Welcome to The Indiependent’s Top TV of the Decade! In this feature, Emma Reilly looks at the enduring, subversive Adventure Time…
First airing on Cartoon Network in 2010 and airing its final episode in September 2018, Adventure Time is often seen as a nostalgic childhood favourite for many people, but also as a current favourite for lots of teenagers and adults. While children’s cartoons are often dismissed by many as trivial and menial, Adventure Time proved that cartoons, and children’s shows, could be complex, profound and have legitimate appeal to a more mature audience.
Brilliantly balancing its world of childhood whimsy and candy people with very real and very human issues, the series allowed for the teaching of many important lessons surrounding power and control, change and permanence, relationships, the acceptance of others and even death and mortality. What other “children’s” cartoons can say they have a song about the construct of time?
Furthermore, while many cartoons have their characters remain stagnant – never ageing or developing in character – Adventure Time subverted these norms, creating complex and well-rounded characters that changed and grew as the series progressed, both literally and metaphorically. This process of ageing and developing characters didn’t just allow for complex characters, but for characters that grew with its audience. Watching Finn grow from ages 12 to 17 allowed the show to become more mature and complicated through time, introducing the audience to increasingly mature concepts as they themselves matured – an innovative concept, rarely seen in children’s shows. It’s due to this growth and the beautifully unique and fun land of Ooo that Adventure Time has become such a beloved show that so many people find themselves attached to. After all, they literally grew up with Finn, Jake and the gang.
Adventure Time is a beautiful and profound example of the idea that just because we grow up and change, our childlike wonder doesn’t have to as well. The lessons it taught people and the fun and unique characters it introduced to the world will certainly live on in the minds of millions for a long time to come. I really believe BMO put it best when he said, “it seems unforgiving when a good thing ends, but you and I will always be back then”.
Words by Emma Reilly