As I get older, I can greatly appreciate the allure of adult-oriented cartoons. I can reignite my inner child through watching animation, while simultaneously indulging in derogatory, humorous and politically and socially conscious television. It’s definitely easy to be offended by some of the content within these programs due to their satirical nature, but once you’re able to see past the sarcasm and you can read critically into the intentions of the writers, you’re in for a ride; the intelligent, clever quality behind this form of entertainment will surprise you. Here are my favorite cartoons for adults!
- Bojack Horseman
Bojack Horseman: an alcoholic horse man, previously famous actor in a family sitcom, succommed by self-loathing and depression as his career blunders in Hollywood’s changing celebrity climate. Sound strange? Stay with me here. The show is Netflix’s first animated sitcom and it surely does not disappoint. Voiced by Canadian born actor and comedian Will Arnett, alongside Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, Bojack Horseman is a lot darker and emotional than it appears at first glance. Touching on themes of mental health, addiction, the collapse of relationships and death, which are delicately balanced out with humour, this cartoon is deeper than deep. Don’t let the trailer fool you.
Let’s call this program the dysfunctional, comical version of James Bond. Archer explores the character-arc of Sterling Archer, an undercover agent for a secret central intelligence agency, located discretely above a laundromat. Archer is an egotistical, alcoholic (spot the on-going theme), with a plethora of emotional issues and vices. A man with detachment issues struggling to cope with childhood trauma, Archer’s struggles seemingly flow into workplace dynamics. If you’re easily offended, this show is not for you. If you can find humor in crude and outrageous behaviour, you’ll love it!
- Big Mouth
Puberty, for many of us, was a traumatizing period in our lives. For many of us, the way our bodies changed during adolescence wasn’t vocally discussed in school and when it was, it lingered with guilt and shame. But if you’re able to move on and laugh at yourself and your experiences during these times, Big Mouth is the cartoon for you. Andrew, alongside his friends Nick and Jesse (and his entire middle school), are simply going through puberty. Except, it’s not that simple. This show is deeply educational and lots of fun. Although controversial due to its occasional portrayal of nudity, I personally believe it’s a fabulous step in the right direction to deshaming human sexuality! Yay for understanding and loving our bodies!
- Rick and Morty
Alcoholism seems to be a running theme in these cartoons (see below for another!), but I promise this is very important to the character arcs in these shows. Uncle Rick is a blatant pessimist; he declares that life has no existential bearing and we’re all just here for the ride. Because of this, Rick travels through life strictly doing things that make him happy because that’s the only thing that seemingly matters. But who does he take along for the ride? His innocent nephew Morty. Rick and Morty travel through space and time on a variety of adventures, digesting the meaning of life through humor and eccentric plot lines.
- The Boondocks
As a child watching The Boondocks (without permission from my parents) I couldn’t see past the blatant, perpetual swearing and violence. How do you ask a 12-year-old to understand satire? Trick question: you don’t! This is definitely a television show that requires the context of adulthood. To keep it short, The Boondocks was awesome but only survived four seasons. The show focuses on our main characters Huey and Riley, two young African American boys who move to a white neighborhood and refuse to assimilate. Extremely politically conscious, the show explores the multidimensional experiences of African American youth growing up in the United States. And fun fact, Huey and Riley are voiced by the one and only star actress Regina King.
People are always talking about the future. What will technology be like? How will we travel? Will we coexist with aliens? This strange and funny sci-fi satire attempts to answer some of these strange, unsettling questions. What I like most about Futurama is the diversity of characters; not in terms of race, gender or sex but in terms of species. An alien, robot, cyclops and an ordinary dude struggle to find a group dynamic that works for them. Dysfunctional at best, this group navigates their way through the future with difficulty.
- The Simpsons
The longest running cartoon of all time, The Simpsons is a classic that I figured couldn’t be excluded from this list. Known for predicting various significant world events and social instances (like coronavirus or Donald Trump’s presidency), I think it’s safe to assume that the writers of The Simpsons could very well be psychic. The Simpsons is easy and somewhat mindless television, but still makes me chuckle. Still in production for new episodes, the Simpsons family is relatable and fun.
I like adult-oriented cartoons because they are not constrained by the same standards of real-life television programs. They are able to explore absurd concepts that are funny yet serious at the same time. They are thought provoking yet offer mindless television necessary for relaxation after a hard day. They are existential yet amusing. I recommend any of these shows to any individual with a sense of humor. Happy binging!