(TW: Really crummy ableist language)
Going back over our many visits to the IMDD, we will find one theme recurring, nostalgia, a yearning on the part of the meme creator or sharer for the past. Usually the nostalgia is for an idealized past that was simpler, or more enlightened, or more religious or patriotic. We often long for a return to the era we remember from our childhood, and that is completely understandable. Childhood is a simpler time in many respects. Children (especially white middle class US American children) don’t have to worry about recessions or wars or race relations or the ozone layer. In fact as parents we often work very hard to protect our children from the less savory elements of living in an often complex and dangerous world. We protect their “innocence” to an often obsessive degree. We’ll get deeper into that subject at a later time, but I just wanted to lay the groundwork because today’s meme, when looked at through the filter of nostalgia, simply baffles me.
“The 90’s: You didn’t need to tell kids not to do this shit at home. They weren’t complete retards back then.”
First of all, if you see this particular version of this meme (I found a couple of others with small differences,) then consider unfriending or blocking them or both. Because whoever created this meme is the kind of person who casually uses “retarded” as a slur and that makes them a scumbag and you don’t need to be friends with scumbags, do you? Perhaps the meme writer is nostalgic for a time when it was completely OK to use “retarded” when you meant “stupid” or “idiotic”. But it’s the 21st century and we’ve certainly grown up enough to realize how awful it is to use a slur thrown at developmentally disabled people as a thoughtless insult in casual conversation. Right? (I know the answer to that question btw, and it’s unfortunately no.)
But the casual ableism isn’t the worst thing about this meme, amazingly. The worst thing about this meme is that the author doesn’t seem to remember the 90’s at all! Or any other period of modern US history at that. But the 90’s? The Darwin Awards began cataloging the most interesting ways people had removed themselves from the gene pool way back in 1985. America’s Funniest Home Video’s has been showing us horrible things happening to peoples ‘nards since 1989. Tosh.0 merely carries the AFV torch boldly into the horrible wasteland of our dystopic future. Then there’s the king of them all, Jackass, which debuted in 2000, but has it’s roots in 90’s skateboard culture, an entire world where “try this at home” was the law of the land. The fact of the matter is that young Americans have been “doing this shit at home” for all of modern time. As we examined in an earlier round of the Derby, the very sport of Demolition Derby can be traced back to bored teenagers with too many old Model T’s lying around. The Mythbusters signature admonition to “not try this at home” is there because history has shown that it is a necessity.
But even if we clean up the language and remove the specific decade, the meme still baffles me because it has quite literally set the bar as low as one can imagine. “Back in my day, people weren’t COMPLETE IDIOTS…Umm Yay?” Not the Greatest Generation, but the Least Awful Generation is our rallying cry! We were smarter than Wile E. Coyote back in our day, Huzzah!!
Here’s the thing. Kids are curious and adventurous little critters. Given free reign they are likely to do all sorts of stupid shit simply to alleviate boredom. When the Mythbusters tell us to be careful, it’s because they know from experience how dangerous their stunts and tricks are, above and beyond the stunts and tricks your kids are likely to come up with all on their own! So let’s not dilute that message by pretending there was some golden age when kids weren’t emergency room visits waiting to happen, because that period never existed.
Optional Musical Accompaniment to this post.
Featured Image Credit: Lebanon County Fair, Lebanon CT
Meme Image Credit: Warner Brothers