Adventure Time isn't just for the kids
A lot of people would enjoy a feel-good show about a boy and his dog adventuring in a post-apocalyptic world that’s just shy of being something out of a full-blown acid trip. But would people still watch if the show was a cartoon? Probably not, because cartoons are for kids, right? Well, I say that Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” — the show alluded to a few lines ago — is the perfect example of why it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a cartoon when it has plenty for adults to enjoy.
It’s the same reason plenty of college students love Disney and Pixar movies, or still enjoy the classic shows of their youth such as “Rugrats,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” and “The Angry Beavers.” The writers know their audience has to be composed of more than just kids, and so there’s a whole layer of subtext underneath just for adults.
To put it frankly, the subtext almost always involves a healthy portion of “this show is actually really dark,” and that’s a great thing. I mean, think about some of the real-life implications of “Adventure Time.” The main character, Finn, is a 13-year-old boy raised by a family of talking dogs and is the last known — confirmed — human. He exposes himself to constant danger and spends most of his time protecting a kingdom of living candy from genuinely terrifying horrors.
Anyone put into this situation in real life would probably have a massive mental breakdown. But getting to watch Finn live the life he does with such a lighthearted attitude is hilarious. He doesn’t realize that death is just around the corner half the time he’s adventuring. So when he jumps into a monster’s stomach to save a bunch of constantly partying bears from being digested and melted by lava, kids laugh because the whole notion is silly to them, but adults laugh because, holy hell, shit just got real.
A cartoon needs more than just mind-breaking implications to be entertaining for adults, though. There have to be serious moments when the characters show real emotion, and “Adventure Time” is packed to the brim with these as well.
Just recently, the show has been dealing with Finn’s new love interest, Flame Princess, and how hard it was for him to get over his first love, Princess Bubblegum. He hits the whole spectrum of emotions in one episode about the subject, and wraps it up in a comedic outer-layer.
An even more heart-wrenching example is the hilariously ineffective Ice King. In one episode, viewers find out he was once a simple human antiquarian who happened to stumble across a cursed crown. He puts it on once to make his fiancee laugh, but instead blacks out and experiences horrifying visions.
When he comes to, he learns something happened that drove his fiancee away forever. The connection is then made that the Ice King hunts princesses because he’s trying to fill the hole left in his heart by the absence of his princess — his former fiancee.
So when a cartoon is demented and hits the heart at the same time, it’s OK to watch. You’ll laugh more while watching it than any terrible Adam Sandler movie, even though the latter uses “real people.” If you’re looking for a place to start, though, “Adventure Time” would be the best investment of your time.
— Jason Krell is the copy chief of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell.