When I was in high school, I became thoroughly fascinated with Thundercats. It was exciting and creative and ridiculously cool. In fact, the first comic book I ever drew was a two-page short where that weird monkey guy attacked the blue puma dude and got his ass beat with nunchucks. I mean, I loved that show.
My parents thought I was insane. I was a 16-year-old kid who could not quit watching a child's cartoon. My dad, a veteran of Vietnam, an avid outdoorsman and a thoroughly bad-ass dude, probably wept to see his oldest son wasting so much time on poorly animated cartoons. My mother must have despaired of ever seeing an heir, as my odds of finding a mate diminished every time I spent my allowance on an action figure. Japanese animation and crappy voiceovers were about as enjoyable to them as a late-night infomercial.
I'm mentioning this now because it has come to my attention that my daughter is absolutely loopy for a painfully bizarre show called Adventure Time. In an attempt to understand what draws a 17-year-old kid to a show so unhinged from logic or internal consistency, I sat down and watched several episodes with her. And while I did not gain a greater understanding of what my baby girl sees in the program, I am completely able to empathize with my parents when they routinely walked into the living room to see their dating-age son watching Thundercats.
Adventure Time follows Finn and Jake, a human boy and his magical dog, as they travel a very odd world and do very strange things that make virtually no sense. The animation is trippy - all the people (and the dog) have legs like spaghetti noodles, and sometimes they will wave around at random, like if they dance or get scared. The stories are more random than an old episode of Doctor Who, if you watched it while you were dropping acid and listening to Led Zeppelin played backwards.
But my kid loves it, so I sat down with her and watched several episodes of this intensely strange program. What I found out while I was watching is that I do not understand teenagers at all. Adventure Time is completely, unabashedly weird, and I cannot fathom why it is as popular as it is.
Perhaps the show works for kids because it is about a dopey kid and his carefree sidekick who do normal stuff, but just a little more wacky. They hang out with their friends - except instead of being other teenagers, their friends are a rainbow unicorn and a princess who can raise the dead. They go to dances - but only because they have cure Jake before he turns lumpy for good. The characters are almost familiar and yet totally alien.
Maybe kids dig Adventure Time because the writers appear to be writing stories specifically targeted to kids. Lumpy Space Princess, for instance, does a remarkably good impression of a self-absorbed, shallow, insufferable teenage girl. Finn is an air-headed boob who acts a lot like your average fifteen-year-old boy. Princess Bubblegum is sweet, but dreadfully irresponsible. These characters are sometimes smart, but almost always lack common sense. If you have ever lived with a teenager, you know that 'smart but stupid' sums them up perfectly.
Or maybe my daughter just likes weird crap. There's this frost giant king guy who tells stories to his sentient furniture. There's a girl and her cat who are the female versions of Jake and Finn. There's a female vampire (read: goth chick) and her male alter-ego (the emo-douche). There are people made out of dessert pastries who have slumber parties. This show makes The Wizard of Oz look like it was written by Mitt Romney.
If you are looking for wacky cartoons that don't make any sense and have silly characters that do weird crap for no reason, you'll probably love Adventure Time. My daughter is apey for it. If you're a grown-up, just forget it. You're doomed to not getting it. I've come to accept that. With time, so can you.