‘ThunderCats’ taught me everything I need to know about life



by Nate Graziano

If I were a Thundercat I’d could probably pull off Tygra.

I’m about to get all Gen X, sitting-cross-legged-in-front-of-the-television-eating-Cocoa-Puffs real with everyone now.

Once upon a time, we—meaning those us from Generation X, who have been systematically forgotten as the Baby Boomers and Millennials/Gen Z. beef with one another—existed in America. 

And we watched television. In fact, we watched a lot of television. We consumed television like a nutrient while our Boomer parents lived their lives and elected Ronald Reagan, twice. 

We also watched cartoons—often laced with Reagan’s bullshit propaganda, urging us to sign D.A.R.E contracts to stay away from “the pot” unless we wanted our brains to turn into a fried egg. 

There was never a shortage of cartoons to watch on Saturday and Sunday mornings, or on weekdays after school before the primetime sit-coms came on to spew more of Reagan’s bullshit propaganda. I can remember watching Mike Seaver in “Growing Pains” gets offered the same cocaine the entire country was using at the time by a hot chicks, and Mike—played by the Christian-fundamentalist lunatic Kirk Cameron—stoically “just said no.” 

To my knowledge, however, neither the “Smurfs” nor the “Gummi Bears” were ever offered or used cocaine—although the way those Gummi Bears bounced around the forest, I wouldn’t be completely surprised. 

But I digress.

So the other night, prompted by some Hulu algorithm that knows me better than my wife does, I watched a cartoon series that I absolutely adored and absorbed in the ’80s, a show that taught me volumes about myself and my place in the world.

I’m talking about the “ThunderCats,” a poorly-written, obnoxiously-loud sensory haymaker produced by a Japanese animation company from 1985-1989.

For those unfamiliar with “ThunderCats,” here is the basic plot, a plot that makes “The Notebook” look like a Dickens novel in comparison.

It’s set in the future, and the ThunderCats’ home planet, Thundera, was destroyed by some evil assholes, and the ThunderCats—after a long hibernation, assumingly to process the trauma—land on Third Earth where a douche-bag mummy named Mumm-Ra wants to steal The Sword of Omens that Lion-O (voice of Larry Kenney) possesses, a sword that holds the “Eye of Thundera” and…

Does it really matter? It’s a recycled “Stars Wars” plot with feline-like characters, who are the ThunderCats, and a mummy and other evil characters who try to steal The Sword of Omens from Lion-O.

But the “ThunderCats” also taught invaluable lessons about myself, my sexuality, and the world I inhabited. 

For example, while watching “ThunderCats” as a young lad on the brink of puberty, I found myself strangely attracted to a female ThunderCat named Cheetara (voiced by Lynn Lipton). I would watch her lithe, womanly form, with her spears and gymnastic flips, and that is how I figured out that I was a cisgender, heterosexual male.

It was only later in life that it occurred tio me that this could be perceived as precarious bestiality. 

Then there was Panthro (voiced by Earle Hyman), Lion-O’s best friend, who was blue and seemed to like Lion-O in the same way that I liked Cheetara. Panthro was a progressive gay man-cat long before it was culturally kosher to be a progressive gay man-cat, especially in Reagan’s America.

And then there was Snarf (voiced by Bob McFadden), who was a cat but not really a ThunderCat. All the ThunderCats treated him like a side-joke, a pet of sorts—oh, the irony was dizzying—relegating him to hanging out with the young ThunderCat twins, WilyKit (also voiced by the elegant and multi-talented Lynn Lipman) and WilyKat (voiced by Peter Newman, who was also the voice of Tygra, Lion-O’s pal who didn’t want to hold his Sword of Omens). 

But why didn’t the other ThunderCats treat Snarf—a fellow cat with clear cat DNA—as an equal? 

I didn’t need social media to teach me that the world was unjust, that racism—Panthro’s blueness also made him different from the other ThunderCats—and inequality were real. While Mumm-Ra was a psychopath, the ThunderCats treatment of Snarf was patronizing and almost more perverse. 

Gen. X might seem invisible to the other, louder generations, but we dealt with the big issues in our own ways. We watched the “ThunderCats” when our Boomer parents were smoking cigarettes in the kitchen, and our future Millenial/Gen Z kids were not even a gleam in our eyes, totally incapable of complaining. 

After watching two hours of the “ThunderCats” on Hulu the other night, I realized these things about myself and determined that Cheetara is still pretty hot.

You can tell Nate Graziano anything. He’s all ears. ngrazio5@yahoo.com