Silly Rabbit! Cartoons aren’t Just for Kids—and Here’s Why

Animation and cartoons are everywhere—in our houses, universities and work. If you thought networks like Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Pogo were just for kids, you would be wrong: published an article in 2012 showcasing that 25 to 40-year-olds are nearly a fifth of these channels’ viewers.

Some have identified adult viewership of cartoons as “kidult” (kid and adult). These adults tend not to feel shame in the enjoyment of both mature and child-like cartoons and leave prejudice behind.

Geeks Media (an online forum dedicated to all-things geeky) columnist Nifa Bi said many of these viewers lead excelling lives and use this form of media to help bond with the other adults or adolescents around them.   

“Some have children and share their tastes with them, to perpetuate the same customs in the next generations,” Bi said.

As a graduate candidate in professional communication, I spend a chunk of my time studying pop culture, specifically Japanese anime and American animation. If we take a look at the beginning of animation, we get into “Mighty Mouse,” “Betty Boop” and other creations by American and French cartoonists. After the silent film era, animation then blossomed during World War II with Walt Disney, Warner Brothers and MGM. On the other side of the globe, anime dates back as early as the 1940s, when the Japanese nation mobilized during World War II.

Since the year 2000, consumption of anime (television) has grown considerably in the West, including the United States. The first X-rated animated film, “Fritz the Cat” (1964) and the airing of shows like “The Simpsons” (1989-present) brought mature content to animation and began to take a step away from child-oriented media. On today’s streaming platforms, adults can find mature-rated content like “Rick and Morty,” “South Park,” “Archer,” “Devilman Crybaby,” “Attack on Titan” and “One Punch Man.”

According to Bi’s article, adults appreciate the mature content in an animated format due to the direct messages received. With some exceptions of celebrities being an apparent factor of the shows, many adult cartoons shy away from noticeable actors or expensive settings, allowing the viewers to focus on the story the writer wants to tell.

An obvious difference between live-action and animation is the limits in which the writers have to create a story. Looking at “South Park,” characters Stan, Eric, Kyle and Kenny tackle sensitive topics like we have never seen before. Due to the ability to utilize drawings rather than actual children and real-life settings, the show is able to put these four boys into scenarios past the limit of good taste and societal morals.

We typically don’t turn on a cartoon and expect a moving plot—but we should! Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2003-08) is a cartoon/anime commonly identified as one of the best in the world. Based on various Asiatic cultures, the setting is constantly expanding. The show also introduces diverse themes such as war, religion and magic while also maintaining a humor that appeals to all ages.

Other notable cartoons with extensive plots include “The Regular Show,” “Adventure Time,” “Steven Universe,” “Miraculous Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir” and “Over the Garden Wall.”

Aside from boundless stories, mature content and excelling plots, my final reasoning for watching cartoons is to simply medicate depression. According to Vice Reporter Elisabeth Sherman, the adventures of “The Penguins of Madagascar” were her antidote to adult-life complexities.

“Kids’ cartoons can be a support treatment because they incorporate themes like community order, friendship, family, teamwork, that good always wins over evil and that the sun will always come out tomorrow,” Dr. Laurel Steinberg, a New York-based psychotherapist, told Sherman. “They can help restore optimism and give someone a break from worrying or feeling sad, all of which can elevate (your) mood.”

Not all animations are going to leave us in a positive mood, however. Remember that the most popular anime on Netflix or Hulu have themes related to romance, horror, drama, comedy or action.

If you are a “kidult” or just a regular Joe looking for a TV show, anime or cartoon to help you dive into deep plots, boundless stories or uplifting content, check back bi-monthly for my ratings (shows listed below) on ‘Cartoons for the College Mind.’

“Devilman Crybaby” (Netflix) (Dub & Sub)
“Steven Universe” (Cartoon Network)
“Voltron Legendary Defender” (Disney XD)
“Future Diary” (Hulu) (Dub & Sub)
“Bob’s Burgers” (Hulu / Fox)
“Loud House” (Nickelodeon)
“Big Mouth” (Netflix)
“Samurai Champloo” (Hulu) (Dub & Sub)

Story By
Samantha Burfiend |

Photo Courtesy of FOX Network and Social Talent