The Importance of Cartoons

By Mitchell Nee

Jesuit Articles (Portland, Oregon)

Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob, passed away on November 26, 2018 due to ALS. Mourning his death were millions of fans who have watched the show since its inception in 1999.

With the death of a man whose show has impacted so many — and is beloved at Jesuit — it’s time for a call to action: Get out there and watch animated television.

First, get out there and watch adult animation. Many of these shows have seen public and critical success. For 18-34 year-olds, Rick and Morty was the most watched comedy on all of television in 2017. (Vorel) Shows like Bob’s Burgers, Archer, and Bojack Horseman have been critically acclaimed, being named on year-end lists and garnering Emmy wins.

Besides being critically acclaimed, shows like The Simpsons and South Park are very satiric. First, their low budgets allow for the shows to react quickly to topical subjects like gun control or abortion. Secondly, as journalists from Southern Utah University said, animation offers South Park the chance to put characters into “scenarios past the limit of good taste and societal morals” (University). That is, animation allows for scenarios impossible for any live-action series and allows writers to explore stories where the only limit is the imagination.

The strategy seems to have worked. South Park and The Simpsons are some of the longest- running TV shows. Both shows spawned movies, South Park: The Movie and The Simpsons Movie. South Park: The Movie even garnered an Academy Award nomination while The Simpsons Movie earned a Golden Globe nomination.

So, adult animation is a mainstay of American culture. In fact, the first cartoon to be X-rated in America was created in 1972 in Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat. Others soon followed, like Heavy Metal or Felidae.

But, animation aimed at younger kids often has deep and emotionally resonant storytelling, too. There’s a reason shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls have legions of die-hard fans and have scored many Emmy nominations.

Lastly, animation for younger audiences — in addition to being funny and fast-paced — often contains adult humor which adds an extra level of enjoyment for adults. Shows like Animaniacs, Johnny Bravo, and Spongebob Squarepants contain fun references, in-jokes and innuendos for older viewers to enjoy.

Animation may be seen as puerile or inappropriate. Why? It’s just a different medium which often contains hilarity and heart. The fact of the matter is, animation can appeal to any group of people. Tom and Jerry for kids. Spongebob, Tiny Toons, or Avatar: The Last Airbender for kids who are slightly older. Archer, Sealab 2021, Bojack Horseman, Big Mouth, Cowboy Bebop and so on and so forth for teens and adults. Happy viewing.

Photo Credit: Robin Hutton

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