What I Learned from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
After watching the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series from beginning to end, I have learned that discovering new media, good or bad, can be more fun than I have realized. Perhaps the same can work for you!
Around the middle of September of 2010, when I was a junior in college, I began watching the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon. I began watching the show because of a somewhat shocking discovery of a DVD series formerly distributed by Shout! Factory and from several fan websites and hundreds of mashups on Youtube -- much to my surprise, given that I had been utterly unaware of the cult following for the show. My first exposure to the show was as a child in elementary school, catching bits and pieces on television before and after school, and at the time, I felt it was my social duty as a budding human being to detest this insane drivel -- so I did, with as much pretended passion as I could muster, all the while suppressing my tacit curiosity about the show: there seemed to be more to the show than for what I was giving it credit, but it would have been humiliating to express that, and I wasn’t nearly articulate enough to adequately defend myself if I came under criticism for it from family or peers. After all, this crap was made for preschool kids, right?
At the time I am writing this, I have watched 66 episodes, which amounts to about 24 continuous hours of time spent watching an American cartoon about a chili dog eating hedgehog in the ‘90s. If in September you were to tell me that in three months I would have spent that much time watching a cartoon, which as a child engendered embarrassment for me to even stand in the same room as a television playing it, I would have said you were crazy and should have a CAT scan performed to investigate the possibility that a brain tumor was perhaps pressing on the part of your brain which keeps you from becoming utterly retarded. But that would have been the socially awkward child in me speaking.
Yet here I am, able to tell you that the late Long John Baldry was a blues musician and that Jaleel White was the infamous Steve Urkel character from Family Matters. Apart from attributing my unexpected appreciation of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog to severe mental illness and repressed childhood trauma, it is rather difficult to account for this course of events.
But perhaps it’s not so strange that I ended up liking the show enough to watch all 66 episodes of it, buy all three DVD volumes, and spend enough time to learn the rudiments of a musical instrument on watching it. Perhaps the series isn’t bereft of merit. Perhaps with an open mind, it is possible to discern the value of a ‘90s cartoon about a blue hedgehog constantly foiling the diabolical plans of a fat mad scientist and his two dim-witted robotic minions. Perhaps there really is some redeeming quality to this crap. Or maybe I could benefit from a hefty dosage of ibuprofen after all – but I’m going to go with the thesis that there is a point to all this stuff, that there is a reason I love it, and as long as I allow myself to love it, it’s more fun than I would have ever guessed. There’s something about this show that keeps it from being buried irredeemably under its flaws and places it in one of the few warm places in the hollow chambers of my cold heart.
There’s a charm about Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog I quietly detected as a child, and after watching it, I can better understand what it is that gave it the staying power of 65 TV episodes, a Christmas special, several Sonic TV series that followed and gave it the appeal to prompt me to watch so damn much of it. The series’ charm is the charm of having enough subtlety and enough unexpected twists to stay interesting, even while sticking to a fairly predictable formula. There’s no surprise when the heroes save the day, and no episode ends unhappily. Nevertheless, I find myself watching the show to complete the formula, to see what exactly happens, even if I know how it will ultimately end. It’s like solving a mathematical equation that I know is balanced or watching a movie I’ve already seen: I feel the need to finish it even if I know, in some way, what will happen; I just need the details.
Let me be clear about this: I didn’t expect to enjoy the show. Despite my suspicion there was more to it than what I thought of it as a child; I approached the show with my usually high level of cynicism and skepticism. But I kept an open mind, and I was rewarded with an enjoyable experience. Being the brooding and introspective fellow that I am, I gave a great deal of thought to this unexpected turn of events, and I realized some key lessons that I learned about how to enjoy yourself when encountering new media, like a new show or film.
The following are what I have come to believe is the key to having a good time with new stuff. It’s how I fell in love with Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, and maybe it can work for you!
#1: Do not mistake your preferences for an objective measure of quality.
Remember that what you like is not necessarily reflective of the media’s objective quality. In fact, I would argue that media does not have objective, quantifiable goodness or badness; there are merely opinions and responses. If some media appeals to one person or group and not to you, it can be difficult to understand what the hell they see in it. Believe me, I have this trouble with fans of the Twilight series all the time! But if you accept the fact that people can feel differently about different things, you come to realize that nothing is good or bad in any real sense. This is not to say, however, that you should not allow yourself to get riled up about media. If you didn’t, things would get quite boring, now wouldn’t they?
#2: Remember that nothing is perfect, even if you love it.
This is closely related to #1. It is great to love your favorite shows, books, movies, and music and go on rants about how heavenly they are, but never - EVER - let that love blind you from the flaws of the media. By flaws, I mean elements of the media which prevent it from fulfilling its intention: animation flubs, poor sound quality, crappy editing, lousy voice acting, and dialogue that sounds like it was written by a first grader with a blood clot in the frontal lobe of his brain. But it’s okay to love something that isn’t perfect in every way. In fact, things, again, would be rather boring if what you loved were perfect. And this brings us to #3!
#3: Love the good; laugh at the bad.
While I think it’s great to be passionate about the things that work in your favorite media and also great to get riled about the flaws in media you don’t like, it’s important to be able to relax and remember that you’re probably not talking about something which will threaten the lives of millions or cause the bath-salts epidemic to worsen…probably.
At the end of the day, you should be able lay in bed and to feel good about the way that Mark Hamill played The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, and you should be able to say to yourself, “My God, I hate the voice of Scratch, but dagnabbit, I will be able to sleep tonight without having nightmares of a robot chicken saying, 'And now that you're fluffed and dried.'" That is, when exposed to train wrecks such as the Dragon Ball movie, you ought to be able to laugh at how horrendous they are – and this goes for moments of gracelessness in your favorite media as well. When characters are off-model in your favorite animation or when otherwise good actors deliver their lines as if they have suddenly lost several points of IQ, admit that it’s bad and laugh at it. Letting you admit that things are not perhaps the way they should be is much healthier – and much funnier – than denying it and trying to make excuses for it. And this is why you should…
#4: Be willing to laugh at yourself.
Leave behind your strict, canonical standards and live a little. Letting you enjoy things that aren’t perfect is much more fun than being stuck up about them.
A good deal of the animation in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog falls short of expectations, even by ‘90s standards, and it’s no secret that much of the dialogue can be stilted and formulaic. In spite of these flaws, I retain my appreciation for the show. I laugh at how many times the characters get injured in colorful ways and how the morals at the end range from fairly useful to downright pointless. It has gotten to the point where I enjoy seeing the trippy animation; it’s like being wrapped in a security blanket – only the security blanket is a spiky blue hedgehog.
CONCLUSION!!! (finally) (See what I did there? ^_^)
My point is that you should strike a balance between accepting the flaws of your favorite things and loving them madly; these things are not incompatible. Don’t take things too seriously, and you will do just fine. Love what you love, and don’t get too hung up on trying to defend it from all criticism. It is my suspicion that, at worst, not practicing the suggestions I’ve outlined here can lead to elitism and xenophobia. At best, however, you can have a damn good time not taking things too seriously, lying back and enjoying the way Dr. Robotnik says something.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is copyrighted and belongs to DiC and Cookie Jar.
Watch the Nostalgia Critic's review here.
You can purchase the DVD series here.
Be sure to check out the first episode rushes and the full pitch pilot!