I’m Jealous. I really am. Children have so much access to so many more opportunities and art forms. With the advent of the internet and exponential technological progression, software and entertainment have been constantly improving. Is your child struggling with math? There are 1000 apps that can help him out for free. Have a child who’s getting bullied at school? There’s usually multiple counsellors and support rooms to help them out and develop healthy relationships. But these serious topics aren’t what I’m jealous of. I’m jealous of the great cartoons that kids have to watch today.
I grew up in the scariest decade for cartoons: the 2000s. Even more terrifying, I grew up in Canada, which, in its rich 149-year history, has not produced a single good TV show. Our highlights include Johnny Test (shudders), Angela Anaconda (dies a little inside), and What’s With Andy (that kid may be a sociopath). The first half of the 2000s had a lot of great cartoons but then…it just stopped. The cartoons that were excellent, weren’t there anymore or they were past their prime, and the major cartoon channels didn’t have many standout shows. There were certainly good shows, but nothing that was defining, except maybe Avatar The Last Airbender. But what I think killed the 2000s was the advent of Flash Animation. Flash made cartoons much easier to mass produce, and that led to a cavalcade of garbage television. I remember at the end of my childhood, clinging onto Spongebob re-runs, because everything else being shown was so depressingly bad.
Adult cartoons in the 2000s were also hit-or-miss. There’s the obvious South Park and early Family Guy, along with more cult hits like Futurama, Venture Brothers, and Harvey Birdman. But…there was SO much garbage as well. Piles and piles of 18+ garbage. And I watched it as a kid because I thought I was cool. I got none of the jokes in Robot Chicken, but I kept watching because I was desperate for something to entertain my dumb child mind.
I watched less and less Television and started watching anime online instead. It was totally illegal, sure, but all of the episodes were there, I didn’t have to wade through toy commercials, it was amazing! Youtube also became prevalent in my life in 2006. I had that for my entertainment, I didn’t need 6teen and Iggy Arbuckle anymore!
And that’s how I ended my childhood cartoon career. Small highs at the beginning, long depressing lows in the middle, and recompensation at the end. 2010 was the year I stopped watching cartoons. And what a terrible year to stop.
Because 2010 was the year Adventure Time, Friendship is Magic, Regular Show, and Young Justice premiered. Four stellar cartoons all marking significant changes in this decade’s cartoon trends.
Adventure Time, was what started this landslide of great content. It was an immediate hit when it first came out because of its zany humour, fascinating world, bright colours, and nostalgic qualities. It was darker, more surreal, and more self-aware than other mainstream cartoons before it. It didn’t stray away from death, and it allowed its relationships to be explored more openly. Episodes are relatively cheap to make, but that’s all the better, because the potential of this show is endless. The serious subject matter presented for a children’s show marked an alteration that reverberated throughout many shows after it.
Regular Show, too, marked a more mature tone, but also a relaxed and welcoming vibe. It focused mainly on humour, and wanted to be a comedy show. The jokes and references were broad enough to reach audiences of multiple age groups without pandering to them. The show struck a delicate balance between mature humour and great stories. It’s a show that invited its audience to stay and watch, and it did not shy away from its weirdness. It was unapologetic with its content, and it, along with Adventure Time, marked a significant shift to expressionism of ideas. Before, cartoons usually had to fit a mold. If you were a high school show, you usually had archetypes to fill. However, Regular Show is just two lazy animals working in a park. Its premise matches its relaxed tone, and its reserved setting is wholly unique.
Young Justice came along 2 years after The Dark Knight and helped show that superhero content was not just pulp-ey schlock. It can have a message that reverberates for people, it can have serious stories and topics. You can remain faithful to the source material, or you can break away from it and create your own fascinating stories. It’s an excellent, and surprisingly mature show that focuses on interpersonal relationships and drama.
And Friendship is Magic helped boom fandoms and show that even shows that on the surface look like trash, can actually fantastic. It created “bronies”, which fostered and created one of the most vocal and tight-knit fandoms on the internet. It’s also good flash animation! That’s the exact opposite of every Flash show in the 2000s.
And let’s not forget Legend of Korra, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, the list goes on and on. Kids shows are becoming much more open to serious content, and that’s fantastic. Kids aren’t stupid, whatsoever. In fact, kids have surprisingly more openness and understanding that most people think. Steven Universe is an opportunity to openly display and discuss Lesbian relationships and companionship. It is a show that shows children not to ostracize or hide your feelings, but rather, embrace and understand them. That’s an important message, especially for children, who are often so afraid to cry or show emotion out of fear of insult.
Needless to say, the standards have changed for cartoons greatly. Cartoon censors and restrictions have lowered, and the bar of quality has been seriously raised. Children are being challenged intellectually and morally. Gone are the days of black and white characters. Gone are the days of slapstick and crude humour. Children are now entertained with captivating, intriguing, and challenging material, and it is a change very much for the better.
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