I have to re-blog this article, because it's so wonderfully written, and finds an importance in our nostalgia.
It's called: The Genius of 'Doug', 'Rugrats', and 'Ren & Stimpy,' 20 Years Later
In it, the writer talks about the three original Nicktoons, that not only laid the foundation for all future Nicktoons, the original cartoon programming of Nickelodeon (which is a prestigious home of SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, Invader Zim, Rocko's Modern Life, and Hey Arnold!, among the most famous), but also for much of what was to come later in animation.
Doug is easily the most relatable, as the writer evidences, because of his seemingly ordinary circumstances and self. It was an important, realistic message being brought to us not in a hellish, nightmarish way, but subtly, artfully, unheard of in a cartoon.
Ren and Stimpy were more representative of what cartoons always were: loud, brash, colorful, exhausting. None of this is meant in a bad way, just that the longer animation was around, the more it became about stimulation, about doing what wasn't possible with real people, whether that meant more and more slapstick, or just more obnoxiousness you couldn't get away with if real people were involved. A similar philosophy exists with puppets, such as in Avenue Q, where we get this ridiculous, onstage sex scene that's raunchy and pretty graphic, but made so funny because it's two puppets, which somehow, in some way, makes it completely forgivable.
Rugrats found an interesting way to marry the two sides: While Doug represented an interesting postmark for where animation was headed, a more thoughtful path, and Ren & Stimpy was the more logical, and gradually more extreme path, Rugrats brought together seemingly ordinary characters, with occasionally nightmarish situations.
We got to see cartoonish, garish over-stimulation (much like Ren and Stimpy) as the babies of Rugrats dealt with circumstances they were unable to cope with, but during their discussions, allowed us to empower ourselves, and prepare to be scared, and prepare to deal with a world bigger than ourselves (and that was much like Doug).
And I love his ending paragraph, of course. It is interesting to see us prove how much of creations of our environment we are. Self-empowerment is an important thing, and coming to terms with who and what we are is the most difficult and life-long journey we have in front of us, but it's probably the only one worth taking. And it's beautiful to remember that before we were even conscious of ourselves and long before we were questioning our place in the universe, a young, quiet, unassuming cartoon voice was basically telling us, "You are a unique experience in this world, and you can share that by being yourself."