The ‘Super Friends’ Were Always ‘Woke.’ It’s Conservative Hearts That Got Small.

Media/Entertainment

Ted Cruz had a busy weekend attacking Big Bird because the fictional character promoted childhood vaccination against COVID-19. He also found time to drag the “Super Friends." Cruz is a sitting GOP senator from Texas, but he perhaps correctly presumes his primary job responsibility is picking fights in the culture war.

So, here's what this full-grown man with a half-grown beard tweeted:

Twitter

Yes, fellow Gen-Xer Ted Cruz fondly recalls the incredibly un-woke "Super Friends" cartoon that aired on Saturday mornings. This was before VCRs (at least in my house). You had to set an alarm. Your parents' one rule was that you couldn't wake them up. Otherwise, watch that crap until your eyes bleed.


Of course, Cruz is lying about the content of the "Super Friends," or maybe he's just never actually seen the show or any cartoon for that matter. The first season of the show is infamously “woke," before conservatives co-opted that term to describe everything they oppose, like civic responsibility and basic empathy. The Justice League doesn't fight any actual supervillains. They mostly deal with well-meaning but misguided scientists, and the heroes don't shoot the bad guys or drop them into erupting volcanoes. They almost always reason with them and convince them to see the error of their ways. Yes, this is during the Nixon administration.

One villain, Professor Baffles, believed looking critically at our history only corrupted mankind. The Super Friends taught him that you have to learn from history to build a better future. “Dr. Pelagian's War" is an overtly anti-pollution episode, and that theme is explored further in “Too Hot to Handle," where an alien tries to make Earth more like his home planet, which his people have made uninhabitable. Yes, this is a climate change episode. And in "The Balloon People," an alien refugee family comes to Earth to escape their polluted planet. They're undocumented, but the Super Friends don't separate them and lock up the kids.

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The "Super Friends" would later openly and somewhat clumsily promote diversity and inclusion with team members who aren't white. There was Native American Apache Chief, Hispanic El Dorado, Japanese Samurai, and Black Vulcan, who was Black but not a Vulcan. You can imagine what assholes would've said about this if the internet had existed.

Republicans want to believe that before Barack Obama was elected and made critical race theory the sharia law of the land, the only children's programming was "Ayn Rand's Playhouse." But the world hasn't changed that much. It's Republicans who decided to make their entire platform almost identical to the Legion of Doom's charter.

Even real American heroes G.I. Joe promoted child safety in their “knowing's half the battle" public service announcements. They'd recommend talking through your issues instead of fighting (although that kind of contradicted the past half hour), and even eating fruits and vegetables instead of candy. You'll recall how conservatives freaked out when Michelle Obama suggested that maybe kids shouldn't live on a diet of cookies, ice cream, and soda.

Fox News had a meltdown last week because the national KinderCare Learning Centers chain encourages children not to become sociopaths. Here's what Fox considers “woke issues":

Whether your child is six weeks old or in the sixth grade, they're ready to learn how to practice empathy, compassion, and understanding ... It's never too early to learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Republican activists have admitted that their full-press assault against critical race theory is intended to eventually include “diversity, equity, and inclusion." Those are just euphemisms for “white guilt," we guess. The Super Friends obviously isn't a meritocracy if Black Vulcan's a member but the white male Green Arrow was cancelled.

I'll leave you now with some “woke" lessons from my personal favorite 1980s series “Thundercats." Cruz somehow wound up identifying with all the villains.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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