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There’s this weird belief going around that cartoons are for kids. It’s not a new misconception. Certainly not one that’s going to go away any time soon, either. But it is, well, more than a little bit wrong.
Just because something is animated does not mean it’s “just for kids.” Just because it’s on a channel that markets toward younger humans doesn’t mean the shows it runs can’t be enjoyed by the old folks. Teens and adults, you can enjoy cartoons, too. And you should. Openly. Otherwise we get these weird things like societal pressures forcing people to conform to predesignated definitions and grade-school bullying incidents. And all because our society loves to label things. It’s just what we do.
With entertainment media, such labels help direct marketing campaigns. That’s it. It’s marketing, a great method to focus spending so companies can cut risks and losses. Sometimes the audience isn’t at all what the marketing department thought it was, and sometimes it’s pretty close. However, some people cling to those labels and decades-old marketing ploys for dear life. They refuse to adjust to the growing trend of being more flexible in breaking past typical labels, such as modern gender-focused trends like “pink is for girls and all the other colors are for boys,” or “age-specific trends like pony shows are for little girls only.”
Fans of “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” know the folly of staunchly sticking to label-based marketing very well. When the show wasn’t pushing enough merchandise to the male audience it was marketing specifically toward, the powers that be pulled the plug on the show, even though the series was building a huge fanbase among an older female audience just waiting for gender-neutral or female-directed merch.
On the other end of the spectrum, “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is wholeheartedly embracing its expanded fanbase, even if a large chunk of society is lagging behind in accepting the fact that you can indeed have a show focused on a majority female cast of colorful ponies and have it popular with both boys and girls. You can find Rainbow Dash shirts for adult men as easily as you can find ones for kindergarten girls. However, despite this growing flexibility in marketing, little boys who sport pony lunchboxes to school are getting relentlessly bullied (see the news), even to the point of committing suicide (also see the news). A couple movie theater box office workers refused to sell tickets to the pony movie to college students because they were “too old.”
That’s not OK. People should be encouraged to love whatever they want, no matter their age, no matter their gender. We should be able to feel comfortable talking about the newest “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” episode in the break room with friends without getting condescending looks and snide remarks. We should feel like it’s OK to gush over the last season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” with our gal friends without scoffing that they’re only interested in it because of their nerdy boyfriends who never really grew up (by the way, that season was gut-wrenching).
So go ahead, all of you. Geek out that Pixar is finally — finally — making “The Incredibles 2.” Take a date to “The Lego Movie.” Host lengthy office discussions on the best and worst animated Disney songs during lunch break. Show others, kids especially, that marketing labels aren’t set in stone. Cartoons aren’t just for kids. If you find joy in them, then they are for you, too.