Wikipedia’s ‘Rise of the eediots’?
Call someone an idiot. Expect trouble. Say to someone; ‘You eediot!’ and they just might respond in hysterical laughter, and then call you a purist. You just showed off that you’re into cult cartoons and you found an ally. The phrase comes from Ren Höek, almost twenty years ago together with his fat friend Stimpy some of the biggest troublemakers on network TV for children in the States. I started watching it from my twelfth year on, and my parents were concerned that since I was getting a little into puberty, it was wrong to still watch cartoons. Once they saw what the show was about, they changed their minds. It was some time before internet was known, let alone the idea of having access to a complete, free, anonymously written online encyclopedia. Horrible days, a good thing we didn’t know any better.
What my automatic response is to a question from someone that I don’t know? ‘Google it’. And when you ‘Google’ it, there’s a big chance you’ll end up on a Wikipedia page. Whenever I know a word I don’t know or some name or event, I type it in Google and blindly follow the given search result to Wikipedia with some comfort in the back of my mind that it won’t be a hundred percent accurate but still pretty reliable. Why? Maybe because it’s made by ‘everyone’ it is less prejudiced and more objective, because isn’t that what everyone wants an encyclopedia to do? Or maybe it’s even more prejudiced and subjective, because some people tend to cling on more to ‘their’ truth than ‘the’ truth. Anyhow, despite these insecurities is Wikipedia gaining more ground worldwide and although it could be said that the English version is more or less complete, other countries like mine (the Netherlands) still have enough gaps to fill.
So you become a, what’s it called, a Wikipedean? Because you want to bring your share of knowledge to the common shared knowledge of Wikipedia, contribute and feel good about that (although you basically can’t put your signature under your input). My idea was to just type in something I really like and see whether it existed on the Dutch Wikipedia or not. Immediately when I tried typing in my favorite program from when I was a teenager I raised an eyebrow. No article on ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show?’ in Dutch and there is one in Russian? What’s wrong with us? Well, it’s safe to say that I found my mission. We needed a Dutch Wikipedia page on what was in my opinion one of the best and most influential cartoons ever made.
‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ is a cartoon from the early nineties about a paranoid, schizophrenic ‘asthma-hound’ Chihuahua called Ren Höek and a fat, dimwitted cat named Stimpy. From this description already, it might be hard to believe that they were the flagship of the now worldwide network giant for kids Nickelodeon when they started out around 1991. The creator of the show, John Kricfalusi, pitched the show idea to the executives with the stress on cartoons not being funny anymore like they used to be in the ‘golden age’ of cartoons, referring to the thirties to early sixties when cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry. Ren & Stimpy would be funny again, and more. The network decided to give Kricfalusi all the artistic freedom that he needed and fired him two years later for making the show too violent. Several episodes were cut due to disturbing and violent content, (alleged) sexual insinuation, and one episode was even entirely banned from broadcasting.
Despite its unfortunate history, today the show has been an influence not just on many shows still going on Nickelodeon and cartoons in general, but also seen as one of the early ‘adult’ cartoons (although adolescents fit the term more) which pointed out that cartoon shows wouldn’t have to be for kids only. And if you watch the show today, it’s actually hard to believe this was shown to kids in the early nineties, but it does have a timeless quality over it since it was inspired from the ‘golden age’ of cartoons which are still being watched and enjoyed by kids today and being lauded. All in all, to me and many others ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ is one of the most influential cartoon shows ever made and deserved its place well to me on a Dutch Wikipedia page.
The American article about the series was quite elaborated, including long lists of writers and directors and lots of details which would take me ages to properly translate and make properly presentable. The first idea I had therefore was to shorten it to a more comprehensive story. This meant I had to shorten certain areas telling about the show’s production and translate the parts that were contributing to the level of comprehension I was looking for and lose statements that seemed too general to me.
The article I made from the show is indeed a translation, but where I found knowledge of my own I tried to enrich the text while translating it. And slowly but surely I learnt that even something like translating which sounded alright to me had to battle many codes, references, and dealing of the age of the original article. Although I didn’t need to implement new references (the information in the article provided was more than sufficient), I needed to be careful in the beginning to not just delete one reference, write the same in my own words a couple of headers later and forget about the fact that it could be interpreted as plagiarism. That was already one of the major downsides of translating an article on Wikipedia; trying to make the text your own rhetoric while translating it and being scared whether there could be watchdogs interpreting your work completely wrong and making a fuss over it.
For the rest, it was actually not much trouble getting the words in a nice coherent story just like the original article. I tried my best to use half the original article while still keeping the story intact. This meant getting rid of phrases of people from the show who knew interesting aspects about the production, but didn’t have to add much to the mainline. Also much information like where the show had been broadcasted around the world didn’t seem interesting to me to include in the Dutch version, which in my opinion should just tell more about what the show was about and the background of it, which is due to the controversy it caused back in the day a more interesting read for Dutch Wikipedia readers. In the end, I would have liked to have translated more things in the article, but thought they were too much information for a show which has been much more popular in the United States. Afterwards I also compared my article to other countries besides the English one, and found to my comfort that the Dutch translation is now the most elaborate description about the show next to the English one. So can we call this a winner for the Dutch Wikipedia readers who dig a bit of Ren and Stimpy? I hope so, and I did my best for it.