Adult Cartoons Aren’t Safe for Teens – Or Adults for That Matter.


Sure, there are some exceptions. But for the most part, adult cartoons are the worst! So why are they so successful?

Honestly, I wish I knew the answer to this question. I’ve personally held a derision for shows such as South Park ever since middle school when the boys on my bus would quote the show (in the mind-gratingly annoying voices of the characters) and use it to bully, belittle and sexually harass everyone unfortunate enough to cross their paths.

It feels a bit paradoxical in nature—because why would someone love a show that’s so terrible? But perhaps the answer is in the question. Folks love these shows because they’re terrible. While some fans might praise a given show’s satire or multi-layered wit, let’s face it: Many viewers engage with these shows on the level of my juvenile bus-mates. They laugh at the foul language and animated nudity and gross-out jokes. And more often than not, the shows themselves sink right down to that level—and they seem to be getting worse all the time. And in a weird way, watching these shows that demonstrate an equal-opportunistic mockery of race, gender, disabilities, addiction, abuse, depression, suicide, politics and religion makes viewers feel just a tiny bit better about their own sinful natures.

It all started with The Simpsons. First airing back in 1989, it’s now the longest-running scripted primetime series in American history, predating the World Wide Web, a united Germany and even myself.

“The Simpsons was the family no one wanted to be but secretly wanted to visit, if only for a vacation from themselves,” wrote Paul Asay in his review. Viewers either considered The Simpsons “to be a cogent, witty and surprisingly warmhearted satire of the American condition,” or they found it “crass, lewd and morally impaired.”

But because of The Simpsons‘success, Hollywood felt inclined to create even more content of this nature. Thus we were given equally crude Futurama, AmericanDad!, South Park, Bob’s Burgers, Disenchantment, Archer, bojack horseman, Central Park, Big Mouth and “the most obnoxious show on broadcast television” (according, once again, to Mr. Asay) family guy.

There are, of course, many other shows that fall into the animated adult comedy category. But these are the ones I’ve been unlucky enough to come across (and sometimes review for plugged in). And all I can say is “Seriously?”

Fans of these shows—particularly teens who want permission from their parents to watch without limitation—will die on the hill that these shows are brilliant because of their all-inclusive derision. They’ll hunt for a lesson to be learned in each episode to justify the crudity. They’ll defend that because it’s a joke (and because it’s animated, thus removing any real victims from the equation), that somehow makes it OK.

Ironically, these same people will recognize that these shows are terribly inappropriate. But they’ll still watch them because they’re “mature” enough to not replicate the behaviors exhibited.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, it doesn’t matter how “mature” any of us are. Galatians gives us a whole list of wicked things to avoid: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these ” (Galatians 5:19-21). And whether we like it or not, many of these adult cartoons don’t just display these actions, they celebrate them.

So perhaps, instead of letting these types of shows play in the background while we cook dinner, we could change the channel or even turn the TV off. And when your teenager tries to convince you that he needs to watch it to fit in with his friends—well, personally, I would tell that kid to find new friends, because these ones aren’t doing him any favors—encourage him to do the right thing (James 4:17).

Because at best, the worst of these shows are offensive to all peoples and all cultures. At worst, they’re a direct reflection of why Jesus had to sacrifice himself on the cross. And that sacrifice is often ridiculed in these shows as well.

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