Monday, September 12, 2011

Terrifying Moments in Children's Television: Bravestarr

(photo @ wikipedia.org)



Bravestarr was a space western cartoon that aired in the late 1980's.  For those of you that are having trouble placing your finger on what a 'space western' is, it's basically a show with all the themes of a western (wild frontier, conquering wilderness, gun fights, cowboys, ridiculous/awesome hats, etc.), but in the back drop of outer space.  This allows for the presence of many different 'western' themed landscapes, different alien races...and characters like Marshall Bravestarr and his trusty horse, Thirty Thirty.


                                                                                wikipedia
Bravestarr is the one on the left


Marshall Bravestarr was a Native America space marshal on a planet known as 'New Texas.'  Bravestarr had the ability to call upon different spirit animals at any given point to aid him in his task of bringing order to the planet.  These powers were:

Ears of the Wolf--super hearing (so he can tell who has been talking about him behind his back)
Eyes of the Hawk--enhanced sight plus aerial view of his surroundings (so he could find those lousy backstabbers).
Speed of the Puma--super speed (so he can run down anyone that had betrayed him)
Strength of the Bear--super strength (so he can beat the crap out of all his haters)



                                                    nookdeejung
He also tried to use 'Disposition of the Wallaby,' 
but that made him far too vulnerable and cuddly



While these powers are totally awesome and would most likely cause anyone else to develop a severe God complex, Bravestarr was very humble and careful with them.  His first instinct in most situations was to find a non violent solution.

Fortunately for the legions of 8-13 year old boys that were watching the show, there was Thirty Thirty.  He was a horse (a "techno horse" according to the show) that could go from running on all 4s to walking on two legs...and he could talk.  As if that wasn't cool enough, he also carried a high powered rifle that he referred to as "Sara Jane."  Thirty Thirty constantly pressed Bravestarr to take more decisive (i.e. violent) action when it came to dealing with criminals.


                                                              animatedviews.com
  Pictured:  Pure Awesomeness




Like most cartoons from the 80's, each episode of Bravestarr had some type of moral lesson that the main characters tried to impart to the viewer at the end of each episode (once they were done beating the crap out of their enemies).  Also like a lot of 80's cartoons, the show decided to do an anti drug episode.  As you would expect a show with a gun toting, talking horse to do, Bravestarr decided to kick things up a few notches pass traumatizing.

The episode entitled 'The Price' begins with Bravestarr and Thirty dealing with a serious problem:  Miners on their planet are having complete mental breakdowns due to ingesting a new drug called 'spin.'  The symptoms that the addicts are showing include paranoia, violent shaking, and thinking that spiders are crawling all over their bodies.


...and David Lynch movies start making sense



While the marshal and his trusty steed are dealing with the strung out miners, Brad (the annoying kid character all these shows have) and his best friend Jay are putting the finishing touches on a fort that they have been building.  As they celebrate their newly constructed clubhouse, a dingo that speaks with an Australian accent (and is dressed like a cast member of Miami Vice) walks up an introduces himself.  It turns out that he is a 'spin' dealer himself and is willing to give each of the boys a free sample.

Brad makes the wise decision to walk away, but Jay decides to give the drug a chance in the name of not being "chicken."  He also makes Brad promise not to tell anyone that he is getting loaded in their clubhouse with the drugs he got from an Australian dingo.



And for the record, mate, I never ate anyone's baby.


Brad and Jay meet up later and argue about their stances on drug use.  Jay thinks that the drug was incredible and wants to do it again.  Brad warns him that he has heard about multiple miners going to the hospital or dying from using it.  Jay explains that it won't happen to him since he can "handle it."   

When Jay next finds his dingo drug dealer, he discovers that the next hit will not be free; it will actually cost quite a bit.  He goes home and steals money out of his mother's purse, then finds the dealer again and purchases another hit of spin.

Later on, Brad goes to their clubhouse and finds Jay inside, tripping out of his mind.


Pixels...I can actually see the pixels everywhere...


Brad threatens to tell a doctor about Jay's condition, which instantly kills his buzz and causes him to go into a blind rage, physically assaulting Brad and making him once again promise to not tell anyone about his drug use.  As a disgusted Brad exits the clubhouse, Jay asks if he can borrow some money, which Brad wisely declines.  Jay then goes back into town and begins begging his friends for money to by another hit of spin.  Once he has enough, he finds the dingo, makes another purchase, and heads back to the clubhouse. 

As Brad wrestles with the moral struggle of keeping his promise or getting his friend help, an old Native American shaman appears to him out of nowhere.  Despite the fact that this would indicate to most people that they themselves were on drugs, Brad instead asks the shaman for advice.  He tells Brad that breaking one promise is a small price to pay to save a friend's life.  Brad takes this to heart and runs off to find the marshall.



And remember, tell no one that you saw me 
wearing sweat pants and Reebok cross trainers.


Back in town, Bravestarr and Thirty begin to realize that all of the spin addicts that they have been throwing in a cell to dry out having been coming from one specific area.  Bravestarr decides to (finally) use his 'Eyes of the Hawk' to scout the area and is finally able to find the lab where all the spin is being made.  They then leave to destroy it before Brad can reach them.

When Bravestarr and Thirty return, Brad finally tells them about Jay.  Just as Bravestarr is assuring him that they will get help for his friend, Jay's mother frantically runs up to them and says that her son has been missing since yesterday.  

The four of them rush to the clubhouse.  Then, this happens:



That's right...an 80's cartoon geared toward very young children stone cold killed a child character via a drug overdose.  Though you don't see the dead body full on, you do see his lifeless hand as Bravestarr takes his pulse and tells his talking horse to not bother calling the doctor for treatment.

As Jay's mother wails with grief over her dead son, the show fades out of that shot and into the another one of the the dingo drug dealer being thrown in jail.  He yells at Brad for turning him in, while all Brad can do is cry about the fact that he didn't try to save his friend before it was too late.  In case you needed any more confirmation that the kid died, the episode ends with Bravestarr giving an anti drug speech next to Jay's grave.


And don't you dare change that channel...'Duck Tales' is coming up next!


I have to admit, this episode seemed far more effective than any of the other anti drug episodes from my childhood.  Most shows would have some sort of path to redemption or an adult dealing with the addiction; this one showed that there were terrible and real consequences to drug abuse and that it could even happen to kids my age.

I remember watching this episode at a friend's house and being shocked that a cartoon would have the guts to kill a child to make strong statement about the dangers of abusing drugs.  Even though Bravestarr centered around a mystical space cowboy and his militarized talking horse, this was episode was as real as it gets.

                                                   hisstank.com
Unless there is ever a real Thirty Thirty,
which would be all types of awesome.