When I was a kid, I really loved Saturday Morning Cartoons. I’m from the era of Punky Brewster, Snorks, Smurfs, Thundercats, Ninja Turtles, and OG Transformers. My little brother and I would get up and make enormous bowls of cereal and park in front of the TV until just after the non-cartoon shows aimed at tweens (Saved by the Bell, California Dreams, etc).I was pretty into the Nicktoons a bit later (Doug, Rugrats, etc) when I was older, but then I bailed on cartoons until Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Lab. I might have been smoking a fair amount of weed at that time. It’s unsurprisingly hard to remember.
And then I just bailed on cartoons. I tried pretty hard to get into anime, but alas, that is not my genre of fandom.
My wife started watching cartoons pretty recently. She read an article about Steven Universe’s themes of consent and subversive feminism and decided that yes, this is a show she would add to her rotation. And, in that osmosis-type of way that happens when you’re married, I started watching it.
I had big dreams. I would watch this show and do a deep analysis. I’d think critically about activism and early access to radical ideals like self-acceptance and equality. But then a weird thing happened.I just really, really liked the show. Yeah, it’s radical in a lot of ways and yeah, there are a lot of really great messages that it’s cool for kids to be exposed to. But it’s also just a really fun show to watch. It’s smart without being to cerebral and it sticks with me long after I walk away from an episode. I think about the characters. My friends cosplay as them and we mutually freak out over this awesome thing we have in common.
My TV watching has been a weird thing in my life. I start watching shows because other people talk about how good they are. And then I watch them to keep up and keep watching them out of habit. To have something to do while I’m having breakfast or to spend 30 minutes in the middle of the day not working. I don’t think I like this. It’s not the worst. I’ve certainly had worse habits. But it feels like a thing I do that is both non-productive and pretty superficial.
I’m not judging heavy TV users at all, I’d like to clarify. I believe that the window/mirror theory of book reading applies to all of the media we consume. What I am saying is that I’d like to be more cognizant of what fills my day. So, yeah, I’ll probably still watch trashy reality TV with my wife. It’s low-entertainment, low-benefit, but it’s also something that she really enjoys and a nice way to spend time together at the end of what is routinely the longest day of the week for both of us.But I’ll also not feel guilty about watching cartoons. I think Steven Universe and more recently, We Bare Bears, (which I love with my whole heart and believe will change the world) have some of the best storytelling and most dynamic, well developed characters on television. How nice that they’re animated. How nice that the creators of these rad shows aren’t pandering by offering them fluff. I’m not sure if there’s a word or phrase for the TV equivalent of “reading up” (or challenging student performance and pushing educational boundaries – maybe this isn’t the right phrase?).
What are the smart comic you’re watching?
TL;DR: Steven Universe and We Bare Bears are awesome and you’re hella missing out if you’re not watching cartoons.