Some people get really snobby about cartoons. They think you shouldn’t enjoy them as an adult, or even as a young adult. That doesn’t make any sense. Spongebob doesn’t stop being funny just because I’m not ten anymore. In fact, I think I laugh harder at Spongebob at twenty-four than I ever did as a child, because when you’re a kid you just roll with the absurdism of an enthusiastic kitchen sponge who lives in a fruit under the ocean who lives next to a clarinet playing cranky squid and a dumb starfish in shorts. When you’re older, you realize what a ridiculous situation that is, and the show is that much funnier. Spongebob is just one example of cartoons that get better with age.
…..Here are three more:
Adventure Time follows the escapades of Finn the Human and his best friend Jake the Dog. Finn was adopted by Jake’s parents when he was found abandoned as a baby, so they are also brothers. Jake’s body has stretching powers that help on their adventures. They live together in a very cool treehouse with their sentient video game console Beemo and run around the land of Ooo fighting off bad guys and doing favors for various princesses. (There are a ton of princesses in Ooo, like Hotdog Princess, Breakfast Princess, Flame Princess, Slime Princess…..the list goes on and on.)
That sounds like it has old-fashioned, boring “knights in shining armor saving the day” written all over it, but it’s actually a very feminist and progressive show. Princess Bubblegum, who is an excellent scientist and probably the most competent of the various princesses, is a close friend of Finn and Jake who rules her kingdom with logic and practicality. Lumpy Space Princess also features prominently, and while she might be a little overdramatic, she’s also confident and assertive. (She also has the best character name EVER.)
My favorite thing about Adventure Time, along with it being very funny within its somewhat bizarre reality, is that it’s all about respect. Finn and Jake do their best to respect everybody they come into contact with, even bad guys. Sometimes they slip up and make mistakes, but they’re always there to call each other out over those slip-ups, and they try to take lessons from their actions that they can use in the future.
Some other interesting recurring characters are Lemongrab, the shrieky, lemon-headed earl; Lady Rainicorn, Jake’s rainbow unicorn girlfriend; Ice King, the lonely old guy who lives up a mountain and who just wants a friend; and Marceline the Vampire Queen, who eats the color red and writes music. Sometimes there are also gender-swapped episodes with Cake the Cat and Fiona the Human, characters from some of Ice King’s fan fiction.
Before we move on, I need you all to see Lumpy Space Princess. She’s a hoot.
This one is about Dipper and Mabel Pines, twin kids who head to the pacific northwest town of Gravity Falls to stay with their Grunkle (short for Great Uncle) Stan for the summer. There are a lot of mysterious, supernatural things that happen in Gravity Falls (I guess that makes the show a bit like Twin Peaks, except it’s charming instead of absolutely terrifying), and Stan exploits these strange phenomena by running a gift shop for gullible tourists. Stan’s employees Soos, a childlike handyman of indeterminate age (Is he twenty-two? Is he forty? It’s hard to say.), and Wendy, a local teen on whom Dipper has a crush, round out the main cast of characters.
Mabel would probably be happy just to enthusiastically wear gaudy sweaters and watch cheesy movies with her pet pig Waddles, but Dipper finds an enigmatic journal filled with information about the spooky and strange things that have been happening in Gravity Falls for years, and he makes it his mission to get to the bottom of the journal’s secrets. The twins act as foils to one another, Mabel being exuberant and forward while Dipper is more logical and reserved, but at the end of the day each is very important to the other and they almost always treat each other well.
Gravity falls is a very funny show. I literally laugh out loud every time I see this clip of “Old Goldy.”
Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb are brothers who make sure to do something awesome on every day of their summer vacation. Whether it be building a giant roller coaster, a complex haunted house ride, a circus, a time machine, or a swarm of robot versions of themselves, they somehow always have the resources and mechanical and logistical know-how to succeed in their task. The boys also have an older sister, Candace, whose mission in life is to rat out her brothers’ activities to their parents. She’s not malevolent, she’s just frustrated that, somehow, their mom never notices the complex projects going on in their own backyard.
The family also owns a pet platypus named Perry, who, unbeknownst to anyone, is also a secret agent fighting against the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz. This usually makes up each episode’s subplot, and Doofenshirtz’s “inator” du jour (machines he cooks up to accomplish his evil schemes) somehow usually wipes away Phineas and Ferb’s project of the day without a trace. For example, his out of control “drill-inator” crumbles the likeness of Candace that her brothers carved into Mount Rushmore as a present for her right before her mother sees it.
There’s also at least one really catchy song in every episode.
In addition to each of these shows being really funny and entertaining, the thing I appreciate most is that these stories are about friends and families cooperating and being good to one another. I’m not saying Wile E. Coyote crashing into a mountain or something like that isn’t funny, but we live in a world in which a lot of crummy stuff happens, so it’s nice to see shows that celebrate some of the good things and make us laugh at the same time.
If you’re interested in seeing any of these cartoons, Adventure Time airs on Cartoon Network while Gravity Falls and Phineas and Ferb are both on the Disney Channel. Adventure Time and Phineas and Ferb both have a few seasons on Netflix as well.