I’ve never been a huge fan of cartoons, even as a child I there were only certain cartoons I would watch, The Jetsons, Inspector Gadget, and Scooby-Doo were my standard go-to choices. And unlike most people my age and younger I never got into “adult” cartoons. I just couldn’t get past what I perceived as annoying comedy and inappropriate content. This week I’ve challenged my perspectives on adult cartoons with mixed results.
My class was assigned three animated series to sample; BoJack Horseman, F is for Family, and Big Mouth. The one series I found myself intrigued by and drawn into was BoJack Horseman. If this was a live action series there is NO WAY that I would watch it. The freedom and creativity that come with animation allow the showrunners to incorporate satire and visual imagery into the storyline in such a way that they are much more a part of the story than could ever be achieved through traditional live action sets or even with actors. Maybe it’s because I have a golden retriever myself, but I immediately identified with Mr. Peanut-Butter. His happy, go lucky, love everyone outlook on life is harder to dismiss because the audience doesn’t have to rely solely on the actor for the portrayal of the character. This is something you see throughout the series. But that isn’t the true genius. The genius is that there are characters that are more accurately portrayed with humans and because this is animation both human and animal characters are able to co-exist as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Another benefit of using animation is the ability to capture dialogue. As Holly Randell-Moon and Arthur J. Randell point out in their article “The man from ISIS: Archer and the animated aesthetics of adult cartoons”, scenes with extended dialogue come across seamlessly for the audience because of the benefit of editing. I would imagine that this also reduces the production cost of having to reshoot scenes when an actor fumbles their lines. Altogether I found that with BoJack Horseman animation creates a smart, witty performance full of satire that I found extremely entertaining.
I was less impressed with F is For Family and Big Mouth. Randell-Moon and Randell’s article also points out that animation is a way to incorporate politically incorrect and otherwise lewd, or what some would consider inappropriate, content into a show. We have seen this demonstrated in The Simpson’s handling of Native American stereotypes and it continues in adult cartoons today. While F is For Family certainly won’t be on my watchlist and did contain some purposely placed politically incorrect content I found that I could forgive this due to the show portraying a family in the early 1970’s. Big Mouth, on the other hand, was borderline pornographic in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total prude, I watch Game of Thrones and other shows with nudity. However, Big Mouth took this to a new level of indecency by showing the full frontal nudity of a middle school boy. Animated or not that is wrong. I could get past the very blunt discussion of sex, puberty, and ejaculation, but the full visual just wasn’t necessary. I felt like the showrunners could have gotten the same effect with a view from the back and the other characters facial expression. I guess for me the nudity felt like it was there for shock value instead of adding anything of substance to the story. That being said, this is also a perfect example of the looser reigns provided to Hollywood storytellers through the medium of animation.
So here’s the real question for me: will I continue to watch adult cartoons. The answer is probably yes. BoJack Horseman is entirely too amazing not to continue watching. As for the others…well we shall see.