Remember the good old days of watching fun cartoon shows on TV every Saturday morning? I don’t know about you, but I miss them. Shows made for adults are often unnecessarily full of drama, and sometimes I just want to be entertained. That doesn’t mean I want to watch shows with no substance, though. Do you see my problem? I’ve found that the perfect balance between depth of content and entertainment value is found in children’s cartoons. So, for your lazy Saturday morning, here are five great cartoons worth watching as an adult.
1. Adventure Time
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Adventure Time. It’s one of the most progressive shows on TV, in addition to being quirky and fun. The show follows the life of Finn, a human boy, and Jake, his dog as they go on adventures. Each episode contains a fun little story that often provides valuable life lessons. There is a lot of depth to this show that isn’t apparent to a younger audience, which makes it perfect to watch at an older age. For one, the show takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which some kind of chemical fallout has caused mutations in the living creatures. Also, there is an implied lesbian relationship, and one character (Lumpy Space Princess) actively defies gender norms and teaches body positivity. So, on top of being an entertaining show, it has a lot to offer an older audience.
2. Steven Universe
This is a newer show, and one that is totally revolutionizing children’s entertainment. Steven Universe is a bildungsroman about a boy named Steven, who is raised by three mysterious aliens. These aliens called the Crystal Gems take on a female humanoid form. Steven is half-human, half-gem who is learning about his powers. To begin, Steven Universe is the first show on Cartoon Network to be created by a woman. So it’s automatically awesome. Then, there’s the fact that he’s taken care of by three women. The creator, Rebecca Sugar, firmly believes that shows for boys should not be different than shows for girls. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said she aims to “tear down and play with the semiotics of gender in cartoons for children.” It has a lot to teach adults about gender too. It’s a must-see.
3. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar: The Last Airbender is the first show I ever watched with an overarching plot arc. Most kid’s shows tell stories contained in each 30-minute episode, not across a season or the whole series. This show trusts children’s intelligence enough to build a complicated plot across four seasons. Avatar tells the story of a young boy named Aang and his friends. They live in the world where certain people can control either water, air, earth, or fire. Aang is the Avatar, the most powerful being in this world, and he must learn how to bend all four elements. The story addresses issues of race and gender in a subtle yet impactful way. Not one character in this show is white, and there are many badass women. I watched Avatar growing up and have since rewatched it many times. Each time I watch it, I get something different out of it. If you haven’t already seen it, you have to check it out.
4. The Legend of Korra
The Legend of Korra is a sequel show to Avatar: The Last Airbender. The avatar has been reincarnated after Aang’s death and is now a young woman from a water bending tribe. The show starts after Korra has already mastered the elements. She lives in a politically complex and tumultuous world, one where benders and non-benders don’t always get along. Just as the young fans of Avatar have grown up, so too has this new show. Korra explores themes that Avatar didn’t, such as social equality, politics, physical disability, and mental illness. Additionally, I love that the creators of this show took a risk in making a central female character for an action series. Korra is a perfectly developed character. She’s the perfect balance between the “strong female” and “emotional female” tropes. There’s not doubt that she can take care of herself, but she’s not afraid to show her softer side around her friends. Kids and adults alike need to see more women on TV who are like Korra.
5. The Powerpuff Girls
This suggestion is a bit of a throwback for some added nostalgia. I love The Powerpuff Girls because it teaches girls that they can be awesome. Sadly, I can’t think of another kid’s show (besides Totally Spies) that features a team of female action heroines. Plus, each girl has a distinct personality. They’re not all hardened fighting machines; they’re little girls who have the power to do amazing things. The show preaches gender equality through the example of Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup, and also through their words. Many episodes exhibit feminist ideals in a way that is accessible to a younger audience and also teaches an older audience. As a bonus, the Powerpuff Girls are returning to TV with a new series! So by the time you’ve watched (and rewatched) all of the old episodes, there will be new ones to enjoy.
So next time you’re looking to binge watch a show, check out one of these. You will get plenty of laughs and be reminded of some valuable life lessons at the same time.
Did we include your favorite children’s cartoon to watch? What do you think of these shows? Let us know in the comments! Happy TV watching!