Dungeons & Dragons,
was a television cartoon series airing 1983 to 1985 during the height of the role playing game long before video games and the Internet ate into imagination of teenagers rolling their 20-sided dice.
Once upon a time,
me and my friends would stop what we were doing on Saturday morning and watch. This was a more mature cartoon that had stories dealing with loss, peril, and sacrifice. Some episodes centered about the consequences with making difficult decisions; balancing doing what is right and getting what everyone wants done, specifically returning home.
Only 27 episodes were produced,
ending sadly without conclusion. It’s theme, long ahead of its time for an American animation, couldn’t withstand the internal struggles between traditional, yet sanitized storytelling of a children’s cartoon vs. a genre starring teen-aged characters using weapons and experiencing violent (yet bloodless) confrontation.
Television and cinema had little else to adapt to the D&D universe.
This only fueled our excitement watching each episode and their adaptation of monsters, caves, and castles. The episodes had riddles, clever enough to keep our attention. Not too clever denying us an epiphany. If a cartoon can grab the attention of teenage boys, it must have done something right.
I choose to write about Dungeons & Dragons not only because it is part of my past. The cartoon itself is both ahead of its time and made too late. To own, watch, and enjoy is rebelling against a nanny-state and its censors. It’s a cartoon that had to survive censorship to see production. Yet, their viewers overlooked the softened details and gave attention to the narrative. When the series was becoming too popular in its time slot, it was obvious the show had achieved it success by violating many tenets of children’s television. It had ignored dogmas such as collectivism. By the third season, the series spun stories that were unusually memorable for a Saturday morning cartoon; much attributed to its writing drifting away from that preached dogma. A danger to the American culture, there could be no more. The show was cancelled.
To celebrate Dungeons & Dragons is to celebrate what it could have been if there were more free expression. It is also to celebrate its successes that it achieved. There are 27 episodes that stood afar as possible, as far as allowed, from tight-fisted, arbitrary rules, that didn’t allow dissent, counter-culture, or free-thought. The series stood as a victor over censorship, if only for a short time.