Huge generation gap lies between Shmoo and Pikachu

Huge generation gap lies between Shmoo and Pikachu By Bob Karolevitz I always thought Lil' Abner's Shmoo was the ultimate character.

It was a funny, tubby little animal, happy to do anything nice for people. It reproduced at the blink of an eye and required absolutely no upkeep. It was even eatable.

The Shmoo came and went with the comic strip. It wasn't featured on a television show. There were no Shmoo cards, and Nintendo wasn't around to market Shmoo video games.

The same can't be said for Pikachu.

Today he's the rage. Pikachu is one of 151 Pok�mon characters, a yellow, pointy-eared he, she or it who or which is one of the main figures in the TV phenomenon and now a Warner Bros. movie.

Our grandson Sam introduced us to Pok�mon with all the seriousness of a seven-year-old intent on bringing Shmoo-generation grandparents up to date. He rattled off the names of Bulbasaur, Gengar, Pidgey and other Pok�mons like we should know them with the same intimacy and enthusiasm as he did.

It was obvious that I had a lot of research to do to keep abreast of the latest fad, said to be already a seven billion dollar industry worldwide.

Like too many American adults, I thought the Japanese just sent us cars, motorcycles, ball gloves and electronic devices. I didn't know that they were also exporting cultural ideas like their Pocket Monsters, which, incidentally, was abbreviated into Pok�mons. Now I do.

In just a little over a year, the craze has swept the under-10 crowd in this country, and it's a good-news, bad-news situation.

The bad news is that kids � and their parents � are caught up in a card-collecting binge which is worse than the Beanie Baby addiction. The Pok�mon card-trading apparently has caused fights on the playgrounds, and they tell me that hard-to-get cards are going for as high as $400 on the black market.

I don't think that's really what the Japanese had in mind when they sent us their little monsters. Or did they?

The good news is that the Pok�mon mania is really based on traditional Japanese values like respect for elders, responsibility, obedience and other virtues which sometimes get short shrift in America. Whether or not these values are transmitted to our youngsters is questionable, but I hope some are rubbing off on Sam.

There are, of course, human characters in the television cartoon, like Ash, Misty, Brock and Professor Oak. And there's violence of a sort, but nobody dies.

The adorable little Pikachu gives off jarring electrical shocks to combat the evil Team Rocket � and Mewtew in the movie. Squirtle, a turtle-like Pok�mon, sprays water from its mouth as its weapon. And Charmander � who looks like a small dinosaur � shoots balls of flame from its tail. I've got to get all of this straight or I won't be able to have an intelligent conversation with Sam.

I suppose Pok�mon will be a passing fad like hula hoops and bobby sox, but for now it's bigger than World War III. As for me, I wish Shmoos would come back. In their inimitable way they didn't do anything but satisfy humans, until finally cartoonist Al Capp let them all die of happiness.

I'll have trouble explaining them to Sam, just as he has trouble explaining Pikachu to me. I guess I'll just have to chalk it up to another generational gap � a giant chasm in this case.

&#1691999 Robert F. Karolevitz

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