Ren and Stimpy: not til I’m older

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It has been a long time since I thought about Ren and Stimpy but today of all days I can relate this to a topic of media influencing audience restrictions, with personal experience. Created in 1991 by John Kricfalusi and first aired on Nickelodeon, Ren and Stimpy created a number of dilemmas around what a children’s cartoon should be and how the humor that surrounds Ren and Stimpy is shown to be suitable for a mature audience.

Starring Ren a Chihuahua who is temperamental and psychotic and Stimpy a cat who lacks any means of intelligence and rationale, who constantly provokes Ren to go on one of his rampages. Ren and Stimpy highlight the humor of boogers, fart jokes and homophobia with the constant means of brown humor to move the dialogue along and tell a story.

Such as in the episode “I was a Teenage Stimpy”, which highlighted the aspects of going through puberty and masturbation. It captures the changes the body will go through and the quizzical moments that would arise throughout the transition – mood swings, change of voice, pimples and sensitivity.

For me the humor involved in Ren and Stimpy was deemed inappropriate by my parents and seen as not worth watching. Instead of watching what my parents called “toilet humour” they deemed it was better for me to watch cartoons that provided “education in a creative way” such as The Magic School Bus that would use mathematics and general problem solving to move the story along.

The restrictions my parents put on my television watching impacted on what I was allowed to do and understand. When it came to being a child and watching humor seemed to be aimed at young adults the appropriateness of my parents actions can be understood. Though the actual intention of my parents will never be known and even the humor that is on Ren and Stimpy could go straight over my head.  The use of media (Ren and Stimpy) on an audience (parents and myself) impacted the values and qualities my parents wanted to instil on me.

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