FACT: the best cartoons ever written for kids are right now.
You know what’s really great?
Whatever you, my fellow teens-to-adults, may think of current cartoon shows and/or their internet fandoms, only one thing is really important here: actual, impressionable children are watching them and none of the protagonists are insufferable fucking shitheads.
You know, like some of these little asshats:
Let’s get one thing clear: I am not putting down these shows and characters. I fucking love some of these shows and characters. There’s just no denying, however, that most successful cartoon characters of the past twenty years have been either know-it-all punk-ass brats, “edgy” radical antiheroes or well meaning but catastrophically destructive dumbasses. Sure, you had some beautiful, precious exceptions like Courage: The Cowardly Dog and….Courage: The Cowardly Dog, but otherwise even the writing, pacing and animation in most of these shows had a crass, anarchistic feel to it, like their every element was just a giant middle finger to one authority figure or another.
This was all very hip, clever and refreshing in, say, 1991, in a righteous backlash against several generations of sappy, conformist and awkwardly moralistic white-bread children’s programming, but doesn’t anybody else think they might have overcompensated just a teeny, tiny bit? You know, like when we were supposed to laugh at Buster Bunny or the Warner Brothers making life miserable for completely innocent, well meaning people with no rhyme or reason? And then cartoons just kept doing that, all the time, for most of two decades?
We went from milquetoast dullards like Snagglepuss and Papa Smurf to just these socially hostile bullies and dangerous mental cases with almost no transitional period and only rare exceptions…until recently.
I’m not an active fan of My Little Pony and holy shit, what the fuck, but where its target audience is concerned, we finally have a wildly popular kid’s show that actually teaches positive values by example, without treating said target audience like idiots or filling their bulbous little heads with garish, loud, crazy-ass douchebaggery for a cheap laugh.
Meanwhile, in Adventure Time, we’vegot a show where a little kid beats the shit out of villains and monsters, and still doesn’t come across as actually aggressive. He and Jake are sincere, traditional heroes who want to help people in need and uphold justice. Even the Powerpuff Girls would lethally pulverize monsters just for being monsters, while Finn the Human seems horrified by the prospect of even accidentally harming anything that isn’t actively malicious.
Even relative newcomer Gravity Falls, with pre-teen protagonists surrounded by incompetent, mean spirited adults, doesn’t try to shove a defiance disorder down its viewer’s throats. Dipper and Mabel are good kids, who make reasonable mistakes, and have a healthy, caring sibling relationship.
There are other good things about other shows airing now, but these are the strongest examples I can think off of the top of my head and god damn did this turn into an essay or what.
ADDED BONUS: these and others shows are also kicking the shit out of formulaic gender distinctions, not just with equally interesting, diverse male and female characters, but with an utter disregard for whether they’re “boy” or “girl” cartoons and what that was always expected to mean.
Social justice sallies probably think this particular issue is as terrible as ever, but let me tell you something: in the mid 80’s, boys were getting beaten up if they owned any She-Ra: Princess of Power action figures. It was the SAME. FUCKING. SHOW as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but if you even owned one of She-Ra’s villains, it meant that you LIKED a “GIRL SHOW” and that, apparently, was an unforgivable crime in the eyes of other male children. Now, Adventure Time is one of the most watched television programs among both boys and girls, with pink princesses and rainbow unicorns and giant slugs and rotting undead sorcerers, together at last.
If you think cartoons have only gone downhill you’re stupid.