Prior to the 1980s most Mennonite homes didn’t even have television sets. Those of us who grew up in the 80s may have had a TV, but our repertoire of shows was extremely limited. We were allowed to watch Hymn Sing and Hockey Night in Canada and that’s about it. Here is a list of top shows your Mennonite mom probably didn’t let you watch.
- ThunderCats (1985-1989) – Thankfully this was always aired while your parents were out milking cows, otherwise they’d have been mighty upset. Magical alien cats with mystical powers? That doesn’t sound very Mennonite to me. Plus it was made in Japan. Super non-Menno.
- Fraggle Rock (1983-1987) – This Jim Henson show featured weird-looking puppets that lived under the house. The show was labelled “New Age,” but very likely your mom just didn’t want you digging around and discovering dad’s brandy stash beneath the floorboards. Also, Fraggles were apparently very nightmare-inducing to sensitive young Mennonite minds.
- The Smurfs (1981-1990) – Like the Fraggles, the Smurfs were small and weird. Mennonites are suspicious of any creature smaller than a chicken. Also, Smurfs are not edible – so that puts them in the “unnecessary” category.
- The A Team (1983-1987) – The A Team were a band of thugs who escaped from a military prison. That’s worse than the selbstschutz. Plus all that bling around Mr. T’s neck was far too showy.
- Growing Pains (1985-1992) – More recently, Mennonites have come to appreciate the work of Kirk Cameron, especially his Oscar-winning performances in the Left Behind movies and various Creationist youtube videos, but back in the 80s, this teen heartthrob was known for the smutty sitcom Growing Pains, which was strictly forbidden by every self-repsecting Mennonite parent…and for good reason.
- ALF (1986-1990) – ALF was a wise-cracking alien from the planet Melmac, who lived with a nice middle-class suburban family named the Tanners. The fact he was an alien was one strike against him. The fact he was such a smart aleck was the second strike. Many Mennonites saw ALF as a metaphor for the increasing influence of Englishers on our precious Mennonite culture.
- The Golden Girls (1985-1992) – At first Mennonites were excited to watch this show about a bunch of retired grannies in Florida. It had Betty White! Plus that one woman was on the Shoppers Drug Mart commercials. After a few episodes, however, the sexual content became all too evident. Along with Cheers and re-runs of MASH, The Golden Girls was one of those shows your parents watched after they tucked you into bed.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) – This animated series featured a lot of scary characters and also magic. Skeletor, according to Mennonite moms, was basically the Devil. Try as we might, no Mennonite child of the 80s was ever successful in convincing Mom to let us watch it. We had equal difficulty with the popular spin-off series She-Ra: Princess of Power.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996) – When a 1980s Mennonite child wanted to dress as Leo, Raph, Donnie or Mikey for Halloween, the request was immediately denied. TMNT were teenagers, mutants and ninjas – that’s a triple whammy. If it wasn’t for your cool Uncle Jake who taped the show and showed you five episodes one evening when your mom made the mistake of letting him babysit, you wouldn’t even know the Ninja Turtles even existed.
- The Care Bears (1985-1988) – Too much magic. Too many rainbows. Plus the Care Bears countdown should have been in Plautdietsch. “Care Bears count down – fief, fea, dree, twee, een.”
(photo credit: Uncredited White House photographer/CC)