created by Pendleton Ward
Cartoons have always been a supremely hearty source of both comedy and cultural subversion, a way for artists to embed criticism within a fabric of disarming silliness in a way almost singularly unique from all other expressive media. In terms of style and conveyance, the difference between a fresco or an opera and, say, a Looney Tunes bit may seem insanely vast even though the point of view may be identical. A prime modern example of this concept would be the scathing and sophisticated social critique permeating the raunchy ridiculousness of Team America: World Police (I know, I know, it’s technically puppetry, but don’t ruin my argument!), a film that so brilliantly binds its criticism to its lunacy that all who observe it’s point of view are spellbound. Pendleton Ward, a Texas born genius, decided to make the world a stranger and wonderfuler place by bequeathing Adventure Time upon humanity. The saga of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog endeavoring to enrich the land of Ooo through epic heroics twists along the windy, metaphysical trail, from their bottled adventures to sprawling sagas (the multi-episode Lich thread is mind-blowing), but it manages to hold tight to the thread of bonkers sincerity that gives the show the vital pulse it needs. You must be on board with the truly excellent sense of humor that Adventure Time possesses, the bizarre lyricism of the madcap dialogue, the ludicrous musical set pieces, the prismatic personalities of the world’s inhabitants (the occasional darkness of Princess Bubblegum, the desperate loneliness of Ice King, the entire concept of the Earl of Lemongrab), but the dividends paid are innumerable for those who find its brilliance. Its mythology has grown to a lush tapestry of intrigue and loveliness with each new episode, and Ward’s dedication to his world is stalwart to say the least. Adventure Time is the kind of gem that creates magic simply by refusing to abide by the rules of what a show of its ilk “should” be, and in its indifference to such norms it manages to touch a mammoth swath of the age spectrum. If you’re not on board already, I highly recommend you start. Round up a niece, nephew, son, daughter or younger sibling if you need to, but don’t shrug it off as just another quirky children’s show.