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Cartoons are More Important than You Realise: Kid's Content Can be More Meaningful than Consuming “Serious” and “Mature” Media

By: Rafaela Fonseca

I speak for all of us when I say we all watched cartoons when we were kids. Or, at the very least, kids shows. Desperately coming home from school and completely ignoring homework to find out "Who's that Pokemon" while eating cereal, waking up Sunday morning to slouch on the couch with Totally Spies! on the TV… ah, what a time to be alive. 

However, even if the given audience of these kids shows are, well… kids, many of these shows have exceptional production value and take themselves very seriously. Even if some of them are comedic. My very favourite examples are: Bluey, The Owl House, Gravity Falls, The Amazing World Of Gumball and Adventure Time and some movies like many Studio Ghibli productions, Puss in Boots: the Last Wish, Mitchels VS The Machines, Inside Out and mainly some other Disney and Pixar productions if we disregard the fact that they made Wish or Ruby Gillman the Teenage Kraken.

Now, let's be real, cartoons are very much associated with children, childish content, silly and colourful little stories. Truth is, they date back 30,000 years ago and were depicted by cavemen, sources say. Cartoons have the ability to take reality into another plane of existence and let creativity flow in a visual style that simply cannot be replicated in our real form and in an incredible storytelling medium.

Some cartoons really are dedicated to an adult audience, from the downright awful (Lemonade Mouth, Q-force, Velma), to the whacky but entertaining humour (Family Guy, The Simpsons, American Dad)  to the comedic yet more serious ones (Inside Job, Helluva Boss, Hazbin Hotel) and finally to the full-on mature, moving animations (Arcane, Bojack Horseman, Perfect Blue). However, some animators like to appeal to a younger audience as much as they do to a mature audience, a scenario where kids would be able to watch cartoons with their parents and both parties would still have a good time, which I honestly find genius, as now kids only grow through screens and learn nothing from rip-off cash grab Youtube Kids videos. Most of what attracts an adult audience to a kid's show is done by the use of euphemism or little snippets of jokes which adult audiences can relate to, visually depicted or through dialogue. The most recent and one of my favourite cartoons which appeals to both audiences is Bluey, as seen on the cover of this article.

Bluey is an Australian kid's show produced by Joe Brumm centred around the Heelers (most specifically the eldest daughter, Bluey), a family of blue Australian Cattle Dogs in a world where regular humans are depicted as dogs of different breeds. In a way, I'd say the show is the better version of Peppa Pig as they basically consist of the same format: each episode is a small story about different events that occur within the family where there are usually life lessons and morals at the end.

This fun little kids show is famous for being entertaining to almost every age group, writing good characters in ways that can appeal to different audiences whilst still remaining age-appropriate. It also manages to tackle serious issues in lighthearted ways, breaking them down in simpler terms which kids can understand paired with breathtaking visuals. With the help of MsMojo, I was able to collect two very special episodes where I have genuinely ugly cried due to how real these events are and how their representation is made so bittersweet.

Starting off with "Camping", an episode where Bluey and her family go… well, camping. There, Bluey meets Jean Luc, a fellow French camper, and together both depart on fun holiday adventures. However, there comes a time when they need to part ways. Bluey experiences both the sweet moments as much as melancholic ones of saying goodbye to a loved one. This is tastefully shown in a conversation with her mom where we witness this beautiful and wise speech from Chilli (Bluey's mom):

Chilli: Sometimes special people come into our lives, stay for a bit, and then they have to go.

Bluey: But that's sad.

Chilli: It is. But the bit where they were here was happy, wasn't it?

Bluey: Yeah… We caught a wild pig together!

Chilli: Maybe that makes it all worth it.

And to put the cherry on top, we see a flash forward where Jean Luc meets Bluey again when they are teenagers.

Let it be a holiday friendship like Bluey's or a lifelong relationship interrupted by whatever circumstances, this event happens to everyone, with departure and loss being a natural process of human life. The show is able to express a point of view where we can look at loss through a positive lens and reminisce on the good parts instead of grieving excessively.

Another one of my favourite examples is in the episode "Onesies" where we first meet Chilli's sister Brandy. Through another dialogue between Bluey and Chilli, we can infer that Brandy wants a biological child but is infertile. The script follows:

Chilli: You know how you really want Bingo's cheetah onesie?

Bluey: Yeah, more than anything.

Chilli: But it doesn't fit you, so you can't have it, and there's not really anything anyone can do to make it fit?

Bluey: Yeah…

Chilli: Well… There's something auntie Brandy wants more than anything as well, but she can't have it.

Bluey: Why can't she just have the thing she wants?

Chilli: Because it's not meant to be.

This moment is paired to a shot where Bingo is playing with Brandy in the backyard and, as Bingo leaves, Brandy rolls over and grimaces at the sight of Bingo leaving. It is also said that she hasn't visited her sister for 4 years, implying that it is too hard for her to see her sister's children.

Needless to say, Chilli is a very wise mother. However, it can now be seen that some children's shows present incredible life lessons that even adults need to take into consideration and cry to. Again, these are only two episodes out of many other Bluey episodes and many other kid's shows which depict such discussions and hot takes. Time and time again, creators have managed to represent communities and concerns without glorifying them or making them too blunt as a result of great writing. 

Personally, I am a huge geek for cartoons because they are able to use an alternate reality to beautifully paint discussions in different, unique ways.

Now, is it more important to watch these shows than ‘grown-up’ TV shows and movies? It honestly depends on what sort of content you're consuming and its quality because sometimes, the production of an animated movie for children is better than some cheap cash grab show. 

If you compare the depiction of Charlie Morningstar's daddy issues in Hazbin Hotel and the way that Bluey shows Mackenzie's abandonment issues, we can notice that Hazbin Hotel's use of "show don't tell" is heavy on the TELL rather than the show; whilst Bluey is perfectly able to SHOW that Mackenzie has abandonment issues due to his trauma, first discreetly through dialogue before actually showing a flashback to when he has felt abandoned by his mother. Although Hazbin Hotel is an amazing musical series, many have noticed that the writing is not outstanding which has led them to dislike the series as a whole. Although I am a huge fan of the show, I'd say the show lacks on character building with "filler" episodes so that we can get to actually care about the characters and, as mentioned before, also has a hard time in implying key points of the series rather than explicitly mentioning them.

Want another example? Fine, let's take a look at two series which centre around absurd, whacky and dumb humour; The Amazing World of Gumball and American Dad. Although American Dad is part of the cheap adult comedy animation industry, it still knows how to write jokes for adults and keeps it absurd, but the writing isn't really anything meaningful as it doesn't deepen its world building, plot or characters at all. It's just unmemorable sex jokes and random nonsense. Even if it is a type of genre well praised by the media, it has to be written well in order to be considered an actual good show. Now we come in with Gumball, the master of absurd dumb humour which appeals to children. The best episodes stem out of the silliest ones which tend to not lean to the serious side as they already set the story in odd scenarios and make up an absurd storyline which sounds like it was taken straight from a fever dream, yet it still manages to relate it to our mundane lives and show how characters remain in different scenarios, which helps us get to know them. The best part, however, is how they go along with the dialogue and pair it up with the visuals. The dialogue follows generic language yet sneaks in little puns, gags and skits. Here's a small example:

Rocky: Hey guys! Why the long face, feeling gloomy?

(We see gumball with his face abnormally droopy and saggy while Darwin stands beside him in front of the school bus.)

Darwin: One; his face is long because he tried to stretch his skin to make it look like he's too old to go to school. Two; no, Mom didn't buy it.

Gumball: And three; yes, I'm feeling gloomy.

They never fail to set up the joke and deliver the punchline in the best way possible, sometimes in an unexpected way which makes it even less predictable and all the more hilarious. The delivery of the lines is amazing, the comedic timing is just right, and the interaction between the characters plays out amazingly… overall you can tell that The Amazing World of Gumball knows what it is doing and never fails to deliver.

With all of that in mind, we can conclude that some kids shows are able to beat adult shows by a long shot, even without the use of edgy content or dropping any F-bombs, sometimes even making fun of that limitation! Any age group can enjoy a well-written show which grown men poke fun at while consuming cheap content and saying their end is fine because the target audience of the content is meant for his age group. It is time to let go of the prejudice against cartoons and actually give the good ones a shot. Who knows, maybe the Disney adults are onto something (unless you enjoyed Wish, shame on you) The industry is becoming more and more contaminated with cheap production for soulless cash grabs which kids are growing up with, so it is time to let the creative ones flourish and bring back good writing by following the footsteps of a family of blue dogs and the school life of a blue cat and its goldfish brother with legs. And yes, I mean that seriously.



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