Monday, September 27, 2010

Frightening Childhood Memories: Volume One

There are a couple of memories from our childhood that we try to repress. Not in the sense of cruel acts that scar you for the rest of your life but rather aspects of pop culture that are presented to kids with the thought that they will be entertaining or enlightening but in the end scare the shit out of you causing incredible fear and phobias even as an adult. I’m talking the boat scene in Willy Wonka (or the Oompa Loompas in general) here. Today, while simply perusing the internet I came across a reference to something that sent a shiver down my spine. It was a reference to what has to be the scariest thing that my seven year old brain ever saw and that is: Slim Goodbody.

For those of you who are unaware of Slim Goodbody, and those who were able to read on after seeing the initial picture and screaming “Oh dear God, not him!”, he was a popular attraction on television shows and PBS in the late 70’s and early 80’s in which he would come on and talk about health and nutrition and the importance of exercise. It was Slim Goodbody’s goal that we remain fit and slim and given the rise in childhood obesity since he left the airwaves you have to say that he did a damn good job. However, he accomplished it by scaring kids like me to the point where we were afraid to eat.

Look at that picture and imagine what it was like for a seven year old to see that on television in 1980. We have a man with a perm in a nude colored bodysuit that makes it look like his organs are coming out. I really didn’t need to know what my intestines looked like when I was seven. I could barely deal with the concept of blood when I was cut and now I was being shown by this really hyper guy (very similar to Richard Simmons) the locations of all of my major arteries. Look at his thigh muscle. That thing can give you nightmares now; how in the world was my childhood brain supposed to interpret that that is what I am really like inside.

I’m telling you the absolute truth here. For years growing up whenever I saw Slim Goodbody on television I had to rush over and change the channel because he just freaked me out. Given that this was before remote control I’ll have to grant him the fact that he did get me off the couch and moving. It wasn’t because I had a great desire to be fit, more like I was greatly concerned that if I continued to watch his liver would fall to the floor with a resounding splat. I’m pretty sure that most of my siblings had the exact same feeling (though the older ones were a bit more ok with it.)

Children’s television and entertainment, especially back when I was younger, is a strange thing in that we treat children as one big group when the difference between a 7 year old and a 10 year old is massive. A 10 year old could be fascinated by Slim Goodbody and how the body works and focus on their health and be inspired to become a doctor. His 7 year old younger brother could be watching the same show and be completely frightened by this man who seemingly has no skin yet for some reason has a perm. I don’t want to have this post sound like the guy behind Slim Goodbody was focused on scaring children. He was so gung ho about being healthy that it was amazing. You literally would think he was the same guy as Richard Simmons. But for those of us who saw him at a certain age, an age at which reality and costume were still not concretely defined, the guy was nightmare inducing.

No comments: