Let’s face it: being an adult is hard. You have to go to work, pay the bills, do your own laundry… there are days where it all seems a little overrated. Don’t you ever wish you could go back to being a kid, even just for a little while?
Well, they say that growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional, and never has that been more true than today. The upper age limit on formerly youthful pursuits like video games and social media is constantly rising. Gone are the days where we put aside childish things, and nowhere is this truer than in the realm of animation. Cartoons used to be for kids, but have been gradually and steadily becoming more mature. Sometimes it’s simply adult humour; other times, it’s more serious plot lines; and in many cases, it’s a simple appreciation of the talent and beauty in the art itself. Whatever the appeal is to you, the library has a number of titles available to grown-ups who just want to watch some Saturday morning cartoons.
Hailed by both Time and The A.V. Club as one of the greatest shows of all time, The Simpsons is the show that launched adult cartoons into the mainstream. Though its primary aim is to parody American culture and satirize the middle class, The Simpsons has always done so with great heart, emphasizing the importance of family and friendship above the shallow, fleeting distractions of modern American life. No wonder it’s still going strong in its 26th season.
You’d think that being the mastermind behind one of the most significant shows in television history would be enough for Simpsons-creator Matt Groening, but no. In 1999 he launched a second animated-for-adults series about a pizza delivery boy who’s cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve, only to re-awake in the year 3000. Philip J. Fry must navigate a future world full of alien species, retrofuturistic technology, and an evil robot manufacturer named ‘Mom’, among other things. On the surface, much of the show may seem to rely on wacky premises and low-brow humour, but savvy viewers will quickly realize it’s one of the smartest shows to ever air – even going so far as to invent its own mathematical theorem.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Forget about the widely panned movie of the same name; the cartoon that was its inspiration is highly acclaimed by viewers and critics alike. Avatar takes place in a world where certain people are able to use a combination of psychic abilities and martial arts to manipulate the elements of earth, water, fire, and air. The story follows 12-year-old Aang and his friends as they try to save the Earth, Water, and Air Nations from a war led by the Fire Nation. The well-developed characters, complex themes, and high-quality art (a blend of anime and American cartoon styles) helped this children’s show cultivate a devoted adult audience. (If you count yourself among them, don’t miss the excellent sequel, The Legend of Korra.)
(Japanese animation, or anime, has a fervent audience, and varies in ways far too detailed to discuss here. For those interested in testing the waters, consider starting with the many award-winning films of master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.)
Continuing the trend of cult favourites, Adventure Time is one of the clearest examples ever seen of “you either get it or you don’t”. Devoted fans praise the animation, complex-yet-absurd stories, and use of both subtle and overt humour; others seem to get genuinely angry at how darn weird it is. Taking place in the magical land of Ooo, this colourful cartoon follows Jake the Dog and Finn the Human on their many adventures, which include everything from stopping the evil Ice King, to jamming with Marceline the Vampire Queen, to exploring any and every dungeon they come across (they’re more common than you think!).
In the world of adult-oriented animation, shows generally follow one of two humour styles: the “how inappropriate and offensive can we be” (think South Park and Family Guy), or a blend of low-brow humour and extremely clever references (the aforementioned Simpsons and Futurama). Bob’s Burgers falls into the latter of those two categories. Following the travails of the Belcher family, who own the titular hamburger restaurant, the show is just as likely to make a fart joke as it is to reference an obscure piece of literary canon. For music fans, Bob’s Burgers also guarantees hilarious, catchy songs at the heart of nearly every episode, some of which have been covered by musicians like St. Vincent, The National, and Sleater-Kinney.
So go ahead. Watch some cartoons. Heck, eat a whole carton of ice cream while you do it. Who’s gonna stop you? You’re a grown up.
Share your favourite grown-up cartoons with us in the comments! Is the library’s collection missing your favourite title? Make a suggestion, and we’ll look into purchasing it!