By Fernando Acuna
From its impassioned subliminal messages, to its hints of humane righteousness, Adventure Time resonates with its core fans in a deeply empathetic manner as a result of its pleasant blend of high fantasy fiction and sensibly realistic themes. Undeniably, Adventure Time is one of the most controversial and particularly criticized children’s shows on television; the cartoon’s condemnation is typically on the grounds that its subject matter is occasionally perceived to be, in some measure, adult oriented–whether the show is truly inappropriate for young audiences or it is simply interpreted as such is certainly up for debate.
However, the indisputable matter at hand is that Adventure Time is one of the first of its kind; the show has managed to accomplish a task which has seldom been achieved by other cartoon programs–up until recent years, that is. Within the last decade or so, it has become increasingly common for children’s animations (not only Adventure Time, but also programs such as Regular Show, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, et cetera) to break the misconception of being compelled to appeal strictly towards their target audiences. Ranging from adolescents to young adults, viewers outside of Adventure Time’s primary audience appreciate the cartoon for its brilliant use of humanistic values. Although being set significantly remote from reality, the highly influential keynotes portrayed throughout the Adventure Time television series (such as the significance of values, kindness, self worth, and various more) can all undoubtedly be applied to real life circumstances.
Quite commonly, relatively old school cartoons (such as The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, Dexter’s Laboratory, et cetera) all shared generally simple–and somewhat cheap–gists (including abundant humor, inconsistent storylines, and mild to extreme violence) in order to entertain their audiences. However, while most classic cartoons may have been dynamic and vibrant–not to mention wildly popular–none of them ever seemed to develop into anything more than what could be analyzed plainly at face value. In a nutshell, the progression of whichever random episode within any typical classic cartoon’s series would go as follows: the main characters would encounter some rather outrageous complication; amusing yet ludicrous shenanigans would ensue; and ultimately, the problem would predictably be solved–an identical plotline setup would surely be used in every other self-contained episode within its series.
Then came along anime, a style of Japanese animation, and with it came the addition of actual relatability to cartoon characters. In the vein of precedented animations, animes (such as Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, et cetera) remained comedic and zany; nonetheless, they showcased distressed characters willing to emote on screen, impulsive decisions which resulted in permanent consequences, and dramatic scenarios to which a viewer could easily sympathize. In spite of being extremely over-the-top at times, animes paved the way for thought provoking cartoon programs such as Adventure Time.
Episode continuity on Adventure Time is upheld by various topics, the most prominent of which being the moral excellence of its main character, Finn the Human, and his escapades alongside his magical companion, Jake the Dog, throughout the Land of Ooo, a continent on a post apocalyptic/supernatural version of Earth. Finn, like most other fictional heroes, is bold and dauntless; nonetheless, he is merely a teenager–thus, his relatability towards adolescent viewers comes into play. Known as the champion of the Candy Kingdom, Finn occasionally struggles with his own disposition as the responsibilities that come along with being titled a hero weigh on him; comparably, ordinary teenagers often succumb to the pressure brought on by their everyday responsibilities as well.
Notwithstanding the fact that Finn’s obligations–though fictitious–are much greater than those of the average teenager, anyone could effortlessly identify with Finn’s feelings of agitation as, at times, everyone experiences “one of those weaks.” Finn’s moral values can be described as idealistic and unwavering as he strives to make as much of a positive impact on the world as he possibly can. Children, as well as adolescents and young adults, not only admire Finn’s courage, but also his willingness to always help someone in need–not because a third party or a religion compel him to do so, but because he is a truly good person.
Adventure Time’s characters are known to regularly break clichés, and in fact, discriminatory stereotypes can seldom be found in the development of any of the cartoon’s animated personas. Males and females, for example, are always thought of as equals. The use of feminist concepts (such as the idea that it is unnecessary for a woman to be rescued by a man if she is fully capable of saving herself–even if she plays the role of the “damsel in distress”) are repeatedly depicted in Adventure Time. Contentious subjects (such as gender dysphoria and sexual orientation) are also touched upon from time to time. Both androgynous as well as transgender characters appear on the show; moreover, the suicidal mentality of the latter type of characters (due to a lack of acceptance and a quantity of ridicule from their peers) is additionally apparent in the episode “Princess Cookie,” the thirteenth episode of the show’s fourth season. With the inclusion of such material in its series, Adventure Time has undertaken the responsibility of carrying out an notable public service; the importance of tolerance for one’s fellow human being is now gaining mass apprehension by the entirety of the beloved cartoon’s widespread audience.
Philosophical material is frequently dealt with on Adventure Time; in “Astral Plane,” the twentyfifth episode of the show’s sixth season, metaphysical ideology is especially contemplated. The episode’s juxtaposed focal points revolve around the miracle of birth/creation and, contrastingly, the dissatisfaction induced by existence/life. At one point in the episode, Finn asks, “…if just being born is the greatest act of creation, then what are you supposed to do after that? Isn’t everything that comes next sort of a disappointment? Slowly entropying until we devolve into a pile of mush?” By the end of the episode, Finn concludes that a beautiful moment in time is genuinely perfect only if you take it upon yourself to not allow everything that consequently follows said instance to go to waste. I believe that the purpose of this specific episode is that it is meant to inspire its audience to not give up on themselves nor their advancing lives. Adventure Time is known for encouraging its fans to be nothing less than their true selves; correspondingly, “Astral Plane” teaches its viewers that birth is the universe’s ultimate form of art/beauty, and therefore, they themselves are magnificent simply for existing.
In truth, much of Adventure Time’s subject matter is indeed challenging for the likes of a children’s show; however, its ample use of liberal humor and lighthearted playfulness allows the show to be welcoming towards viewers of all ages. With this being said, one must bear in mind that the show is a pioneer for its accession of such influential aforementioned topics, and must certainly not be deemed as an indictment. Since its premiere, Adventure Time has routinely broken boundaries and exceeded expectation–especially in its characters’ personal developments. Good role models are essential in a person’s life–particularly in that of a child’s; although it may be fictional, Adventure Time provides such exemplars. Through its diverse teachings, the impact which the distinguished cartoon has had on our society has not only been worthwhile, but equally productive. Once believed to be a rarity in children’s programming, the embodiment of genuine pathos in cartoons is now thought of as a normality greatly in part of the likes of Adventure Time.
Fernando was born in 1998 in Sonora, Mexico, but his family moved to Arizona less than a year after he was born. Although his mother tongue is Spanish and he struggled to comprehend the English language when he first began to attend school, he is now enrolled in advanced language and literature classes as a senior in high school. Currently, he reside in the Central Coast in California.