Most young people are not paying attention to the current events in the Ukraine, or the unrest in Venezuela, or the posturing of China against Japan. They don’t know that President Obama’s administration is attempting to use the FCC to control news content, or that the IRS has been involved in corrupt activity. The sum of all these events are clashing with the teachings that young people are getting from government schools leaving them unsure who to trust or what to believe. So they aren’t participating, and are focused on the events of pop culture. They are not reading books, going to Tea Party rallies, or even searching for a way to save the world. They just want to get by and enjoy their life to some small degree. This has opened up the entertainment market to an explosion of comic book sales, movies, and fantasy driven entertainment. The world of fantasy is far better, and easier to understand than the deceitful world of the present—so it is there where many of the contemporary minds of youth reside.
When I was a kid the very first cartoon I enjoyed watching was Popeye the Sailor, followed closely by Speed Racer. Over the years, I enjoyed Starblazers, Spiderman, Looney Toons, and Godzilla as some of my favorites and I took the messages of those simple stories into my adult life unfiltered. To this day the thing I enjoy doing most is the “right thing.” I learned this from Popeye at age 3 and still remember vividly those early cartoon moments. Those cartoons had tremendous influence and many people my age and younger share this enthusiasm with me. Not everyone has preserved their love of those early cartoons to the extent that I have, but most people hold reverence for the cartoons of their youth. These cartoons have the power to either build up a mind or destroy it. For instance, Bevis and Butthead on MTV did a great deal to destroy culture while the same animator tried to redeem himself with the Fox cartoon King of the Hill. Currently Family Guy, the Simpsons, and American Dad—all laced with deep progressive philosophy–are the current trend which is writing upon the minds of countless young people the thought processes they will carry throughout their life. Teachers want to believe that they are what shape a child’s mind, and politicians caress themselves hoping that Common Core will unite the nation’s children to a government-run message of productivity. But in reality, cartoons are shaping young people and giving them the foundation thoughts which take them into adulthood.
This is why I am currently ecstatic over the new Disney production of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series coming to the Disney XD channel this fall. Shown within the videos on these pages are the main characters and the content. I think the show will be unlike anything ever done on television since Disney produced Zorro, and Davy Crockett for a generation who now attends Tea Party rallies. When I talk to Tea Party types and really get down to the nitty-gritty with them what they want is justice as defined for them by the temperament created by those old shows from the 50s and 60s. It’s more complicated than that of course, but the foundations of their thoughts are rooted in the values of those old Disney productions–having a mom and a dad at the dinner table with them, and church on Sundays. They find the behavior of the current political trend reprehensible, and this leads to a desire for rebellion. This is the primary cause of most discontent discourse throughout the world—specifically in the Ukraine, in Syria, even on college campuses.
Star Wars: Rebels has the ability to explore the nature of rebellion without it being explicitly investigated by earthly reference. The creators at Lucasfilm have the ability to explore the deep anxieties of the individual spirit to crave freedom without being political. They don’t have to deal with race relations, political parties, economic philosophy, or any polarizing trait—they can simply tell the story of how a rebellion formed to overthrow an empire. It’s a deep human craving that transcends party politics and because of that, I think this is the most important story that will be told in my life time. I’m sure it will be fun, and entertaining, but more than that—it is giving to a new generation of young people a sense of value—a value that is not presently available to them.
I think often about Popeye the Sailor and some of his messages which were “I am what I am and that’s all that I am,” and Wimpy’s statements about, “I’ll pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” These basic values I have taken with me throughout my life. Wimpy’s comments taught me a great deal about debt, while Popeye was always very proud of who he was—flaws and all. I know how much those simple stories meant to me, and I can only imagine how much impact the new Star Wars: Rebels will have on a new generation of young people. The previous Star Wars cartoon; The Clone Wars on The Cartoon Network after five seasons is just now starting to have an impact on a very skeptical viewing audience. I watched every single episode many times. My wife and I watch them together on Saturday mornings and love them dearly. But in many ways, Rebels will be a lot better. Clone Wars for me always felt like a modern commentary on our current situation. I’m sure the film makers had no intention of doing such a thing—these things have happened over human history many times and aren’t specific to our time. But there is always a little sadness in knowing that all the heroics performed in Clone Wars will result in the creation of the Empire. In Rebels, the Empire is already in control. Now it is up to heroes to save their society from the control of tyrants and that is an important distinction.
Millions of young people are going to watch Star Wars: Rebels and it will become their favorite television show. They will grow up and take those messages, and values with them into their adult lives just as modern-day older people revere the good ol’ days of Disney shows like Davey Crockett and Zorro. As simple as that sounds, it really is the foundation principles behind most thought processes. Just as people from my generation think differently because of the static patterns given to them from their entertainment culture—particularly cartoons, new cartoons like Star Wars: Rebels will have a far greater impact. I would say that it is the most important contemporary work of art currently being done anywhere in the world because it brings with it through story value.
For many, they will dismiss Star Wars: Rebels as just another cartoon designed to sell action figures at Target and Wal-Mart. But it’s more than that, and will show the real impact on television this fall. Needless to say I’m excited about it because there will be dramatic change ushered in behind this simple cartoon. With the distribution power of Disney, they are uniquely positioned to do great good in the world and Rebels is just the start. When George Lucas sat down to close the Star Wars deal at the Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios in Florida he knew what he was doing. His Skywalker Ranch had been set up specifically for the purpose of creating such wonderful shows like Star Wars: Rebels. Lucas knows that education is the most important thing you can give young people, and he knows that public education is failing. That’s why he has spent a considerable amount of his fortune on education. Much of that money has been wasted on the current education system, like tossing a cup of water into the ocean and expecting to see the waters rise in proportion. Real education comes from foundation patterns, and in our society, cartoons are the origin. This is why millions of people flock to Disney World to retouch the stories of their youth and bring renewed appreciation to lives otherwise plagued by cynicism. Star Wars: Rebels will mean a great deal to a large number of young and old minds, and the sum of that value will be a benefit to us all.