Cartoon Kids, Mature Messages

Saturday-morning cartoons aren’t what they used to be

Graphic+by+Leni+Santos%2FSAC.Media.

Graphic by Leni Santos/SAC.Media.

Sitting in front of the television with a bowl of cereal and a goofy character annoying the local grump used to be the ideal Saturday morning of millions of children around America.

Then the jokes aren’t as funny as they used to be and watching the same reruns over and over gets a little old. For a lot of children, leaving Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network behind became part of growing up. They moved on to dramas and reality television; they grew up. Meanwhile, some people never left the 2D world. But what’s so wrong with growing up walking down a much more colorful path?

Sure, there are the more “adult” cartoons such as “Family Guy,” “Archer” and “Rick and Morty.” I’m not talking about those, though. I’m talking about cartoons that are rated PG for suggestive dialogue or TV-Y7 for fantasy violence. I’m talking about the cute bouncy cartoons that teach children that the power of friendship will save the day. Over time, though, we’ve learned that this isn’t entirely true, and it seems that cartoon creators have learned that too.

In the last few years, there’s been a massive increase in animated TV shows that not only appeal to children, but also to plenty of older audiences. From those in college walking around with “My Hero Academia” stickers on their notebooks to those owning businesses while wearing “My Little Pony” shirts, animation remains an important part of our culture, and shouldn’t be shamed as something we need to grow out of.

The “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” fandom serves as a huge example of a “children’s show” that can appeal to a much more mature audience. In fact, the average age of a brony, as fans of the show have called themselves, is 21.

Why would people who can legally drink get so interested in a show that talks about pretty much nothing but lessons related to friendship? Well, it could be the fact that plenty of the lessons within the show can still apply to their lives. For example, the five out of the six main characters represent five “elements of harmony.” While it sounds immature, I must ask: what’s so bad about the positivity in being honest, kind, generous, loyal and full of laughter? Why does “growing up” have to be so innocence-shattering that there’s no reason to keep these “elements of harmony” a part of our lives?

Plus, there are specific friendship lessons that can still apply to adults. For example, in the fourth episode of the series, “Applebuck Season,” one of the main characters take on a colossal task, only for them to cause more harm than good both to themselves and the people around them. They learn to admit to themselves that they need to let go of their pride and ask for help when they need it. This is a lesson that is absolutely ageless.

Then there are animated shows such as “Adventure Time” teaching a thing or two about some life lessons such as getting over heartbreak. While there are plenty of colorful cast members to look at, there is one character in the series that should be taken note of, Flame Princess. Honestly, the beginning can be summarized at its basics as boy meets girl, they date, they fight and then they break up. It’s after this point that Flame Princess’ character gets a layer to her story that isn’t often seen in cartoons. Whereas plenty of animated relationships last only an episode, this one has stretched throughout the seasons, and after their break-up, the audience watches as Flame Princess grows from it and moves on.

Then there’s the fact that cartoons are more diverse than ever. The representation we didn’t have in our childhoods are being given to us now, and what’s so wrong about relishing in it? Take for example, “Steven Universe.” While they’re not the main protagonists, the series does feature plenty of characters in its world that don’t follow the requirement of one person of color. Instead, we have a strong, independent love interest that’s Indian-American and a powerful Filipino character that has a passion for creating recognizable foods such as ube rolls.

Along with expanding the spectrum of people of color being recognized, different sexualities are also being brought to light. In an episode of the show “Loud House” back in 2016, Nickelodeon made history. When being dropped off at a sleepover, the screen displays a child that’s happily loved and cared for by his parents. The fact that they’re a bi-racial, gay couple isn’t turned into a gimmick, and they’re treated like any other parental couple. They’re simply there to represent.

Finally, there are the cartoons that are really just much more appreciated by mature minds. In the show “Gravity Falls,” clues and easter eggs lie everywhere, and it’s highly unlikely that the average 7-year-old will recognize the signs right away. For example, audios can be reversed and listened to both within the episode and even during the intro to reveal hidden messages. Prior to its season finale back in 2016, thousands of videos and online posts covered theories that touched on almost every single detail spread throughout the show.

Even after it ended, though, the mystery and intrigue didn’t stop. A few months after the show ended, fans all over the world participated in a scavenger hunt launched by the creator. In an adventure chock-full of puzzles and riddles to be solved, leading to one final spot where a piece of the animated finale waited in the real world.

Recently, people might also be noticing the increase in the shows they grew up with coming back with a new generation. “That’s So Raven” has turned into “Raven’s Home,” and “Boy Meets World” has become “Girl Meets World.” This same kind of reboot occurred with fans of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” when they were introduced to “The Legend of Korra.” The kids who grew up watching Aang’s journey to becoming the avatar, grew up to watch the next avatar take over. Except this time, the path is much darker.

Rather than focusing on a single antagonist, the main protagonist must focus on herself and who she wants to be as the avatar. The series is filled with much more drama than its predecessor and really appeals much more to those who watched the original series than those who are just getting into it now.

At the end of the day, people should be able to watch whatever they want as long as they’re happy. If that means sitting down and watching hours of a teen drama or true-crime show, then so be it. And if that means, sitting down for your Saturday-morning cartoons on a Sunday afternoon, then that’s just as fine.