Harmful messages in a lighthearted show
Adventure Time was a great cartoon, with many hilarious moments and an unrelenting sense of creativity. However, it was incredibly flawed as content for children.
First, it needs to be established that children are molded by and will mimic the things they observe and experience. Anyone who has been a child should know this to some degree. Adventure Time features many words and phrases that should never be repeated by children and does not treat them as such. An example of this is the use of the word “Pervert.” In the episode “Blood Under the Skin,” Finn, the show’s protagonist, accidentally stumbles into a series of groups of people bathing and gets called a “pervert.” The sexual nature of this scene was meant to be funny for the children watching, but it might result in them going out and calling their friends perverts.
Another mistake this show made, amplified by the number of times it did so, is how it dealt with the concept of death. While most children’s shows would avoid the concept altogether, Adventure Time mentioned death in nearly every episode. The topic of death can be and has been dealt with appropriately in children’s content, such as in many Disney movies like Bambi and Up, and even in a Sesame Street episode named “Farewell, Mr. Hooper” in which some adults explained to the Sesame Street characters what death means and that it’s okay to be sad about it. Death is a very serious topic and a very difficult thing for a child to understand. It is not a bad thing to discuss death in children’s content, but it has to be done right, and Adventure Time did not. The program mentioned death on a regular basis, through phrases like “I’m gonna kill you!” which were often said by the main characters, Finn and Jake, yet it never attempted to discuss or explain death to its young audience. This was a mistake, as characters the young audience might look up to could inspire them to say these sorts of things to people without understanding what the phrase means or how those words might affect somebody.
There was also the issue of the show’s relationship with violence. In the episode “His Hero,” Finn and Jake encountered a role model of theirs, a great hero who abandoned his sword and a lifestyle of violence in favor of a more peaceful form of activism. Throughout the episode, Finn and Jake try to do this as well by helping people through non-violent means, with the joke being how ineffective these methods were. At the end of the episode, Finn gives up and hurts a criminal, and he and Jake return to their hero and convince him that sometimes, violence is the answer. The moral of this episode was absolutely, unmistakably that violence is necessary. This message had no place in children’s content, which should go without saying.
Adventure Time was a great cartoon, but it often taught children the wrong messages about very serious subjects. This was and is harmful. It should be avoided by anyone who plans on making content for children.
This is a selection from the March 17 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/485491858/