We all grew up watching cartoons, from Bugs Bunny to SpongeBob Squarepants. These bright and colourful characters entertained us when we were children. Everyone has memories of sitting in front of the TV with our noses touching the screen watching our favourite characters getting into wacky shenanigans. It’s a shame adults don’t get to do that. Or do they?
It has been a growing trend in recent years that adults watch and enjoy cartoons aimed at children. Examples such as Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, My Little Pony, Avatar; The Last air bender and Over the Garden Wall. All of these shows focus on character development, interesting stories and world building. In fact, 5% of those who tune into channels like Disney channel and Cartoon Network are between 25 and 44 years old.
Looking at these titles, you may wonder why these shows are so popular with adults. Well firstly, Steven Universe deals with gender roles, sexuality and free will. The title character’s mother died so he could be brought into the world. Steven is raised by the three crystal gems his mother lead Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl and his Dad Greg. Being half Gem, Steven needs to learn how to use his powers to protect the world from the Homeworld Gems. That’s not even touching on the darker elements of this show.
Speaking of dark, Gravity Falls is the modern day Twin Peaks. It’s not an unwarranted comparison as the creator Alex Hirsch was inspired by the show and tried to get David Lynch from the show to voice the villain, Bill Cipher. When he rejected the offer Alex Hirsch just did a “bad impression of him.” The show is filled with demon summoning, possession and paranoia. You know, for kids! Yet Gravity Falls also keeps the balance of intense scenes and light-hearted comedy.
Sam DeSmith, Media Teacher said;
“It’s worth remembering that originally, cartoons as shown in cinemas; Mickey Mouse, Looney Tunes etc. were for adults. But I think that there’s a growing acceptance of alternative media for presentation of entertainment generally, as well as the fact that as part of the first digitally native generation we are unfazed by our hobbies being increasingly mainstream, and this is a natural reflection of this. Plus, we grew up with the Simpsons: if Bart Simpson had aged, he’d be in his mid30s, so we’ve grown up with knowing wry multi-level cartoon comedy.
It’s interesting that you say disturbing, not necessarily violent. In the first episode of Transformers – Prime Megatron tortures an FBI agent with a cattle-prod! Honestly, I don’t know. I think we just have a different sense of the content through our current societal lens – look at Tom and Jerry for ultraviolence and casual institutionalised racism.
We’re always going to be nostalgic. There was a spectacular amount of rubbish on, but you stay fond of these things. Equally, there’s a lot of generic, painfully especially digitally animated cheap kids cartoons now. I think that writers have more liberty to produce content that has wider appeal now. I think also that it’s part of a wider mainstreaming of “geek” culture and social acceptance of fandom.
[It’s] good, although I find it interesting that many “geeks” seem to resent the erosion of their gatekeeper status.
I think that by avoiding obscenity they can get away with most things that they could in any other medium. Of course, South Park, Robot Chicken, Family Guy and others will continue to push that.
[some look down on animation due to] Historical perception, mostly. But of course, that plays in their favour and actually allows them to get away with more, arguably.”
The show that has gained the most discussion on this topic is My Little Pony; Friendship is Magic. The show aired on October 10th 2010 and made waves with its unique characters, great animation and stellar storytelling. Like the other shows previously mentioned, MLP has some rather unsettling moments. Such as the brainwashing episode. Think 1984 with candy coloured ponies. It wasn’t just little girls who fell in love with the show, it was grown men as well.
Male fans of the show named themselves Bronies (Bro Ponies). There is even a few documeteries about this fandom, one of them is Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. While the majority of adult fans of cartoons are in North America, there is a growing number here in the UK. Just last weekend the second BronyScot took place. BronyScot is Scotland’s only MLP convention which raised £1140 for CHAS this year.
This shook up the internet. Men liking ponies? What? But consider this, why are women allowed to like shows aimed at young boys like Batman and Transformers, yet men are not allowed to like My Little Pony? It’s a double standard.
Mr Smith said: “When you have episodes that are a pastiche of the Big Lebowski and voice actors like John DeLancie involved it’s very specifically targeting that [adult male] demographic. Also, I think it’s partly about subverting those expectations, as Powerpuff Girls did on many levels. Which My Little Pony; Friendship is Magic is very much a successor to. We’re still very tied into gender norms and a hegemonised view. But, it’s changing.”
Marc James Marshall, 23, Glasgow said;
“I got into My Little Pony back in Early 2012, not long before Season 2 was about to end. I got into it through my friend, now Girlfriend Nicolle. She started posting pictures of MLP and I was curious. She said I should watch it, and my reaction at the time was of course “My Little Pony? Are you nuts?!” So after some convincing, I watched a few episodes. It took a while, but after 6-7, I was hooked. I think another reason was that cartoons back then were in a very big slump, and this was the first in a while that was pretty good. The characters were colourful and likable. The music was gorgeous, William Anderson is very underrated, The art design was great. The voice acting was top notch. So yeah, it stood out from the mix at the time.
I like MLP because of the colourful and likable characters. The wonderful music, and as of recent the stories have been getting darker, more risqué, probably accounting for the massive adult fandom.
[My favourite is] Applejack. She’s open and honest, like I tend to be. Plus I love the Southern Accent.
I do voice acting mostly for projects, dubs, etc. Currently I’m working on Equestrian Tales. A fanmade series that’s set 1000 years ago and has a very Celtic setting, lots of Scottish, Irish and Welsh influences. My YouTube with my voice acting projects is SonicFan39Returns.”
When asked about misconceptions of Bronies, he said;
“That they’re all man children, which just isn’t the case. Most adult fans are fully grown with families, and many bring many creative things to the fandom. I also find it very insulting when Bronies are all labelled as Autistic, like it’s some sort of insult. What the hell does Autism have to do with liking a TV show?
People are entitled to like what they want. It’s their decision, and if that bothers you then that’s your problem.”
With every positive, there is a negative. In the case of MLP there is a certain news show which is seen by some to be a show filled with hate and slander, Fox news.
Fox have called Bronies a “disturbing trend” and other insults no half decent human being would dare say about someone else. Then again, this is Fox news we are talking about here. If we listed all the slander and hate they have aired this article would be easily ten pages long.
These shows have received critical praise and awards. They have pushed society’s boundaries in more ways than one. They are filled with adult jokes, surprise plot twists and compelling characters. I highly recommend all the titles in this article. If you haven’t seen any of the shows, check them out. You will not regret it.