I’m a very proud 90’s kid – I loved the games, the culture and the television. One show in particular that I’ve had a chance to re-watch on Netflix is Dinosaurs. The show ran from 1991 to 1994 and it’s about a family of dinosaurs, the Sinclair family, living in Pangaea and their daily life struggles, achievements, sorrows and happiness.
When I saw that the show was on Netflix I was very excited because I could relieve part of my 90’s life. I remember some episodes more than others but as a child I never really understood they came with a message. I could understand what was going on but not that it was a life lesson. The issues they dealt with are issues that families dealt with back then and still do now.
One particular episode is from Season 2 Episode 20 “Power Erupts”. This episode dealt with Robbie, one of the Sinclair kids, making a school project about volcanoes providing heat to the homes of Pangaea. The idea is taken as something serious and possible to do – providing free and clean energy. Does that sound familiar? However, the WESAYSO – great name huh? – Corporation sells energy for a profit and of course they try everything to discredit Robbie and his idea. Keeps sounding familiar, right?
This is just one example but many other episodes dealt with women’s rights, civil rights, body image, drug use, peer pressure, parenting, indigenous people, etc! This show, in my opinion, was way ahead of its time. I have strong opinions about the subjects I mentioned before and I don’t know, maybe this show is part of why I even took notice to those things.
If you have Netflix, I recommend watching Dinosaurs and maybe have your children watch it. It’s humorous and educational.
Things the 'Dinosaurs' TV show makes me think about
First of all, adult humor in a show also marketed to kids. That’s nothing specific to ‘Dinosaurs’, but they do break the fourth wall a few times in the show to explicitely bring that up, so I’m gonna talk about it here real quick.
Maybe I was just a very boring child, but adult jokes never really confused me - when watching shows like these I just went with the flow, absolutely convinced that everything presented on screen was meaningful simply by virtue of being there (of course that’s also why TV can be a powerful propaganda medium) . When I saw a dinosaur dressing up like a hippie after eating a strange “happy plant”, I just accepted it as “that’s what happens”.
But I think there is a good reason why innuendos specifically work in “family” shows - children might not necessarily understand the content of the joke, but they understand that it is a joke. Children know what innuendos are. Heck, their entire lives happen under a thick atmosphere of innuendos that slowly fades away (usually not in a linear fashion) as they grow up. In order to find an innuendo funny, it can be enough to just identify it as an innuendo, especially when you get to observe the reactions of those around you who actually “get it”.
Another thing rewatching ‘Dinosaurs’ made me think about was how well the series has aged - especially because it stars dinosaurs, so we as inhabitants of the 21th century can enjoy a vision of the “prehistoric” 80ies and 90ies. However, many of the issues they adress are just as relevant today, sadly enough.
One scene is especially powerful in that regard: in an episode dealing with the struggles of feminism, the female dinosaurs, after suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of the patriarchy, end up saying “well, we’re an evolving society, how much longer can it take?” . This too works on several levels, because the show is set over 60 million years in the past, and because it was written in the 80ies and 90ies. The satire is just as biting as ever. Both the dinosaurs and the 80ies are glaring at us reproachfully.
And finally, the show is relevant to me in its portrayal of “dinosaur mindset”.
Scientific accuracy has of course been thrown out of the window quite explicitely, playing instead with the stereotypes we have about dinosaurs, which is ultimately very important for the show’s messages. I’m not even sure that I would give the dinosaurs feathers in a remake of the show.
The dinosaurs of the show are people stuck in particular mindsets that make them blind to many of the things going on around them and the mistakes they make, and, to a degree, resistant to change. One of the main themes in the show is the struggle the dinosaurs go through in order to learn and to adapt.
Ultimately, of course, they fail, as the series ends with their extinction. They are dinosaurs, after all. This is how it canonically has to end. No matter how hard they try, the future does not belong to them.
Beyond the obvious environmental messages of the show, it’s a cautionary tale about mindsets in general. The human brain, of which the dinosaur’s brains in the show are a caricature, is highly resistant to change, clinging on to its prejudices or to the “final solutions” it thinks to have discovered. Your perception of reality is your reality, and, in the case of some realities, your doom.
It’s something that strikes a cord with me especially, because I realize I myself am stuck on a track that will probably lead to my destruction (also, goteye’s ’eyes wide open’ *is one of my favorite songs for that very reason).
*seriously, listen to this song if you have come this far.