I seek meaning in the artworks I sample. Believe me, I really want to understand this show. It has a nice visual style, I'll give it that. But it contains few funny jokes and memorable stories; in fact, some of the episodes just rip off other media (Road Rash and Mock 5 come to mind). On top of that, the show's atmosphere is just unpleasant to sit through. I'll be generous and say 98% of the episodes seem tailored specifically to torture Dexter for the purpose of torture. Mean-spiritedness works best when it happens to those who deserve it. While I can buy the idea that Dexter can cause some of his own misery, most of the time that clearly isn't the case. I want to understand, but whoever's to blame for these problems hasn't (haven't) made it easy.
Peanuts is considered the uber-definition of optimism and persistence in trying circumstances, even if theirs was blind. Also, while I'm one of the few who genuinely dislikes Ren & Stimpy (and not JUST the Adult Party episodes), it did take the dynamic of straight-up person and wiseacre and deconstructed it (mostly the straight-up half). So I guess I can respect them for those things.
Now what exactly am I supposed to get out of THIS show? I mean, for a while I figured it was trying to strike some kind of balance between the simplicity of Peanuts and the uber-absurdity of Ren & Stimpy. But then, I could make the same case for other 1990s programs like CatDog, Angry Beavers, Rugrats, Darkwing Duck, Aladdin, Quack Pack, Bonkers, Hercules, and 101 Dalmations. Let's ignore the Monkey and Justice Friends segments, post-Ego Trip episodes (the ones Genndy Tartakovsky mostly had no hand in) and the whole persistence angle for a moment. What exactly does Dexter's Lab do that wasn't already done by those other series, or anything that came later? What does Dexter's Lab accomplish that those shows couldn't? How exactly did it put Cartoon Network on the map? (And yes, I’m well aware that these examples were made for children. Okay, whatever. But target audience is no excuse for insulting viewer intelligence.)
Hello. I have seen you around DA a lot and thought I would comment.
I notice that you want to have a legitimate discussion of Dexter’s Laboratory, which is fine. What is NOT fine is spamming random fanart and group pages with your borderline condescending wall-o-text rant. This is inappropriate because people post their art expecting people to a) comment on the picture itself or b) give them constructive critique. A rant on the merit of the cartoon that they have based their work on is either going to be ignored or illicit some groans and angry replies. Obviously, this is not the kind of debate that you are looking for. Groups are the same way- coming into a space where people go to talk about a mutual interest and making comments like this is not going to give you the debate that you want, it’s going to give you defensive replies or hidden comments. On top of that, it’s just rude to go in and make disparaging comments about something people like if they have not explicitly asked for a debate.
If you legitimately want to have this discussion, post the comment that you always make in a journal. People who actually are willing to debate will come to you.
I realize that tone is difficult to master when writing, and that it is easy to forget that the people you talk to online are actually people. As a result, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are not trying to be rude.
As for the comment itself, you seem to mention three main issues that you have with Dexter’s Lab: The treatment of Dexter, the use of parody, and the genuine merit and influence of the show. I will address each individually below.
The Treatment of Dexter: Schadenfreude type humor and black comedy in cartoons are by no means new phenomena. For example, just look at Loony Toons. Characters who may or may not deserve it are defeated and tortured at every turn. Just look at Wile E. Coyote- the poor bastard just wanted to eat! Dexter’s constant mistreatment could also fall under the category of black comedy in some cases. This, too is rather common in older cartoons. I understand that this kind of humor may rub you the wrong way- there is no such thing as a joke that is universally funny. I do, however, find the fact that you use your personal opinion on the show’s humor as some kind of litmus test for how objectively “good” it is to be pretty odd.
The Use of Parody: The episodes that you are calling “rip-offs” are actually pop-culture parodies. This is yet another phenomenon that is not new in the slightest. Ever seen the Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc”? It shamelessly parodies Wagner’s operas while keeping Bugs Bunny and co. in character. “Mock 5” does exactly the same thing. Dexter and the rest of the cast are still in character- we just get to see them in a parody situation. It is also worth noting that the episode doesn’t copy any “Speed Racer” episode verbatim. It does, however, take the most humorous qualities of it (cheeseball dialogue, overuse of “ooooooh”, and massive plot holes) and combine them to make a recognizable parody. This is not “ripping off”, it is a very conscious effort to make a sort of pop-culture in-joke.
The Show’s Merit: Dexter’s Laboratory was one of the first Cartoon Network Original cartoons to achieve success. In fact, the success of it and its cartoon contemporaries are THE REASON why Cartoon Network was ever “put on the map”. Cartoon Network was part of a revival of studio cartoons during the mid to late 1990s, and Dexter’s Laboratory was one of these new studio cartoons.
Dexter’s Laboratory is unique because it combined screwball science fiction, pop culture references, intelligent jokes that appealed to adults as well as children, and sitcom elements. Very few shows before it had used these elements together.
As a result of the success and unique appeal of Dexter’s Laboratory, many “follow the leader” shows such as Jimmy Neutron and Johnny Test were spawned.
Dexter’s Lab is by no means perfect or 100% original all of the time, but you cannot deny that is has both merit and influence.
Wow, I can’t believe I wrote a massive essay on a children’s’ cartoon.