Carnival of the Topless Mermaid

Marine Boy and Neptina

(Marine Boy images from Little Gems)

You may have noticed that the posting has been light the last couple of weeks. Sometimes I get busy with other stuff. It happens. One consequence of this is that I have completely neglected my duty to alert you to the latest appearance of the Carnival of the Godless. It came out last Sunday, so it’s starting to get ripe. It’s posted at State of Protest. It has a gob of articles, which is why I’ve been putting it off.

One of the articles in this carnival reminded me of my misspent youth. Oh, the hours, days, weeks, and months I frittered away reading books! I could have spent that time doing constructive things, like watching TV!

Actually, I watched a lot of TV, too. That’s how I discovered Japanese animation, although none of us knew what it was at the time. (But I caught on quicker than the rest.) But then, the freaking PTA came out with a list of excessively-violent cartoons, and Marine Boy was on it! As a result, my mother banned Marine Boy from then on. No! Not Marine Boy! That was my all-time favorite (that week anyway)!

Realization might be slowly dawning on you that this was one of the seminal events of my childhood (You would be wrong. It couldn’t have been, because I wasn’t producing seminal fluid at that age). Some self-righteous, self-appointed band of moralistic do-gooders that lived in some other state had decided that my entertainment choices were unacceptable to them, so they launched a campaign to take away my freedom.

I hate that.

Thinking back on that event, though, I see a striking difference from the fundies of today. One of the characters in this show was a mermaid named Neptina:

Neptina

Neptina, the mermaid. Hubba hubba!

As you can see, she was gloriously topless. Unfortunately, she suffered from the same disease afflicting all topless mermaids: Long hair. More specifically, long hair that has an annoying tendency to always float forward. Funny how that works. Maybe if she didn’t have that problem, I would have had my first seminal event a few years earlier than I did.

Nowadays, you can’t have topless mermaids even if they have long hair. I mean look at this:

An indecent mermaid

Seashells?! SEASHELLS?!! Now that’s obscene!

Animation has been damaged by these moralistic do-gooders. There’s nothing wrong with topless mermaids or topless hula dancers:

Hula Boop

If anything needs covering up, it’s her misshapen head!

Anyway, you couldn’t get away with that today. It’s quite a shame, because our friends Boop and Neptina here accurately portrayed how hula used to be danced and what mermaids are really like (in the myths, of course!).

And believe me. A cartoon about a boy who breathes underwater with the help of “oxy-gum” and fights crime with an electric boomerang and has a dolphin and psychic mermaid as friends is already starting to push the bounds of believability. Making the mermaid glue seashells to her tits would blow the last of its credibility.

So what I find fascinating about this PTA-led campaign against Marine Boy was that they didn’t go after the immoral topless tartar sauce who was always swimming off alone with Marine Boy. They went after the violence. Today, the fundies get upset about a two-second “wardrobe malfunction”. Hell, BJ gets upset that mannequins are showing too much plastic. The PTA being upset about the violence is actually kind of quaint!

I haven’t researched the issue in a long time, but as I recall, there is some evidence that repeated exposure to violence tends to make kids more violent. There is no evidence that being exposed to boobies has any harmful effect. What are the fundies worried about? That if eight-year-old Johnny is repeatedly exposed to shell-less animated mermaids that he’s going to want to rape Charlie the Tuna?

(And why is Charlie the Tuna always trying to get wrapped in a net and then sealed into a can? That’s one serious bondage fetish!)

So as you can see, there have always been people in this world who want to take away your right to enjoy something that they don’t even understand. At least back then, they kind of had a point. How much violence is too much? Now, all they worry about are titties. Well Marine Boy wasn’t afraid of titties! He was willing to look straight at them, for as long as it took for puberty to set in!

Go, Marine Boy, go! Apprehend Neptina and her dangerous bosom! Catch her with a net and tie her up! Bring your electric boomerang, too! The safe word is “seashell”.

Marine Boy

OK. It’s not exactly Akira. So sue me. I was nine!

(Oh, and BTW. In case you’re curious, my mother’s ban on Marine Boy only lasted a week. I got her to lift it the way all kids get things accomplished: By whining and pleading nonstop until the parents relent just to shut the little brat up.)

This was all a very long-winded way of telling you that I read a lot when I was young (when I wasn’t watching TV, that is).

My grandmother gave me a book at every Christmas, and a book at every birthday. One of those books was a gorgeous copy of Aesop’s Fables when I was seven or eight.

One of the highlights of the book was that it didn’t use the modern term “donkey”. It always used “ass”. This is really funny when you’re eight.

The reason I was thinking of asses was because of Oz Atheist. He wrote the article in the Carnival of the Godless that I wanted to mention. It’s titled “The Helicopter”. The basic premise of the article is that no matter how sucky your life is, “somewhere someone is having a worse day than you.”

This is exactly the same as the Aesop’s Fable “The Hares and the Frogs”. It’s interesting that I don’t remember the fable itself, but I’ve always remembered the moral.

Remembering that fable reminded me of my favorite Aesop’s Fable, “The Ass and His Burdens”. I’ve always liked that one, because it shows that no matter how sucky your life is, it can and will get worse!

As you can tell, I’ve always been an optimist.

But getting back to Oz Atheist and “The Helicopter”, he uses a phrase in there that has always disturbed me: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Obviously, I could never use this phrase, because I don’t believe that there is a God out there looking after people. Nevertheless, the principle behind that phrase is still quite instructive. Many years ago, I felt it would be a shame to let such a useful lesson go unlearnt just because it’s framed in mythology. I needed to rephrase it in a way that was consistent with a non-theistic view of the universe. When I see some random (or not) tragedy befalling somebody, I sometimes remind myself:

There but for the random distribution of matter and energy go I.

27 Responses to “Carnival of the Topless Mermaid”

  1. Jeff Eyges Says:

    I used to watch Marine Boy, too, along with Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Gigantor. They were part of the first wave of Japanese animation to hit these shores – the precursor of today’s anime.

    But I’m 52! I didn’t think you were that old!

  2. Ron Britton Says:

    But I’m 52! I didn’t think you were that old!

    Fortunately, I’m not that old!

    Don’t forget Tobor the 8th Man.

  3. OtherRob Says:

    Back when I was a kid in the early to mid 70s I spent a few summers at my grandparents house in Virginia. There was a station there that showed Marine Boy and Kimba the White Lion. I wanted to be Marine Boy! 😀

    I knew they weren’t “regular” cartoons, but I had no idea what they were. And none of my friends from Florida had heard of ’em. It really wasn’t until I got to college (in the mid 80s) that I learned about Japanese animation.

  4. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Tobor, I never heard of. From Wikipedia:

    8th Man had special energy cigarettes that he carried in a cigarette case on his belt. Bad guys who made the mistake of allowing Tobor to have a final smoke before attempting to execute the worn down 8th man were rudely surprised to find that he would return to full strength.

    Ah… the good old days when large corporations were still allowed to fund propaganda for children!

  5. Brian Says:

    None of my local stations carried Marine Boy, or any of the other initial anime imports. I was, however, banned by my Dad from watching the live-action “Spectreman” and “Ultraman” shows that aired after school. I managed to circumvent his embargo by going to my grandma’s a few houses down on the pretense of spending time with her just so I could watch it. Does that make me a dick? Probably.

    Even to this day, anime can be refreshingly blunt, reflecting the very different culture from whence it came. Sometimes is head-scratchingly weird, and that’s OK, and other times its in-your-face with scenes GI Joe or the Thundercats never imagined. Everything from character deaths to masturbation can be found in modern anime. Strangely, our protectors of moral virtue haven’t begun their crusade to rid us of this evil yet, so there’s still time to enjoy “Afro Samurai” and “Neon Genesis Evangelion” before they’re banished forever from our shores.

  6. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Strangely, our protectors of moral virtue haven’t begun their crusade to rid us of this evil yet

    That’s probably because they don’t understand it.

  7. Ron Britton Says:

    Jeff:

    I doubt the corporations had anything to do with 8th Man’s cigarettes. Smoking was considered OK back then (for adults), so it would not have stood out. Looking back, it’s hysterical. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the reasons the cartoon disappeared (the main ones being that it was black and white and crudely drawn).

    Don’t forget that Underdog was a drug addict. When he’d get exhausted, he’d say “The secret compartment of my ring I fill with an Underdog Super Energy Pill.” He’d then pop the pill, stars and dollar signs and other symbols would flash through his eyes like he was experiencing a major rush, then he’d vanquish the bad guys and save Sweet Polly Purebred. Yes, all your problems can be solved, and your sex life improved, with drug addiction!

    Then I got really pissed off when I watched them again in the late ’70s (Wikipedia says 1980s, but they’re wrong). Our fascist TV overlords chopped out the pill popping. You’d see Underdog exhausted. He’d say something about his ring. Then all of a sudden, he was having the rush. It made no sense whatsoever. It looked like all he had to do to regain his powers was think about his ring. Those bastard do-gooders are always ruining our cartoons!

  8. OtherRob Says:

    Ron, a lot of the old Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes cartoons have been similarly Bowlderized. Sad really….

  9. Brian Says:

    That’s probably because they don’t understand it.

    Jeff,

    I don’t frakking understand most of it myself, so your point is well-taken. I referenced Neon Genesis Evangelion above. I’ve watched the complete series three or four times now and I still have no fucking idea what its about except that it has giant robots that run amok and tear their enemies to pieces, which is always cool.

  10. Lilith Says:

    OMG! Someone has actually heard of ‘8th Man’. I loved Tobor (robot spelled backwards) when I was a kid! I also watched Kimba, Astro Boy, and Marine Boy.

    And I am that old 🙁

    It’s pathetic that so many people don’t have anything better to do with their lives than whine about cartoons and other kids’ fare. I watched all kinds of shite and it hasn’t turned me into a sex-crazed serial killer. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

  11. davros Says:

    I thought i was the only one to remember Tobor
    it was a favorite in the school yard way back then with Kimba, Marine boy astro boy etc
    and i am 50 myself
    watching Neon Genesis Evangelion again now

  12. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Don’t forget that Underdog was a drug addict. When he’d get exhausted, he’d say “The secret compartment of my ring I fill with an Underdog Super Energy Pill.”

    I’d forgotten all about that!

    I never see those on the cartoon network (not that I watch it, but I notice in passing what’s on when I scroll through the list on the guide channel)- Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, King Leonardo, etc. They seen to have been forgotten about.

    I just looked at Wikipedia; the characters were originally developed to sell General Mills cereals. I think I remember them being on cereal boxes. Apparently, Lorne Michaels owned them for a while as well.

    Come to think of it, I never see the Jay Ward cartoons – Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody & Sherman – any more, either. Or Beany & Cecil – do you kids even know who they were?

    Wonderful – stuff I saw 45 years ago, I can remember, but I can’t remember what I did this morning.

  13. ericsan Says:

    Sorry for once again straying slightly off-topic, but have you ever seen Moral Orel in Adult Swim? Worth a look.

  14. Parrotlover77 Says:

    My first anime experience was Robotech. Which had at least a slightly different storyline than its source material, Macross. I have never compared the two myself, but I remember reading on Wikipedia that it was altered somewhat so they could bundle three different animes into the single storyline of Robotech.

    But I digress. I was majorly hooked. I had no idea it was Japanese, nor cared. All I knew is that major characters got hurt and sometimes died. It blew my mind. Every other cartoon I watched, I always knew the outcome. With Robotech, I didn’t know!

    My mom called it my “soap opera” due to the unpredictable storyline. Although, that’s not entirely accurate since soaps are generally pretty predictable. lol. I think she was just impressed that it had a continuous storyline.

    So, I guess, in that sense, my mother “got it.” She wasn’t worried I would become a murderer because I saw some space battles.

    I don’t know of the studies you reference in your post, Ron. I have seen that children that grow up in violent households or around real violence (bad neighborhood) are “desensitized” to violence and are more likely to be violent. I have yet to see a study show a strong correlation between dramatic violence in tv, movies, video games, books, and other media leading to any type of desensitization or increased likelihood of violence.

    Anecdotally, I love violent video games and tv/movies. And, personally, I can’t even kill a spider! I scoop them up in a cup and take them outside. I had a mouse problem in an duplex I lived in (a big mouse problem). I just set up live traps and lived with it. I could never bring myself to spray or set out poison.

    ericsan – Moral Orel was The Awesome up until the final season. The final season was… slow. Still good, but not the laugh-a-minute the previous seasons were. It was actually pretty dark. Although, I did like the sickly sweet ending the series had, despite that. Somehow it made the series feel right again at the end.

  15. Ron Britton Says:

    Here’s a good overview of the subject. There seems to be a connection between exposure to violence and aggression, but it’s not well understood and there are serious methodology issues.

  16. J. A. Baker Says:

    Unfortunately, she suffered from the same disease afflicting all topless mermaids: Long hair. More specifically, long hair that has an annoying tendency to always float forward. Funny how that works.

    Ahh, Godiva Hair. Where would we be without it?

    Incidentally, my first exposure to anime was Miyazaki’s works – Kiki’s Delivery Service, Nausicaa, Porco Rosso, Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa (Castle in the Sky), that sort of thing. It’s probably the classic method of exposure to anime (outside of Voltron, Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Speed Racer).

  17. Parrotlover77 Says:

    A correlation does not a causation make!

    The wikipedia page is very open-ended with lots of points, counterpoints, countercounterpoints, and no consensus.

    I just have a hard time buying it as a true concern when there are much MUCH stronger indicators for violence, such as the cycle of abuse, economic/social despair, etc. Maybe there is something there, but it seems to be hard to differentiate it from background noise.

    But then again, there is this little thing on the teevee called the “off switch.” 😉

  18. OtherRob Says:

    PL77 says:

    Anecdotally, I love violent video games and tv/movies. And, personally, I can’t even kill a spider! I scoop them up in a cup and take them outside.

    You could be describing me. 🙂 I especially love the stylized hyper-violent shoot-’em-ups of John Woo’s Hong Kong work or that happy little movie Battle Royale. (But, perhaps surprisingly, I’m really not a fan of excess gore. Too squeamish.) And I, too, take spiders and other insects outside.

    Though, over the years, my wife’s violent hate of ants has turned me into an ant-killing machine. So I guess we can become desensitized…

  19. Ron Britton Says:

    But then again, there is this little thing on the teevee called the “off switch.”

    That was the problem! My mother wanted me to turn of Marine Boy!

    I do think it is the parents’ responsibility to regulate their kids’ TV watching. It just hurts to be on the receiving end.

  20. Parrotlover77 Says:

    It may seem like the end of the world when your parents won’t let you watch some random PG-13 flick, but now that I’m older, I can say I prefer that to fundies telling me I can’t watch the same flick for the rest of my life.

  21. Dana Hunter Says:

    Ron, you are amazing. Two killer quotes in one post. I can’t wait to spring “Making the mermaid glue seashells to her tits would blow the last of its credibility” on some poor unsuspecting fool.

    It makes me want to create a show about a topless mermaid with bobbed hair just to manufacture the opportunity. Too bad I can’t draw…

    Speaking of bowdlerizing cartoons, was anyone fortunate enough to catch the Rocko’s Modern Life episode where they visit Rocko’s uncle’s cattle ranch before the censors got to the milking machine scene? What cracked me up was that they cut out the part where Heifer (who’s a steer) gets hooked up to the milking machine and passes out from the pleasure, but they kept the end of the episode intact, where he has a Casablanca moment saying goodbye. Considering the typical child wouldn’t get any reference, they might as well have left it intact.

    Watching Looney Toons in my adult years was certainly a different experience than it was when I was a kid. Amazing, the stuff they got away with before the frothing fundies and the concern trolls had their way with ’em.

  22. Ron Britton Says:

    Speaking of bowdlerizing cartoons, was anyone fortunate enough to catch the Rocko’s Modern Life

    I love that show! You can buy a best-of DVD on Amazon. I haven’t finished watching them all, so I don’t know if they have the episode you mentioned.

    I remember there was an episode where the guys are wandering around a building and open a door and see some people spanking a monkey.

    Then there was the fast food restaurant they always went to, which was called “Chokey Chicken”. By the third season, they had renamed it to “Chunky Chicken”. I guess even censors eventually wise up.

  23. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Rocko was awesome! I didn’t know it was DVDed yet. I hope a complete collection comes out eventually.

  24. Lindsay Says:

    I too was a lover of Rocko’s Modern Life. Although some might call it tasteless, but I loved Beavis and Butthead. I remember the concern censors frothing at the mouth over that show…luckily my parent’s never paid much attention to that stuff and I got away with watching it. My dad would always make some comment like “that show is garbage” but it was never banned.

    Does anyone remember the show “You Can’t Do That on Television?” That was one of my favorites…In retrospect I loved how Nickleodeon shows back in the day displayed a passive-aggressive attitude towards parents. I desperately wanted to take my parents to the studio in Orlando to have them slimed.

  25. Ron Britton Says:

    Lindsay:

    Although some might call it tasteless, but I loved Beavis and Butthead.

    I viewed it as a rather vicious parody of kids of that generation, which is why I thought it was so funny.

    Does anyone remember the show “You Can’t Do That on Television?” … I loved how Nickleodeon shows back in the day displayed a passive-aggressive attitude towards parents.

    That’s probably why that show was popular. Kids feel powerless, so passive-aggressive is just about the only tactic they can use.

    This contrasts with kiddie shows from my generation, which were aggressive-aggressive. That’s why the PTA wanted to ban Marine Boy. I very much wanted my own electric boomerang. Nobody would have been safe from me!

    But getting back to the sense of powerlessness that kids have, it raises an interesting question. It’s a well-known fact that many kids get all goddy when they reach their mid-to-late teens. When I took psychology, one of the things we covered was how certain behaviors occur almost like clockwork around certain ages. One of these stages was how people become more serious in middle age. The example they gave was how Woody Allen’s movies went from funny to sucky when he reached his 40s.

    Another of the stages was how late teens and early 20s turn into Jesus freaks. They explained it as maturing and looking for meaning, etc. Sometimes psychologists just make stuff up.

    I’m wondering if part of the real explanation, at least among those kids who turn to it in mid-teenhood, is that sense of powerlessness they have. Most teens react to that powerlessness by rebelling and being all-around dicks. Religion gives them a sense of being on the inside with the (imaginary) guy who has all the real power in the world. That way they can be dicks for God.

  26. Bunche Says:

    I’m not even going to attempt to lie: I was totally in love with Neptina when I was little, and I think the fact that she was innocently topless definitely had something to do with it. And what I wouldn’t give for a complete run of this show with remastered prints. Come to think of it, not too long ago I saw footage from remastered versions that aired in Australia — where Marine Boy has a major cult following — and it looked incredible. Considering how many of the classic anime series have been “re-imagined” for a contemporary audience, often with every ounce of charm and fun utterly missing, I dread when Marine Boy gets the treatment…

  27. Ron Britton Says:

    Bunche:

    I don’t remember if I was in love with Neptina or not. I do recall that I considered it completely normal that she was topless. That’s just the way mermaids are (or used to be, anyway). I do remember wanting a pair of those boots of his. And the aqua gum. And the electric boomerang. And the dolphin.