There’s something undeniably comforting about watching cartoons as an adult. Whether you’re re-watching your favourite programme from when you were younger or have found a new animated show to enjoy, the level of escapism you get from watching cartoons is unparallelled in any other TV genre.
This is arguably because of the simple fact that real life does not look like a cartoon. Whilst live action shows and films are limited to the capabilities of CGI, cartoons allow you to drop a tonne weight on a character’s head, only for them to bounce back up with a slight headache. Violence and destruction are most often seen as comedic in cartoons, particularly in classic shows such as Looney Tunes, where the entire premise of the show is for one character to catch or kill another. If Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote were put into a live action TV show, the result would be horrific, yet in animated form, it is hilarious.
Not all animated TV shows follow such a basic plot as Looney Tunes, though. More recent cartoons have multi-layered plots, vast worlds and character development that puts live action shows to shame. Adventure Time follows the adventures of a boy called Finn and his shape-shifting dog Jake in the Land of Ooo, where princesses and magic are rife. It may sound like your typical nonsense TV show aimed at amusing children for a few hours, but if you look closer, it is easy to see deeper.
The show’s creator, Pendelton Ward, has publicly said he sees Ooo as a post-apocalyptic version of Earth (something that instantly gives the show a whole new dimension). Episodes that show the development of the antagonist The Ice King from a scientist called Simon into an evil wizard help to bring depth and nuance into what could otherwise easily be seen as a children’s TV show on acid.
On top of the sense of escapism you get from watching animated TV programmes, there is also the simple fact that if you purposefully limit the genres of television that you watch, you risk missing out on something great. For most people, the word ‘Avatar’ conjures up images of giant blue cats and James Cameron, or perhaps even the horror that was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender.
Yet for those who are in the know, Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the best known and most loved animated TV shows of all time. The plot revolves around Aang, a young boy who must save the world from the clutches of the evil Fire Lord, Ozai. Tackling issues like genocide, abandonment, and the burden of responsibility in a way many other shows could learn from, it is clear from watching Avatar that animation in a TV show does not have to equal immaturity or an inability to deal with big, complex issues.
It’s a shame that many people see those who choose to watch animated shows as immature, weird or even creepy, as it seems that the medium of animation is perfect for creating shows that can tackle important issues whilst still giving a sense of escapism. And, after all, isn’t that exactly what all television shows are striving to do anyway?