Adult content in child entertainment has become more overt overtime.
A joke on social media is making the rounds that “2000’s babies” are wilder than the great “90’s babies.” I’d say it’s because 2000’s babies were more abruptly desensitized to mature topics than 90’s babies.
“When we were younger, we were used to shows like ‘Billy and Mandy,’ ‘Ed Edd and Eddy,’ and ‘Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends’ which showed childhood innocence with basic themes,” says Mason Posey, a sophomore business student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
“The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” first aired in 2001 and centered around two kids with a Jamaican Grim Reaper as a slave.
Grim was certainly not the ominous character he is known to be in folklore. The macabre concept worked because of the character’s puppy dog nature. Perhaps this was a sign of the mature direction more cartoons would take.
“The kids of today are used to shows like Adventure time where it will have two female characters kissing,” says Posey.
“Adventure Time” is a cartoon set in an apocalyptic dystopia. The series finale aired Sept. 3, showing a long teased lesbian relationship between two main characters culminate in a kiss. The show first aired in 2010.
Actors and producers of the show were corroborating this idea before any LGBT themes could even be easily identified by anyone other than devoted adult fan-fiction writers.
At a book signing, Olivia Olson, the voice behind the character Marceline, described a conversation she had with the show’s creator, “…And he says, 'Oh, you know they dated, right?' And I said, 'Well, that's what I figured from all the creepy fan art,’”
“Johnny Bravo” first aired in 1997 and centered around a relentless womanizer. This is a line from the pilot episode, “Hey, there, hot mama, you wouldn't happen to be hiding a gorilla under them clothes, would you?” A child probably wouldn’t relate this line with the fact that monkey is a colloquialism for vagina.
The argument here is not whether cartoons have always contained adult material. These topics have lost their nuance and are now easily identifiable by both children and adults.
“Clarence” is another newer cartoon that first aired April 2014 on Cartoon Network. The show has featured a main character with two lesbian mothers as well as a gay kiss between men.
In defense of the 21st century, cartoons like “Tom and Jerry” and “Looney Toons” often featured blackface and other derogatory racial imagery.
Although they showed these things back then, an argument could be made that racial topics in that era were not seen as sensitive. As the ignorance around race dwindled, so did these depictions.
As opposed to adult jokes that would fly over the heads of most children, today’s cartoons blatantly indoctrinate kids with the political and existential ideas of the week. Most of the programming that can be observed follows liberal rhetoric to a T, but I digress.