Bravestarr

So another short and sidetracked post, rather than a Sojourners in Shadow one.

I’ve been watching Bravestarr on Youtube. Not seen it since I was a kid, so thought I’d give it a go.

You know what? It’s a lot better than I remembered. It was one of the many cartoons I watched back in the 80s when I was young, along with He-Man, Thundercats, MASK, etc. I often thought of it as the lesser among that group.  Bit hokey, fairly daft, with a cliched premise.

Okay, it has to be said, those things aren’t far off the mark. I often laugh when Bravestarr shouts “Strength of the Bear!” and then lifts a giant boulder or something. Same with speed of the puma. He runs faster than a puma on a motorbike, for crying out loud.

So for anyone who doesn’t know, Bravestarr was about a planet called New Texas, where outlaws sought to raid a precious ore, and a marshal repeatedly stopped them. He was, of course, Bravestarr, a Native American with special powers, able to summon the abilities of animals. His enemy was Tex Hex, who, to be honest, should be a much more dangerous opponent, seeing as he can summon creatures and change things at will. Think of him as someone with powers like Skeletor but more incompetent. Laughs more too.

For all the geek revival and nostalgia we see today, I don’t see this show referenced. Like I said, it is better than I remember, with some interesting stories, but you have the same scenes roll over as Bravestarr summons his skills or Tex Hex laughs manically. You can see why it didn’t leave a lasting impression, and yet I remembered it, and judging by comments on the videos I’m far from alone.

This isn’t a post to really go on about the show. It’s in the past, had its day, and while a remake or something could be fun, I can’t see it gaining ground. People would probably sneer at the native with the animal powers trope, for one thing.

There is something worth noting though. Something I quite enjoyed.

One character who always stood out was Thirty-Thirty. I didn’t recall the name until I watched it again and I have no idea why he’s called that. But the humanoid horse with the big gun was entertaining when I was a kid and remains so now. He’s that typical good guy sidekick character of the 80s – gun-toting, eager to scrap, ever loyal, brave to the edge of recklessness.

What’s interesting is that Bravestarr and Thirty-Thirty are friends as well as marshal and his deputy. But they are also very different as people. Bravestarr is open-minded, ready to trust and see the best in people. Thirty-Thirty tries to do some of that, but he is quick to judge and quick to speak his mind too.

There are a few examples but a very good one is when a kid says the dingoes are all thieves. Thirty-Thirty agrees with him, Bravestarr strongly disagrees. Thirty-Thirty gets the hump and walks off. The kid worries that he caused a problem but Bravestarr assures him that, while he and his deputy see things differently a lot of the time, they are still friends.

That’s the thing that struck me about the show. I think it is a lesson taught often back then and it sticks with me now. You don’t see this viewpoint a lot these days. I understand why, but still…

Basically this show makes the point a number of times. You can disagree with someone and still be friends. You can see the world and people differently and remain friends. You can be almost opposites and get along.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim Thirty-Thirty would vote for Trump, but I bet he’d like his bulldozer style. Bravestarr, however, would clearly be an Obama man.

They might argue, get into heated arguments even, but the end result would be the same. They had each other’s backs and that’s what matters. You don’t cast aside a friendship because you disagree, even if it’s a lot.

This isn’t a political post or anything like that. I just enjoyed watching a show where one of the moral lessons is about trying to understand those different from you. In that very episode, the dingoes – usually two dimensional baddies – end up making peace with a farmer and helping out. So yeah, the show leans to Bravestarr’s view, but damn if you don’t enjoy Thirty-Thirty and his bullishness sometimes. Even if he loves his big gun, Sara Jane, just a little bit too much.

Little Goody Two-Shoes

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. A lot of my early influences are from the 80s, especially in terms of tv I watched as a kid that left an impact I didn’t realise until much later. For instance, it wasn’t until my twenties that I understood I saw all evil henchmen as either a Starscream or a Soundwave – that they’re either smart but craven or stalwart and subservient.

I watched Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, MASK and the A-team, as well as many others. Personally, I loved the bad guys a lot more. Megatron and Skeletor were far more entertaining and I admired their ambition. Mumm-Ra I was never much of a fan of. He always ended up skulking back to his crypt and claiming he’d win one day. He never did nor would he.

Back then, bad guys were designed to lose. The 80s – at least this is how I feel looking back – were much more black and white. Good guys were smart, brave, loyal, nice, etc. Bad guys were nasty, dumb, cowardly, treacherous even to their own (glaring at you. Starscream) and would always lose. So I wanted them to win. I got bored of the bad guys losing. I liked them a lot more, some were pretty cool characters, and Evil-Lyn was perhaps my first love in life. I wanted them to win, if just to shake things up a bit.

It’s not as if I didn’t like the good guys. Optimus Prime remains my shining example of what a good and strong leader can be. But the bad guys appealed more and, again, I just wanted a change. Just once, let the baddies get a win. Even a dream sequence! Actually that could have been dumb.

I suspect the baddies had their day occasionally and I just don’t remember it, but back then, I saw a lot of goody good guys beating bad baddies. I preferred the latter and still do. I proudly wear my t-shirt with the Decepticons badge on it.

Then anti-heroes came along and I loved them. At first I found many confusing. I remember watching Snake destroy the tape that could have brought about world peace at the end of the Escape from New York film. I was aghast and shocked. Why would anyone do such a thing?! Now I’m older, oh, I know why. But despite that, I loved his character and many more.

I’m a Batman fanboy. I also love Judge Dredd. Clint Eastwood’s characters in westerns inspired me. I found myself preferring darker heroes and champions. I enjoyed seeing someone be sarcastic, even selfish sometimes, and challenge the ways of the world while winning in the end. Which could piss off those they saved.

But you know what? I do love a good goodguy. I do. Maybe now we’re inundated with anti-heroes and we see bad guys more often get a one up on the hero, if not several, that the nice guys feel like the refreshing change. I liked the good guys back in the 80s, I admit. Even though I wanted to rebel and cheer on the baddies, I still admired the likes of He-Man and Lion-O. I saw the Christopher Reeves Superman films and loved them. Not as much as the later Batman films by Burton – although Superman 2 remains one of my favourites. Yes it is campy and daft, welcome to the 80s.

So speaking of Superman, I saw the latest incarnation on Supergirl. Well I loved the bloke. From the moment the music kicked in (yes, I’m sure that played a huge part in it) and he ran through the smoke (wherever that came from) and ripped open his shirt to reveal the S, I was into it. I almost cheered. It was great to see Superman back. Not just back, but how he should be. I really liked how they made him in this show. He isn’t worried about Supergirl getting in this way or taking his limelight, nor is he condescending to her, nor does he try to lecture her. Superman is Superman, so he knows he’s THE GUY and doesn’t need to prove anything, so he enjoys letting her get the glory, but also genuinely respects her and likes being around her. They captured the nobility of the man as well as the do-goodyness.

Superman is a goody two-shoes. One of the biggest. But that isn’t a weakness. It’s his strength. While I love the brooding Batman and his questionable ways, while I get a kick out of the fascist Dredd, while I want DECEPTICONS FOREVER! engraved on my tombstone, it is great to see a purely goody-goody running around again. Not as a parody or a sly injoke. No, he’s just being Superman. All American good boy, and I say that as an uppity Brit.

I love complicated characters and those who work in shades of grey, who question themselves and those they represent or serve. I love those the most and always will. But I do love me some nasty, despicable baddies, and I love me some goody two-shoes. There’s room for all, and when one lot is everywhere, it makes me appreciate what qualities the others bring to good storytelling. After all, a good story is what I want most of all.