Helicopters are circling above thirty or so bananas dressed as guards, a magical dog is dressed as a milkman, and a gender confused cookie is holding a store hostage, um…I think I should back up. I’m describing the opening scene to an episode to the widely popular Cartoon Network series, Adventure Time.
If you ask someone to describe the central plot of Adventure Time, you would have a hard time getting a straight answer from kids and adults. Kids would say it’s about a thirteen year old boy and his magic dog and their adventures in a candy kingdom, but adults might contend it’s a post apocalyptic story of a the last remaining human on earth and his best friend. Yes, it’ a pretty weird show to say to the least. My friend said it best perhaps after watching an episode, “it works because it’s so weird! ” I disagree and contend there must be some other reason that a show that features hot dog princesses and talking gameboys is a mainstream cross-over success, but what was it? What drew adults as well as kids to Adventure Time?
All forms of entertainment, whether it be big budget action movies about transforming cars or novels about unrequited vampire love are forms of escapism, Adventure Time manages to be what many children’s cartoon yearn to be that is to say it is, Adult Escapism. Which sounds much dirtier then it is. Adventure Time allows that inner child that trapped in all of us to escape for eleven minutes to a land of Bubblegum Princess and Peppermint Butlers. I did not major in psychology at school, but I can tell you prettyplainly adult viewers of Adventure Time wish they were twelve years old again, so they can grow up watching Adventure Time. It achieves this feat, by yes being funny, terrifically drawn, but more important through the naivety and charm of it’s characters while dealing with otherwise big problems.
Remember that scene I was describing earlier? That was from the newest episode of Adventure Time, in which a male cookie takes a store hostage after being denied a chance to be princess because he’s not a girl. At the same time Jake the Dog, begins to subtly identify with his problem, because he always wanted to be a mailman but everyone thinks, “he looks more like a milkman.” Naivety. Jake does not see problem with a boy being princess, because to him, its the same issue he fights when he wants to be a mailman. It’s a plot point that most children’s cartoons would spell straight out for the viewer, but good writing allows the viewer to do the work for themselves. In previous episodes such as, “Hot Touch,” dealt with Finn falling in love with a Princess made entirely of fire, their relationship was a simple metaphor for the theory that the more you love someone, the more likely they are to melt your exposed heart. Both episodes I just described, deal with widely different problems, but do with such inventiveness, innocence, and subtlety that anyone can enjoy it.
When I was twelve years old I first read the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson, I used to wonder why older adults enjoyed the comic so much. I suppose that twelve year old kids now wonder the same thing about adults who watch Adventure Time, but the answer is the same to both questions is the same, it’s to escape. We all need to escape sometime from our adult lives, and feel like kids, whether it be through a three panel comic strip about a boy and talking stuffed tiger or an eleven minute cartoon about a boy and his talking dog, we all need to feel like kids sometimes. Or maybe I’m wrong maybe my friend is right, maybe we just like how “weird” it is, either way I can’t stop watching.