn from, and headliner Pretty Lights reminded an audience of anxious fans why he is just that: a headliner.

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Halloween is a time of year that is used to celebrate. To celebrate the cultural figures whose masks you purchase from a costume shop, to celebrate the friends that had to endure the same crappy high school as you, or to celebrate your children getting to experience the same thing that you did. In your twenties though, you don’t really get any of that. If your twenties are that mess of fear, excitement, hormones and substance that everyone says it is, then what better place to go for your Halloween then a music festival? It was dirty, crowded, and one of our cameras was stolen, but it was a perfect way for a twenty-year-old to spend their Halloween.