As a parent of a three-year-old boy I watch quite a bit of cartoons, as I’m sure many parents do and I’ve noticed that in the last few years cartoons have become disturbing to me. I was lucky enough to grow up in the 90’s era of cartoons, which could be argued to be the best time for cartoons ever, we had Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Doug, Tiny Toons, Bobby’s World, Swat Kats, Batman: Animated Series, and so many more. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there were a lot of hidden and not so hidden innuendos in our cartoons and cartoons that made their mark because of their subject matter like Ren and Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Cow and Chicken. However, the more tame cartoons vastly outnumbered the more daring ones. Nowadays, unless you are watching Nick Jr. or Disney Channel you’re more likely to end up watching something that is debatably appropriate for a toddler.
Two years ago the only cartoon I really didn’t like my son watch was Spongebob Squarepants, which technically is a 90’s cartoon, because of its language and some of the themes and things that he could learn from it. Recently though I’ve had no problem with him watching Spongebob, probably because he is a bit older and I can explain things to him better but also because I really don’t like the other options. Shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Chowder, and Uncle Grandpa are in my opinion certainly not for kids under 10 years old. I know many people would argue with me but I know that Adventure Time and Uncle Grandpa have given my son nightmares, Regular Show and Chowder have things going on that he finds “creepy” and doesn’t understand.
Let me make sure I’m being clear about my intentions with this article; I’m not trying to convince networks to change their programming or anything like that. I believe it is my job, any parents job to pay attention to what are kids are watching and seeing on television, I didn’t let my son watch Shark Week this year because I decided he wasn’t quite ready for that yet. I’m just pointing out that the selection of cartoons is thinning; most are trying to stand out with shock value, dark themes, and twisted humor. Why can’t shows like Doug, Hey Arnold, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and so many others from the 90’s still make it in today’s market?
Even reboots of shows from the 90’s or earlier have to been changed to be darker, creepier or stranger. Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated is certainly darker and touches on more adult themes than any other previous incarnation of the classic cartoon. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has even gotten a bit creepier with the CG upgrade and far more disturbing mutants that the Turtles end up battling. Even an early 2000’s show like Teen Titans has had a remake that made the show much more weird than its original. I know that networks can’t rehash the same thing again and again, people would get sick of it (American Idol) but I don’t think everything has to get darker, twisted, awkward, honestly I can’t think of a proper word for how cartoons have gotten but it really limits what younger kids can watch.
I know there are shows like Dora the Explorer, Jake and Neverland Pirates, Bubble Guppies, Paw Patrol, and many more geared to a younger audience but they can only hold a kids attention for so long. I think their needs to be more cartoons that fall in between that toddler and young child group. Especially since cartoons like Paw Patrol and Wallykazam do not get new episodes very often and kids know when they are watching something they have seen before. Luckily there have been a few shows that fill that gap like Lego’s Ninjago and Chima, DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk, Star Wars: Clone Wars. What is even better is the Boomerang, a channel that plays old cartoons like Rugrats and Hey Arnold; it even plays cartons like Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Flintstones.
Maybe I am just another nostalgic 90’s kid that wants his cartoons back but I really don’t like a lot of the cartoons that are on television anymore and I don’t like my son watching a lot of them either. Thank God for Netflix and PBS. Anyways, I would love to hear what all of you think. Do you think cartoons have gotten disturbing or weird? What are you okay with your little ones watching and not watching?