Here again, fellow nerds! As a reminder, this series looks at shows, books, movies, etc. that are old news, that most nerds are expected to have seen, and reviews them to see if knowing about them is really necessary for geek cred. This time I’m going to look at the long-running Cartoon Network show, Adventure Time!
Let me be straight up with you right off the bat: if you asked me what I thought of this show when it first came on air, when I’d never seen a single episode, I’d say that it was a stupid and disgusting show filled with dumbness. The commercials showed the most absurd and gruesome stuff, and I had no desire to ever watch it. It seemed like more absurdist gross-out humor in the vein of The Misadventures of Flapjack (which I found terribly annoying). It took a long time and Lady Geek Girl’s recommendation to finally get me watching it.
So here’s the plot of Adventure Time: A human boy named Finn and his dog, Jake, go on adventures in the Land of Ooo. I mean, there’s more, but that’s the bare bones. Everything in Ooo is a little off, and it’s vaguely hinted throughout the show that Ooo is Earth, post-nuclear apocalypse. Finn is the last human. Jake has Mr. Fantastic-esque stretching powers. Finn’s other friends are talking animals, people made out of dessert, and mythical/alien creatures.
Having watched all of Adventure Time, I can’t say it’s my all-time favorite cartoon or anything, but it’s actually pretty good. The animation style is unique; the plots are often clever and deep and sometimes twist in totally unexpected ways; and it is the first children’s cartoon to showcase a non-sexualized lesbian relationship in canon, although that was not without its controversies. (For the record, my kid brother ships Bubbline like nobody’s business and can’t figure out why that episode caused such a stir.) It also has a genderswap episode, and talks about fanfiction in canon as well. But at its simplest it’s just the story of a boy and his dog going out and swording things, and that’s fun.
There are certainly some things I don’t like about Adventure Time. There definitely are some episodes that depend on that icky sort of gross-out humor that I think has killed Spongebob Squarepants in recent years, and some of the plots are just dumb. The other thing is something that could be expanded upon in another full post, but I want to mention here that I also take issue with the fact that most of the Princesses in the show (almost every girl is a Princess of something) lack agency, and spend a lot of time being kidnapped.
But there are also girls who are sassy, girls who are scientific geniuses, and girls who rock at guitar (Marceline the Vampire Queen is easily my fave, followed by LSP), so it’s not all bad.
If you have the patience to sit through episodes that are sometimes a little dumb to get to the ones that are actually quite good (‘Fionna and Cake’ and ‘What Was Missing’ are my favorites, of course, but there are plenty of other good ones), I do recommend you check this show out. It’s currently in its fourth season, and still running weekly on Cartoon Network.