A Lesson in Nostalgia – Rocko’s Modern Life Static Cling

We all have that one show, that we adored as a child. That one show that was our go to cartoon that no matter what kind of day we had the moment you sat down and watched that show you would instantly smile and laugh. For my siblings growing up it was Rugrats but for me it was Rocko’s Modern Life.

It was the first TV show I ever said to myself this is my favourite show, and it was this show that helped shaped my sense of humor as a child. It’s also one of those brilliant cartoons that if you go back and watch it as an adult, you get all the jokes you never got as a kid and wonder ‘How the fuck did they get that past the censors?’. That being said I am disappointed that the series DVD boxsets I have sitting on my shelf have certain milking scenes removed. A scene I remember seeing as a kid I might add.

Needless to say, when it was announced that there would be a movie I was beyond ecstatic. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. I was beginning to think this movie would never get released, then it was announced that both Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim Enter the Florpus were coming to Netflix and I was really happy to hear this because I don’t have access to Nickelodeon to watch anymore. Friday the 8th of August 2019 at roughly 1:30 am in the morning because I had trouble sleeping that night I watched Static Cling because it was up and I absolutely loved it!

If you loved this show back in the 90’s you owe it to yourself to go watch it now before reading the rest of this post, because from this point on there will be spoilers galore for Static Cling and it is a must watch for any 90 kids for more than it being a cartoon reboot done right.

A lot of reboots of old series could learn a lot from Rocko’s Modern Life Static Cling which grew with its audience without alienating a new audience from what makes this show so great!

The main driving theme of Rocko’s Modern Life Static Cling is one of change, acceptance and nostalgia. Rocko, Heffer, Filbert and Spunky have been away from not just O-Town but the Earth since we last saw them fly away on a rocket into space.

They have been away for twenty years and thanks to cartoon logic they have survived and not aged. Though the house does look a little dilapidated. Then they finally find a way to get home only to find, the world has moved on without them and they are not in the 90’s anymore. Heffer, Filbert and Spunky all seem to embrace the new modern world, Rocko however is hit with severe culture shock with how much everything has changed and he does not like it.

Especially when he finds out he can no longer watch his favourite TV show The Fatheads anymore. Wanting to recapture the nostalgia of his past to escape from the stresses of his new modern life, Rocko and his friends go on a journey to find the creator of the show Ralph Bighead in hopes of a reboot of their favourite show.

When they find the creator of their favourite show they learn more has changed than they could have thought. After many years of soul searching and a life changing decision Ralph is now Rachel and has finally found happiness in their life and this is a beautiful and positive lesson in change that is a brilliant move for modern audiences and it is great that we now live in a day and age where LGBTQ+ stories can be told in not just media, but children’s media.

Long running fans of the show will notice that as Rachel, she smiles and is a lot more comfortable in herself than she ever was as Ralph Bighead. There was always a frustrated sadness about Ralph and now we know why, even if this character’s growth was not originally planned for this character from the start. But one could say the same for people as well.

This is a story that the creators behind the show could have never done on a kids show back in the 90’s, this is a story that could only be made in the current decade . The creators of the special went above and beyond in making this story a reality because they not only told this story but they also sought out advice from GLAAD. To those reading this post who do not know who GLAAD are they are an LGBTQ+ positive group that through helping media creators helps shape modern media into a platform that that can tackle the hard issues within the LGBTQ+ community within media and make it a more positive experience for everyone involved while tackling the tough issues with dignity and respect. And they tackle the story of Rachel and her transition in this special exceptionally well.

It’s all well and good that Rachel get’s accepted for her change from Rocko and her friends right off the bat and you see just how grateful for that she it, but if everyone had accepted this change right away it would have made the story very unrealistic. I have friends within the trans community and though although all there stories of self acceptance and discovery are different one thing they have all had in common is that one person in there life that finds it hard to accept this change. Whether it be a family member or friend they have all spoken of that one person in their lives that does not accept and I am so happy that they incorporated this part of the trans experience into the story. I am also so very happy that though they could have easily done so they do not turn the character who does not accept Rachel’s change right away into the villain of the story.

Those who are familiar with Rocko’s Modern Life will know that Ed Bighead never had the best relationship with his only child, from not accepting his career choice and seeing him as a family embarrassment it does not come as a surprise that he does not imitatively accept Rachel’s change. Coming from an older generation this change is hard for him to accept, but spoiler alert in realizing that he has not lost his child and that changing gender has not changed the person his child is Ed in the end does learn to embrace Rachel for who she is.

A final lesson is seen after all this at the end of the special that comes from Rocko which feels like a lesson to the fans watching and is worth discussing here. When Rocko does get his show back, he is unhappy with the changes Rachel brings to the reboot. Changes that allow her as a creator chose to add to the show for new story opportunities. Rocko is not happy with this change though and becomes that demanding fan who is not happy to see ‘their’ favourite show return but not be the same.

As fans sometimes we can become too demanding of the shows we love but we need to remember at the end of the day, we are not the creators of these works and it is from the wonderful minds of these creators that we get these awesome shows we love so much.

Change is a good thing. Social norms and what is socially acceptable change over time. Does this make as bad people because we enjoyed something in the past that is not socially acceptable now? Of course not, it just means that times change and we can either learn with that change or live in nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a great escape and can help us learn from our past but we do not live in the past we live in the here and now.

Rebooting an old property for either new fans or old can be a double edged sword. Sometimes we get something brilliant and special like what we have here with Rocko’s Modern Life Static Cling and Samurai Jack the final season which reunite old fans with new. Sometimes we get shows that old fans will despise because it is so different from the previous work that we end up feeling cheated even if the newer generation end up loving the new show like with Teen Titans Go and the new Powerpuff Girls series, but having these new versions of old series we use to love does not change the version we use to love it just introduces it in a new way to a new generation and there is nothing stopping us from sharing what we loved with a new generation.

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