I used to work with a guy in an office that often had a TV going. And he was a bit of a remote Nazi. I’ve known far worse, but we still got a kick out of teasing his totalitarian tendencies with the TV remote. I’m not sure he could tell the difference between us teasing him and us criticizing him, but we did it anyway.
Anyway, if there was any sort of cartoon on, he’d change the channel. If there was a commercial for a cartoon movie, he’d huff and puff in irritation. “So stupid and childish,” he’d observe.
I believe this was a man in his mid-fifties at the time. He had me beat by roughly two decades. Maybe that was why I had a different view.
To me, cartoons are not inherently childish. Many are geared for an adult to enjoy, too. I think of the Shrek movies — silly enough for a kid to enjoy while most of the humor is actually for mom and dad. I think of the movie Up— a child-friendly storyline and cast of characters, but with themes only an adult can appreciate (an early scene had my wife and I both in tears of empathy as two animated characters were unable to have children). I think of half the stuff I’ve seen on Cartoon Network.
Then, there’s cartoons explicitly made for adults. I think of much of the anime I’ve seen — its violence, complex plotlines, and sexuality certainly beyond child viewers. I think of shows like South Park— dealing with childlike grace mixed with prisonlike pottymouths to produce scathing satire (often deeper than the show is given credit for, or at least deeper than it seeks to be given credit for) on politics, culture, and religion. I think of the other half of the stuff I’ve seen on Cartoon Network.
Personally, I think some adult concepts are more viable in an animated medium than in live action. There’s lots of cartoons I’d never let my children watch. Some of the anime I’ve run into is little more than violent porn with acting that’s somehow worse than normal porn. That’s too adult for me, much less my kids. Then, on the opposite end, is Spongebob. Too childish for my newborn, much less me. But that’s another story.
Therefore, I submit, cartoons are #notjust4kids.