A few years ago, I was depressed and getting ready to quit a miserable job that I hated. I stumbled upon a little Cartoon Network series called Adventure Time to cheer myself up throughout those dark days and boy did it. There's just so many things about Jake the Dog, Finn the Human, and the Land of Ooo that causes adults to totally relate to Adventure Time on a whole other level. And as the toon turns 5 years old, it's time to take a look back at how the show's bright and colorful animation has some profound grown-up lessons in its episodes, too.
In an interview with Animation World Netowrk, Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward said that he hoped that the series would appeal to all ages. "I really think there is humor for adults and kids," he said. "And I think the stuff for adults just goes over the kids' heads just like Pee-Wee did or like The Simpsons did. And that was another goal I had in mind was to make something that everyone can watch."
And sometimes the stuff for adults isn't necessarily dirty jokes, but really insightful commentary about adult life that kids won't get until they've, well, lived a lot more. Here's what Adventure Time totally gets about being a grown-up — and why adults can totally relate.
The Characters Are Complicated
No one in Ooo is perfect. Marceline has daddy issues. Finn was abandoned when he was a baby. Even the seemingly perfect Princess Bubblegum seems to have a dark side. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes they own up to it in the end. This makes the characters rich and feel very real. Not to mention everyone has their quirks, including the very weird Ice King, who proves villains aren't always scary — sometimes they're just bored weirdos with random obsessions. Much like real life.
There Are No Easy Answers
Sure, Jake and Finn willingly go off on cool — and sometimes ridiculous — adventures, but sometimes they're very complicated and you wonder how these two will get out of such a predicament. But you know what? They keep trying until they find a way out. It may not be pretty, but it's a solution. That's so much like real life it's scary, but at least Adventure Time does it with fun animal and candy characters. It's much more fun that way.
The Relationships Are Complex
While it was the colorful and fun animation that drew me to Adventure Time, it was the relationships that made me stay and marathon episode after episode. At its heart, the series is a show about the deep best friendship between a boy and his dog — and their relationship with the world around them. The most stable love relationship is the one between Jake and Lady Ranicorn, which has been going strong since the pilot and has produced several half-dog, half-ranicorn kids.
As for Finn, love has been more complicated with his love for Princess Bubblegum and his doomed relationship with Fire Princess. Ward has said that the show's romances were some of his favorite stuff in the show. "I like stuff that pulls on your heartstrings," he told Animation World Network. "And not so much that it's sappy and makes you sick. I always liked it when I was a kid, but I don't think that I would have admitted it. I think most children do dig on relationship stories. Boys and girls. Even if it's mushy. It's so easily relatable to all ages."
You Have To Leave The Past In the Past
A lot of Adventure Time deals with the present, but there are moments when the show likes to flashback into the past to show us the backstory of certain characters, including Jake, Finn, Marceline, and Ice King. All of these characters had lives before the apocalypse changed Ooo to what we know know it as. Some of the most heartbreaking flashbacks have been to Ice King before he was the Ice King — he was simply Simon Petrikov, who acted as a father figure to young Marceline.
But things change. People grow — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And Adventure Time sees that and portrays it in all forms. Marceline also used to be friends with Princess Bubblegum, but that went sour. Can these broken relationships be fixed? Sure, perhaps with time. But the show also points out to its audience that some things are better left in the past and sometimes you just need to move on.
Life Is An Adventure
Life can be complicated, deep, and unfair, but most of all, it's the greatest adventure. Sometimes adult life is bogged down by work responsibilities, family responsibilities and just being plan tired all the time. I think Jake and Finn's love of adventures on Adventure Time helps us adults remember that hey, we too can make this life an adventure and seek out fun things to do.
Sure, some of our real-life adventures might not take place in the Candy Kingdom, but that doesn't mean we can't create our own and go to a candy store for fun, right?
Images: Cartoon Network; Giphy (5)