Modern cartoons aren’t just for kids-From character development to addressing LGBTQ issues, cartoons have transformed for the better

Jessica Pupillo, Staff Writer

     Many people today think that TV has gone down as a whole and yearn for the “good old days” of 90’s cartoons and the golden age of TV. However, while there are definitely shows that can be considered less than superb that have been created in the last ten or so years or that have declined over time, there are also a lot of shows that have broken bounds, are smarter, more unique, etc. than past shows, especially when it comes to cartoons.

     While many kid’s shows today are seen as stupid or have continued on way past their prime (i.e. “SpongeBob”), there are actually a lot of intelligent and extraordinary animated programs that are aimed at children, but actually many teens and adults enjoy as well.

     “Steven Universe” is a show on Cartoon Network about a young boy named Steven and three female aliens who help raise him. Though the show deals with a multitude of both hilarious and “science-fiction-esque” stories, the show also touches on a variety of social issues from the real world. The show touches on not only LGBT+ relationships, but abusive relationships, grief, mental health and more. This show is one of the most popular cartoons on TV and is definitely deserving of such popularity.

     Another great example of a kid’s shows that can appeal to an older audience is “Gravity Falls.” It has a series-long mystery plot where viewers are constantly speculating and questioning different aspects and plot points related to the mystery. It also includes hilarious characters, amazing visuals and a great overarching theme related to growing up and adolescence. So, while children’s shows may be aimed at younger audiences, many teens and adults enjoy them too.

     Let’s move on to adult animation. For years people have been tuning into a variety of adult cartoon programs like “Family Guy,” “South Park,” “Archer” and many others. Adult animated programs can range from insightful and brilliant to stupid and offensive. Sometimes it can even be a combination of all of those things. However, while we have seen many shows go from good or groundbreaking to bad or overstayed their welcome (“Family Guy” and “South Park”), there are many new adult cartoons that have been created in the last few years that have gone above and beyond with their creativity, messages, characters and storylines.

     “Bojack Horseman” is a Netflix show that features the story of washed up 90’s sitcom anthropomorphic horse actor named Bojack Horseman. While the first few episodes seem like any other adult cartoon comedy, the show quickly takes a very drastic turn in terms of emotional and visual storytelling. As time goes by in the show we see it tackle various issues in both comedic and moving ways from abortion to finding one’s purpose in life to mental health.

     The show delves a lot into Bojack’s depression and feelings related to his mental health. This is one thing that makes the show stand out from other adult cartoon programs or even simply other television programs. The situations and emotions of these characters are things that many people can relate to. On top of the emotional situations that the characters find themselves in, it is also a fantastic show in terms of comedy, story structure and continuity.

     Another adult cartoon show that goes above and beyond in creativity, message and storytelling is “Rick and Morty.” Co-created by Community creator, Dan Harmon, this show follows the adventures of Rick, an old, irresponsible and occasionally drunk scientist who enjoys taking his anxious, young teenage grandson, Morty, on adventures with him to different dimensions and planets.

      This show is never lacking in new or original comedy (just watch either episode involving interdimensional cable), but also makes sure to touch on some larger issues the characters are dealing with. Like many of the other shows mentioned in this article, many smart cartoons today touch on mental health issues surrounding their characters. “Rick and Morty” is no exception as the show mentions verbally and visually the pain that these characters may be feeling related to their emotional stability, especially Rick.

     Questions of Rick’s well-being and self-worth are constantly seen throughout the series. Sometimes it is used in a long monologue after a near-death experience, while other times it is played off as Rick trying to hide his pain through drinking or not caring or humor. We also get to see deep emotions from other characters, like Beth (Rick’s daughter and Morty’s mother) whom Rick abandoned when she was a little girl, leaving her with serious abandonment issues, while Summer (Morty’s sister) strives to cope (sometimes destructively) with the issues involving her family life.

     While the show does have a lot of hard emotional moments and situations involving the character’s mental health, the show has a lot of heart and deals with family development and relationships, on top of character’s developing for the better. “Rick and Morty” is one of the best adult comedy shows out there due to its intelligence, comedy and emotion.

     This is not to say that cartoons of the past were not good or that there aren’t good adult cartoons today that have their occasional problems and issues. We as a society tend to look at the past as something to constantly yearn for and think that nothing will ever top what once was. This line of thinking, however, is very limited and close-minded, especially concerning the programs we watch.

     For every awful animated show created, there are fantastic and intelligent animated programs that are breaking boundaries with every new episode. It all depends on personal opinions, preference and the ability for viewers to keep an open mind about present day shows.

     If you are still skeptical about the quality of cartoons of the present day, whether they are children’s programs or animated adult shows, take a look at the many animated series suggested above before making any harsh judgements. It may surprise you what you’ve been missing out on.

     Cartoons are fun for everyone.