FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (17)
February 25, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite animated TV series.
THE JETSONS | HANNA & BARBERA | 1962–1963
I’m in a meeting, which is to say I’m in my living room smiling at colleagues who are arranged like a checkerboard across my laptop screen. I’ve been doing this a lot during the pandemic, and not just for work. There’s the Zoom happy hour with my running group, the Zoom knitting circle, the Zoom Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Upstairs, my 16-year-old daughter is muddling through tenth grade on Google Meet. My husband is in the kitchen, running a middle school using the same platform. Occasionally, I pick up my phone and WhatsApp our 18-year-old son, who is living in a small town in Norway. The picture quality is so good that I can see he’s in the early stages of experimenting with a mustache.
These experiences have become so ingrained in my daily life that they feel almost ordinary. But every so often, I’m struck by the techno-wizardry of it all. This is some serious Jetsons shit, I think.
That’s right, a cartoon that was already in reruns by the time I was born in 1964 still serves as my internal blueprint for what the future promises. The Jetsons ran for only one season — 24 episodes total. But its Atomic Age aesthetics and imaginings have had an outsize influence on how we envision advances in technology.
Watching those cartoons again, I’m struck not by the flying car that turns into a briefcase, but how the folks at Hanna-Barbera so accurately predicted the role that screens would come to play in our everyday lives. Jane catches up with her mom and friends on a television phone, something that was unimaginable during my rotary-dial childhood. Judy watches rock star Jet Screamer on a TV the size of a wall. George uses a nanny cam to remind Elroy that it’s time to come home from the playground. He reads his morning news on a screen, too; in one episode, it’s delivered on a square-shaped drive.
The Jetsons was a TV show — it made good business sense for the cartoon makers to promote their medium. Perhaps that’s why its creators didn’t put much thought into imaging the potential unintended consequences of so much screen time. George and Jane never fret over whether or not Elroy and Judy will become addicted to their devices. Jane doesn’t get so upset about how she looks on those phone calls that she schedules an appointment with a plastic surgeon. George doesn’t go in search of glasses to protect his eyes from damaging blue-light rays.
That’s not to say The Jetsons wasn’t concerned about the limits of technology. Remember George getting sucked under the treadmill when he was walking Astro? Or when he got caught in the shrinking machine at Spacely Space Sprockets? It’s just that when it came to screens, the future was bright and pleasingly backlit, with no cheesy Zoom backgrounds to be found.
FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: SERIES INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Miranda Mellis on STEVEN UNIVERSE | Luc Sante on TOP CAT | Peggy Nelson on PINK PANTHER | Charlie Mitchell on COWBOY BEBOP | Mimi Lipson on THE FLINTSTONES | Sam Glenn on BIG MOUTH | Mandy Keifetz on ROAD RUNNER | Ramona Lyons on SHE-RA | Holly Interlandi on DRAGON BALL Z | Max Glenn on ADVENTURE TIME | Joe Alterio on REN & STIMPY | Josh Glenn on SPEED RACER | Adam McGovern on KIMBA THE WHITE LION | Jonathan Pinchera on SAMURAI JACK | Lynn Peril on JONNY QUEST | Stephanie Burt on X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES and X-MEN: EVOLUTION | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on THE JETSONS | Adam Netburn on NARUTO | Madeline Ashby on AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER | Tom Nealon on TRANSFORMERS | Sara Ryan on BOJACK HORSEMAN | Michael Grasso on COSMIC CLOCK | Erin M. Routson on BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD | Deborah Wassertzug on DARIA | Lydia Millet on BOB’S BURGERS.
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