Adult cartoons bring breath of fresh air to modern television landscape

"Adventure Time," which airs on Cartoon Network, is a children's show and takes on a Spongebob-like role for the network. (Courtesy/Cartoon Network)

“Adventure Time” is an oddity of modern television that’s strangely fitting for the times. A boy and his shape-shifting anthropomorphic dog go on tabletop RPG-style adventures through the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo. Occasionally, they sing nursery rhymes about mushroom clouds. The show is currently at the forefront of excellent storytelling through the often-underestimated genre of cartoons.

“Adventure Time” takes on a niche once filled by “Spongebob Squarepants.” These shows are a breath of fresh air from all the irony and sarcasm that Millennials are seemingly so proud of themselves for endorsing (myself included). Both are curiously and emphatically earnest, despite all of their extreme intrinsic weirdness.

It’s like the opening theme of “Family Guy,” that bit about “violence in movies and sex on TV / Where are those good old fashion values on which we used to rely?” but actually almost not sarcastic at all.

“Adventure Time” takes on some heavy topics, apocalypses aside; different episodes have tackled abandonment by parents, denying the past, gender roles and joining the army to get dental insurance. But it’s also lighthearted, surreal and simply great storytelling, with a backstory and setting as richly detailed as “Game of Thrones.”

Storytelling constantly challenges us to rethink and challenge the conventions we’ve grown accustomed to. “Adventure Time” brings new and quirky animation while challenging cynicism. It’s a children’s show, of course, so death and sex are almost nonexistent and instead just implied, but these particular kinds of limitations challenge the writers to reproach intense topics. 

Protagonist Finn is the 13-year old we all wish we were, although (in addition to not wielding a sword) we couldn’t possibly hope to be as sincere and wholehearted.

Earnestness and optimism are increasingly rare in modern storytelling, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But that also makes those few cases all the more important for continuing to understand why we tell and listen to stories.


Christopher McDermott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.