Silly Rabbit, Cartoons Are for Kids!

Posted on May 6, 2011

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By Kelsie Brea.

In Plato’s Allegory of the cave we are shown that society often has mistaken views about various issues, Plato states, “All in all, then, what people in this situation take for truth would be nothing more than shadows of manufactured objects” (1).  In essence, what you assume to be truth could really be just another misconception. One of the most common misconceptions is that cartoons are only for children. Naturally there’s nothing stopping a 30 year old from watching the ninja turtles, but it has become such a stereotype that once you reach “adulthood”, your cartoon viewing should cease. Not only do I believe that cartoons are for everyone, but I have also noticed that some shows are really geared towards a more mature audience because they contain complex humor, language and adult situations far beyond the comprehension of the shows intended age group.

A few weeks ago, I began to notice that when I

Tree Trunks Strutting Her Sexy Stuff

am looking for something to watch, I often stumble upon a random cartoon or 15 minute short that I not only enjoy, but also laugh hysterically at, only to realize that if I was a 6 year old or even a 10 year old, there’s no way that I would’ve understood that joke. So many cartoons are filled with mature devices such as irony; strange plot structures, puns, harsh language and my favorite, satire.  There is a new show on Cartoon Network called “Adventure Time” This show is about a human boy named Finn and his best friend Jake who is a magical talking dog. The two characters run around in a world of candy people, talking animals and adventure. Although it sounds silly there is so much satirical material dripping in each sentence that I can’t imagine anyone below the age of 16 comprehends what’s going on. In addition, some of the language in “Adventure Time” is a bit inappropriate for its intended age group, which is 6-13 (cartoon network.com). With words like” screwy”, “ hell” and “sexy”, I would feel really uncomfortable letting my child watch it. I mean, I don’t want my kid running through the house claiming that they are the sexiest adventurer around, like they heard in the cartoon, which strangely enough are intended for children.

Patrick Pole-dancing

Its not just the more recently developed shows that have these issues either. Even the popular show “SpongeBob Squarepants” is full of inappropriate humor, and mature devices like comedic timing and irony. Don’t get me wrong spongebob is one of my favorite shows, but if you really examine the development of the characters, the way they interact with each other and the sexual jokes that get buried under the silliness of an episode, this show is more for adults than it is for children.  An example of this is, in one particular episode, SpongeBob’s boss Mr. Krabs is going through a mid life crisis. Krabs is dying to be considered cool again and longs to feel that “hot blooded feeling” as he puts it, and in an attempt to gain that title back he tags along with SpongeBob and Patrick for a night of “debauchery”. The joke of this episode is that SpongeBob and Patrick have no idea what it is like to be cool, and end up taking Mr. Krabs to do “baby” activities such as kiddy rides, laundry, and teaching him to play what would appear to be Dungeons and Dragons. In the end, Krabs gets fed up with their idea of “cool” and insults SpongeBob and Patrick, who in turn suggests that if Krabs leaves now, he will miss their next activity, which is an underwear raid.  Krabs agrees to participate and sneaks into a randomly chosen house under the cover of darkness and ransacks the draws, only to find exactly what he was looking for. Finally, as Krabs is holding the underwear above his head in victory, a figure walks in and switches on the lights, revealing to the audience that both the house and the undergarments belong to his very own mother(Momma Krabs). Krabs turns to Spongebob screaming, “Why didn’t you tell me this was my mother’s house?!” to which SpongeBob reply’s matter of factly “well, why didn’t you ask?”  The fact that the characters were breaking into a house to raid an underwear drawer is pretty inappropriate in itself, but tack on the joke that the underwear belongs to his mother as well as the characters belittling the activities that are actually appropriate for kids (paying bored games and etc.) and we have ourselves a negative social situation that is being encouraged and broadcasted. Which, as funny as it may seem, is inappropriate for the target age group.

Towelie Smoking a Bong

Although there are plenty of shows created for kids (but also enjoyed by adults) there are also cartoons created for the teen and young adult age group. Family Guy, Archer, American Dad, Futurama, Superjail and South Parkare all examples of adult designed shows. The big difference between these shows and cartoons designed for children is that shows like Family Guy and South Park for instance are very blunt with their humor. These shows also attempt to be relatable to their audience by showing characters that drink, smoke, swear and get into complex sexual situations with fellow characters.  I came across a forum on southparkstudios.com where there was a debate on this subject exactly. How young is too young to watch South Park? One viewer suggests that he was 13 when

Stewie From Family Guy, or The Village People?

Baby Stewie Strutting His Stuff

the show came out but was very “ho-hum” about it all because he didn’t understand a large amount of the jokes and references. Another viewer brings a strong point to the board, saying that watching South Park at age 13 could be acceptable as long as the viewer understands the material. This same viewer even states that it could be beneficial for that age group because “ the extreme nature of SP may cause kids to rethink how their actions affect others” (spfan4ever77).

Spongebob and Patrick on Goofy Goober Party Boat

Though there are inappropriate references and countless sexual remarks in SpongeBob Squarepants also, they are hidden.  Even in the SpongeBob squarepants movie, Spongebob shows up seemingly “drunk” from the festivities that took place the night before. Apparently after loosing a promotion to his less social  co-worker Squidward, Spongebob attempts to console his sadness by hitting up the Goofy Goober “ice cream parlor” which looked exactly like (and was treated like) a bar. These things are strategically hidden so that the show becomes “child appropriate.  Instead of pounding beers in that scene, SpongeBob eats his weight in “ice cream Sundays” (triple Goo-berry Sunrises to be exact) but suffers the effects of being noticeably incoherent and hung-over the next morning. Now explain that to your toddler.

Unfortunately, Spongebob Squarepants is not the only popular cartoon to convey these types of messages to its viewers. The popular 70’s themed cartoon “Scooby Doo” is just another example of inappropriate humor and adult content being buried within a show that is supposedly meant for children. When I was in elementary school I would watch episodes of Scooby Doo at 9 am on Saturdays, I loved the mystery machine and of course I envied Daphne’s good looks and charming relationship with Freddie. What I didn’t seem to understand was why Shaggy’s eyes were so red, why shaggy and Marry Jane (a sweet red headed character featured on one of the episodes to play Shaggy’s love interest) didn’t last, why there was always smoke pouring out of the mystery machine upon door opening and why for the love of God Shaggy was always so hungry Well, one day when I was age 16 or 17, in an attempt to kill time I flipped over to Boomerang Network (a network that is designed specifically for “vintage” cartoons) and stumbled upon an episode of Scooby Doo. Suddenly it all made so much sense, almost like a light bulb went off inside my head, the smoke, the eyes, the munchies; he’s high! I remember laughing and thinking of how many years it took me to figure that out, and then I realized, of course I wouldn’t have known what any of that was because I was just a kid and the show was making references that were meant for adults.  Now naturally, there is no concrete evidence that the creators intended to send that particular message, but those items were incredibly suggestive.

This brings us to yet another pressing question, are cartoon damaging to children in general? Steve Hostler shows that children typically begin watching cartoons as early as 6 months old and watching too many hours of cartoons per day can progressively make children more violent and addictive during adolescent growth. He also mentions that television in large doses does long term effects on the brain and eyes. This is especially harmful for children because the brain and eyes as well as several other parts of the body are not fully developed yet.

But within this dark cave, we begin to see light. In moderate doses, there are still some cartoons out there that are appropriate for children. For example “Phinneus and Ferb” is one of those shows. This cartoon is about two incredibly smart brothers that spend their summer designing and building inventions in their backyard.  This cartoon is very child appropriate but at the same time   it also has certain aspects to it that are entertaining for most adults. Not only is this indeed entertaining for the adult, but it’s also a good learning experience for the child. The word “phisecious” was dropped in an episode of “phinnius and ferb “, it’s a word that is appealing for adults and gives the child a chance to learn something new.

Some cartoons, much like P&F are child appropriate, but the majorities these days are geared towards the entertainment of adults.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to take note of, not only when you’re when watching TV, but when your child is watching TV and all in all, what they learning from the shows they watch.

Works Cited

1. Hostler, Steve. “Damaging Brain Power in Children.”  Home Page.  Web. November 15, 2004.

2. Cartoon Network. Web.  May 6, 2011.

3. Plato. “Allegory of the cave”. The Republic Ed. G. R. F. Ferrari. Trans. Tom Griffith. New York: Cambridge UP, 2000. 220-26.

4. spfan4ever77.  Forum Page.  South Park Studios. March 2011. April 18, 2011.

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