Everyday after school, my brother and I used to plonk ourselves in front of our once “futuristic” Mitsubishi box-television ready for an afternoon of adventures. These were the good ol’ nineties, when everything seemed so much simpler. We weren’t judged by what technological gadgets we had, nor were we ridiculed for not wearing the most skimpiest clothing in the schoolyard. We were kids, who genuinely acted like kids. But, to my brother and I, our television set was our saviour; we worshipped it religiously. It held the answers to our wildest questions.
As an excited 5-year-old in 1998, I embarked on my way to school expecting a spell bounding adventure. I thought the magic school bus would take us on daily adventures to different universes, or maybe we’d find out that we’re superheroes and be taught special tricks by our specially trained teachers. These thoughts were endless, yet continued throughout my whole primary school life. I expected to reach a certain age – maybe 8 or 9? – and be met by some extraterrestrial being who’d guide me through ways in saving the planet. From an adolescent point of view, such thoughts are terribly unrealistic, yet they epitomise the potential I had at such a young age to ‘invent’ situations. My imaginative thoughts were virtually endless, and despite a few knock backs, I still had faith in them.
I still do, actually.
From the moment I was born, the television screen opened up a world of adventure and happiness. A place where I could empathise with my favourite characters; a place where I belonged. Whether it was with Barney the Dinosaur or with Arthur and D.W, I accepted them all with open-arms. As soon as the television was switched on, I embraced all the different images I saw, enabling my empathetic ways to develop and blossom. I became the character, which inevitably opened my eyes to the different personalities of the people around me. Some were very good, others not so much, yet I accepted each and every one of them, knowing that everybody is born equal, and should be treated equal, too.
Even though I despised the villain in my favourite films and television shows, there was usually a point where the character’s more vulnerable side was exposed.
However, I was always terribly frightened of Cruella de Vil.
“How could she do that to all those beautiful puppies?” I would ask my mother, horrified.
“That’s how some people are. We’ve just got to accept it and move on,” she’d reply with open eyes.
As I grew a bit older and reached about 10, I started viewing the 5:30 shows on ABC. These shows were designed for tweens/teens, which made me feel so much more independent and mature. They generally focussed on 12-15 year-olds dealing with the struggles of adolescence in an entirely different environment to my own. Some days I’d watch Degrassi: The Next Generation or The Worst Witch, yet I always held a soft spot for Australian shows. For example, there was a show named Thunderstone which focussed on a boy who unlocks the secret of time travel. I identified myself with the protagonist and imagined going on all these important missions, in order to save the world.
The majority of the time, I loved watching Australian shows that reflected a lifestyle similar to mine. They made me feel important. I found these entertaining as you didn’t need a time machine or special power to embark on the missions shown in these shows. Whether it was trying to look good in front of your next-door-neighbour or desperately trying to balance school-work with friendships — these shows resembled ordinary life. Two shows that portrayed life in an entertaining and rather-ordinary way were The Wayne Manifesto and Round the Twist. Both shows encapsulated the Australian lifestyle from the point of view of children and adolescents, much like myself.
The Wayne Manifesto, for example, centred around the life of 12-year-old Wayne Wilson, portraying the world both as the way he would like it and the way it really was. This show blew my mind. I felt a strange sense of acceptance, in a weird sort of way. Being an outsider at my school, much like Wayne, I saw him as a friend and inspiration. Despite his ‘lame’ ways, I always considered him so ‘cool’. His imagination resembled mine, and I found myself imagining life in similar ways to him.
On the other hand, Round the Twist had a self-contained plot with a recurring theme, usually an object or character. The Twist family lived in a light house where “strange things happen”. Despite the three Twist children experiencing normal Australian life, they also happened to encounter very weird things at their home. To international readers, this may sound like a “scary kids show,” yet it was outrageously funny. Each character had their own unique set of interests, which made them so relatable. I used to envisage myself living in a lighthouse with my family, and experiencing similar situations portrayed in the show.
Obviously, there were many other shows that touched me – PB & J Otter, Out There, Jeopardy, The Saddle Club, Ocean Girl, Mr Squiggle, Lil’ Elvis and the Truckstoppers, Blinky Bill, Silversun, The Sleepover Club, The Powerpuff Girls, Cheez Tv and the list could go on forever.
I’ve always had a wild imagination. Many consider that a good thing, others not so much, yet I love it. These shows have had an enormous impact on my life choices and generally, my day-to-day routine. I know the consequences of my actions, and understand that nobody is perfect.
Yes, my parent’s did promote such beliefs, yet I saw them in action in these wonderful television shows. I wasn’t constantly being lectured about what’s considered “good” or “bad,” I endeavoured to behave in the ways that were considered appropriate in these shows. Considering these were children’s shows, the actions shown were always supported by whether it was the right or wrong decision. Maybe somebody was offered alcohol, despite being underaged. The consequences of their actions come back to bite them in the bum, and that’s visually represented on the screen for all to see. Sociologically, I was exposed to societal expectations and beliefs that still play an influential role in my life, today.
If it weren’t for these shows, my modes of expression would be dreadfully limited.
Actually, I’m definite I wouldn’t be writing this post for all to see.
R.I.P Mitsubishi Television-Set. You will be missed.