Why don't people take adult animated TV shows seriously?

Mike P Williams
Contributor

It’s a question that baffles the most hardened of TV fans: why can’t some adults give animated shows the credit they deserve?

There are two types of people. Those who can accept and appreciate and open their minds to all sorts of entertainment and embrace the weirdest or most wonderful content out there. And there are those who do not.

Ricky and Morty, for example, is often deranged but extremely sharp and witty. Bob’s Burgers is irreverent but hilarious with its movie references and pastiches. South Park can go all-out gross whilst being one of the smartest series out there.

But what do these titles have in common besides being cartoon-like by aesthetic and visually vibrant in nature? Well, they’re all adult-orientated shows that cater to grown-ups and are certainly not suitable for the kids.

So why is it that some adults roll their eyes at the idea of an adult show that happens to be a cartoon? Is it really so difficult to adapt your way of thinking to engage in a medium that is often gloriously animated and painstakingly conceived, laced with rude or clever jokes, sexual references, and coarse language?

Why can’t some people acknowledge that cartoons aren’t purely created to entertain children and that they actually have an intrinsic value on an equal footing to any live-action programme or movie?

It’s often those who don’t actually watch the likes Family Guy or Archer or American Dad! and presume that anything hand-drawn is something akin to an audience familiar with TeleTubbies. The merit of adult animation, and more often than not they fall under the comedy bracket, is varied and valid.

Yet it’s funny how these same people will probably watch The Simpsons – why’s that ok but more obscure shows aren’t? Does its culturally iconic, ultra mainstream status make it acceptable?

Not only do all the above shows incorporate interesting stories into each and every episode, but in order to make it successful as a brand it has to be well written or else it gets overlooked and easily forgotten about. Clever shows are more of a rarity, so it’s commendable that there are so many I can reel off that are intelligent and consistent in quality.

Each has something to say but also feels like they have to prove themselves for recognition. Whether it’s Rick and Morty’s existential crisis of how nothing in the entire universe actually matters or South Park’s bang-up-to-date episodic narrative reflecting the current state of US politics; different shows have different angles and offer contrasting takes as forms of entertainment.

And that’s not to suggest that what we see – whether it’s a juvenile poop joke or a deft commentary on Donald Trump’s narcissism – isn’t worthy of our time. As adults we don’t insist that everything we consume has to be serious in nature that’s devoid of humour – where’s the fun in that?

What adult animation does have is subtlety. The nature it tells a particular story or handles a topic is clearly done so in a way to engage an older audience, thus anyone who rolls their eyes at a cartoon should probably take a look at how they’re living their lives.

Episodes of Rick and Morty, such as Meeseeks and Destroy, are so ‘out there’ that it’s a genius concept. The same can be said about Rixty Minutes (where they watch Interdimensional cable that’s the most utterly bizarre thing imaginable), or Total Rickall (where their home is invaded with parasites who multiply through fake memories and character flashbacks). There’s no simple way to define animated comedy and one certainly can’t lump all animation into one narrow age bracket or generational demographic.

Are adults afraid of being mocked for liking what looks like a childish cartoon? More importantly, why are they?

They’re arguably the same type of people who don’t take Disney or Pixar films seriously or give them any credit as adult content. If you’ve ever seen Up, WALL-E, Toy Story 3 or Upside Down, you’ll know of the adult subtext that is ingrained in each and every one of the the latter’s features… but to anyone looking in from the outside, they’re just a bunch of colourful characters in a make-believe world.

What I have taken from my experiences with those unwilling to look beyond their perceived pigeon holing of children and adult programmes is not to care. Let them dismiss. Let them mock. I know that my life is richer with programmes like of Futurama or Bob’s Burgers encouraging me laugh at its dry sense of humour, and anyone happy to ignore that and its many, many peers are the ones losing out.

Embrace your silly side. Try new things. Stop being such a boring adult that you actively prevent yourself from enjoying some of the greatest shows to ever exist because you feel they’re beneath you when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.