Life lessons from the Hidden Temple

    Kirk Fogg and Olmec prepare us for the harsh realities of adulthood. Photo by agent_meg07 on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

    Whoever said they learned everything they needed to know about life in kindergarten was totally cracked. At best, you picked up survival instincts. Wishy-washy interpersonal relations, maybe. An inherent mistrust for untraceable stickiness, perhaps (okay, so that’s a pretty important one). But if you ask me, the real lessons, the ones that can get you through your adult life successfully, came straight out of Nickelodeon. And some of the best lessons anyone could have learned from Nickelodeon lie in the obvious allegories of Legends of the Hidden Temple.

    Easily one of the best shows from Nickelodeon-of-yore, Legends of the Hidden Temple combined the excitement of athletic competition with the crazy fun of made-up history and tribal folklore. Eliminating color-coded teams through a series of challenges based on the central myth of the episode, kids competed in Indiana-Jones-style obstacles until the final pair tried to make it through Olmec’s Temple, a task to be completed in three minutes. Although in its heyday Legends was easily the most exciting and intense game show on Earth (that kid had better hurry up, because that boulder is going to crush him to death or his sister will fall into a snake pit! Lives are hanging in the balance!), looking back now I see that it is also rife with very serious lessons that could guide us all when making life decisions. In fact, as America crashes into a recession, depression and suicide rates rise, and sites like eHarmony and not only flourish but spur knockoffs, the best solution I can offer would be for the grownups among us to take a good look at the teachings of Olmec and Co.

    Lessons on money, career and getting through The Moat

    Some of the best financial advisers you could ever find might be the tiny kids running around in bright-yellow helmets. We know we all learned tons on Double Dare, Figure It Out and Clarissa Explains it All, but I think host Kirk Fogg was as much our first economic adviser as he was the first Bermuda-shorts-sporting adult to make us question the difference between okay and not-okay touches.

    Bear with me. Starting out, each kid signs up for this show because he or she wants that prize. Sure, they might also want the acclaim, a free T-shirt and a day off of school, but for the most part you’re in it to win it. Of those lucky enough to get on the show (an unjust selection process in itself — don’t tell me you lost every single one of my entry forms), everyone starts out in about the same place: trying to make it across The Moat to qualify for the actual game. From there exist obstacles and pifalls that knock some out immediately; your shoelace is untied, you misunderstand the directions, your partner is a fat kid.

    If you even get your foot in the door, there comes a time when your connections, athletic prowess or special-grip sneakers just aren’t enough and you need to prove you have the smarts to get by. The Steps of Knowledge can weed you out there.

    The Temple Games were next. Now here’s where shit got real. The obstacles were always different, playing to some kid’s strengths while taking advantage of others’ weaknesses. Sabotaging the team evading the giant foam boulder next to you may be in your immediate interest right now, but what about the future? What if Kirk sees? What will your grandma tuning in think? As appealing as shortcuts may seem, they’re not usually worth it. So do a giant talking head proud; do the work, don’t let the man get you down, play fair and wear a helmet.

    Dating, love and relationships or what’s with all those boy-girl teams?

    Beyond the fact that getting through the show revolves around having a strong partner (sorry again, fat kids), Olmec might as well have been a loooove-talking-robotic-stone-head. Like most college students obsessing over Nickelodeon game shows from the nineties, I am an expert in the field, so let me explain.

    Pretty much every datingcolumn on this earth ever created will tell you how important communication is in a relationship. Know when else communication is important? When your partner is stuck in a relay temple game, time is running out, Kirk’s narrations are getting progressively snarkier and you only have one Pendant of Life. And you thought getting a date to your dorm formal was stressful.

    Now no matter how much you may have learned about dating from celebrity couples like Doug and Patti, Alex Mack and Ray or Clarissa and Sam, not even the most embarrassing self-help books can lay out the basics towards maintaining a stable, healthy relationship like two pre-teens running through a Styrofoam temple. It starts out well; they pair is comfortable enough with their attachment that they can do things on their own. When one needs some guidance, the ol’ ball and chain shouts out the assembly order for the silver monkey (although if that one gives your partner trouble you should probably cut out soon). Most importantly, you stick together even if you don’t win the RC car. Even if he was the one who totally blew it in the Tomb of the Ancient Kings.

    Lasting lessons for personal happiness that Kirk Fogg must never have learned

    Everything you need to know about life and could have learned from Legends of the Hidden Temple:

    Don’t be afraid to push yourself and try as hard as you can. The boulder chasing you is actually made out of foam. Team work is important. The kid waiting on deck is just as important as the kid racing through The Swamp. Get messy now; it could win you a bike later. Follow the rules. Always wear a helmet. For the love of God, remember how to assemble the Silver Monkey.

    And whether you’re in a Nickelodeon game show or that great big obstacle course that we call life, it’s still always harder when you’re the fat kid.


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