I was going to write about Jamie Foxx being cast as Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but I write about comic book movie news all the time. Today I’m going to be discussing another topic very near and dear to my heart: cartoons.
There’s a stark difference between what’s on children’s programming now and what there was when I was younger. I’m not here to critique the quality of the shows, because stuff like The Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball are really good; I’m here to comment on the content.
Cartoons used to be about kids. At the youngest end of the scale you had Rugrats, which was literally about babies. Moving up you went through Hey Arnold!, The Weekenders, all the way up to the aptly named 6teen. These were kids who went to school, who had sleepovers, who hung out with their friends. They were relatable.
The following is the opening theme from The Weekenders [1999-2004]:
This is the opening theme from Sidekick [2010-present]:
Both of these shows are, at their core, about the same thing. The difference is the gimmick present in the latter. Sidekick is about kids, sure, but it’s about kids who are training at the Academy for Aspiring Sidekicks. To contrast, The Weekenders is about kids who enjoy hanging out with each other on weekends.
That’s not to say genre-mixing in kids’ shows hasn’t been around for ages, and that I don’t enjoy them. Programs about kids who are also spies have been around since Kim Possible and Totally Spies. One of my all-time favourite shows, Fillmore!, is a shameless parody of hard-boiled police dramas, with its characters often acting more like tiny adults than children.
The fact is, I miss shows without gimmicks. When all you have to deal with is a football-headed kid and his pals, that forces you as a writer to be creative, to make the ordinary extraordinary but still relatable. Stuff can get weird, like the barbarically tribal kindergarteners in Recess, but for the most part you’re sticking to real life stuff. Honestly, being a kid is a bizarre enough experience as it is.
I love Adventure Time and its protagonist, Finn the Human. He’s a fourteen-year-old kid, and his escapades are all kinds of awesome. The thing is, I’m never going to be best friends/brothers with a magical talking dog, or date a girl who is literally on fire. I get escapism, I know why it’s important, but I also can’t feel the same way about Adventure Time as I do The Weekenders. I could have been Tino or Carver, but there’s no way I can ever be Finn.