There’s this phrase that always bugs me whenever older people (a.k.a, people who aren’t children) talk about shows and other media meant for kids. “For a kid’s show, it’s pretty mature” Whenever I hear it, it immediately makes me cringe. I mean, yes, children’s entertainment can be deep and have mature themes, so what? A lot of stuff meant for adults can also be immature and vapid. It’s like most adults don’t want to enjoy something for kids unless it can prove itself to tackle dark, serious subject matter. They don’t want a good “kid’s show”. They want a good show that just happens to be meant for kids. I, for one, used to think like this, but have since become enlightened to the concept of liking something because it’s fun rather than it’s ability to act mature.
As always, Avatar is the picturesque example. A brilliantly written kid’s show that managed to be both serious and mature while also being lighthearted and fun. It’s the ultimate “adults can enjoy it too” show, right up there with Friendship is Magic (when it was good anyway). But as I’ve gotten older, I find the people constantly praising Avatar for it’s mature storytelling to be more and more grating. Yes, I know that Zuko’s character is great and his redemption arc is well done. I know that the show’s portrayal of war and it’s negative aspects are incredibly rare in children’s animation. I know that the world-building around Asian philosophy is extremely unique. That’s all fine and good, but you guys do know that this cartoon is mainly a comedy, right? The first thing Aang says in the show is ask Kataara to go penguin sledding. There’s almost as many funny moments in the show than there are serious ones that impact the story, and I wish more time would be devoted to how well Avatar works as a comedy as well as a drama.
And this trend only seems to have continued in the 2010’s, to the point where the creators of the show seem to be in on it too. I remember first discovering Star Vs. The Forces Of Evil, and loving how much fun t was the first two seasons. But then season three came around and everything on Star’s alien home-planet instead of Earth, bogging the episodes down with unnecessary plot and lore. The entire point of the show to begin with was to see Star adapt to life on Earth and have cool adventures with Marco, but someone decided it would be better to make the story a thinly veiled allegory at discrimination instead. Turning Star Vs. more “serious” ruined the show for me, and it disappoints me to know that the guiding principle a lot of kids shows tend to have is to follow in Avatar’s footsteps, whether it be Star Vs., Friendship is Magic, or even Legend of Korra. This in no way means that I hate any kids show that tries to be more “mature” in it’s themes. I just think that maturity doesn’t automatically make something better. I long for a time where more people can freely admit that they like a show meant for kids because it’s a good kid’s show, and not try to justify it with mentions of “deep, complex” plots and mature themes. You like a kids show. It’s okay. Don’t take it too seriously and have fun with your life.