By Angie Shen ‘20
Long before “Welcome to my YouTube channel” and “Make sure to smash that like button,” there was “In five, four, three, two…” Before YouTube vlogs, we had Carly Shay’s web show and Teddy Duncan’s video diaries. Television shows like iCarly, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and Good Luck Charlie defined our childhoods.b
We spent hours aimlessly watching Disney Channel and Nickelodeon on weekend afternoons, the characters and plot lines ingrained in our minds. Even now, hearing the opening chords of childhood show theme songs causes people to instinctually belt out “When you go big time” or “Everything is not what it seems” as a Pavlovian response.
There was something simpler about childhood shows, tinted by rose-colored glasses and nostalgia. The world would fade away as we became engrossed in the characters’ lives for 25 minutes at a time. We longed for Pear Phones, wanted to live on a cruise ship, and hoped to start a band.
A particularly brave few even wanted to try out Sam Puckett’s butter sock or get Oprah’s autograph via restraining order. We lived off canned laughter and “you’re watching Disney Channel” commercials, mimicking drawing the Disney logo with a TV remote. We were the generation raised by on-screen adults like Mr. Moseby and Spencer Shay who most assuredly did not have everything under control.
Childhood shows gave us certain expectations for high school. We were under the notion that all the teachers were either mean or eccentric. We believed kids with ventriloquist dolls freely roamed the halls. We thought that we could bring in our younger siblings to reenact Animal Farm for an English presentation, and that chemistry class consisted solely of nuclear explosions. Student Council elections were on par with national elections for importance, and the threat of detention constantly loomed over everyone.
And let’s not forget that prom king or queen was the ultimate goal. In reality, our high school experience is more like the background characters—a monotonous cycle of shuffling through hallways and attending classes.
Along with television shows, music also played a big role in our childhood. Service providers like Apple Music and Spotify weren’t readily available, so it was either the radio or the highway. Sitting in the passenger seat was a privilege rather than a norm, so we were confined to the backseat, unable to change the station.
Back then when we were struggling through multiplication tables and figurative language, Taylor Swift sang country music, and “Imma let you finish” was Kanye West’s biggest controversy. We jammed to hits like “Firework,” “Dynamite,” and “Some Nights,” lip-syncing along in the car.
Who knew that the singers of “Just the Way You Are” and “A-Team” would stay famous while “Tonight Tonight,” the summer anthem of 2011, turned out to be a one-hit wonder? Who could imagine that the songs we loved, like “Fireflies” and “All Star,” would become memes in a few years?
While we were transitioning from elementary school to middle school, radio stations blasted “Party Rock Anthem” and “Call Me Maybe.” People had One Direction posters plastered on their walls; disbandment wasn’t even an option. “TiK ToK” was a Ke$ha song and not a social media site filled with Vine rejects, and “Just Dance” was a Lady Gaga hit rather than a series of Wii games.
The shows and music of our childhood definitely shaped us into the people that we are today. We were raised on corny canned laughter and infectious pop songs, and we are now ready to face life’s challenges with humor and burst into song at the opening lines of a late 2000s hit.