The Problems With Adventure Time

The second in a trilogy, in which I bring some heavy criticsm to a favourite show of mine

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Okay, so now I’ve proved to myself I do like Adventure Time it’s time to tear it a new one. Or at least put into words a few obvious problems it has that plague its most recent seasons which should serve as a primer for further discussions. It should be noted, that Adventure Time is not the only one guilty of these problems, it’s just that it set such a high standard and did kick off that wonderful cartoon renaissance I talked about a while back. Adventure Time is so far the cartoon of the decade. And if it’s to keep that title all its warts should be given just as much scrutiny as its best parts.

Characters are not punished:
Jake is a god awful Father and Princess Bubblegum is a cruel dictator. To name the two most obvious issues here. So starting with the latter, Princess Bubblegum constantly experiments, abuses and belittles her people. Once they finally wise up to the fact they can depose her, it doesn’t last long and she returns declaring them idiots. There is no change there, she hasn’t learnt a lesson, it’s framed as if the candy people have. That lesson being you shouldn’t self-govern and leave it all to Bubblegum. Which from an outside perspective is frightening but she gets away with it.

Now Jake being an awful father. He ignores his children until he is forced to interact with them or when they appear in his life. He effectively runs away from that responsibility and it never comes back to bite him. His partner welcomes him with open arms whenever he appears, only one of his children ever calls him out on it, and that’s resolved within that episode with the child being put at fault. It’s another horrifying think that just seems to be pushed aside to hold some form of status quo.

Both of these behaviours are normalised in the context of the show by presenting them as funny, we are expected to laugh at these characters when they do these things, but are given no narrative payoff to their actions, they simply are this way, and won’t change and other characters won’t ask them to change.

Relationships aren’t believable:
As a tangent, why are Lady Rainicorn and Jake a couple? With Jake practically ignoring her for large spans of time, ignoring their children. Leaving literally a day after they’re born. I don’t even really think they set up how they met, even in passing. And when they are together it seems a little forced and well, sterile. It’s a little depressing to think about in hindsight.

Plot points are not dealt with or expanded:
This one has a very obvious example. Remember when Finn lost his arm. And everyone was congratulating Adventure Time on the cleverness of its visual story telling as it had been implied several times before the episode that he would lose his arm due to some perverse fate. And then everyone was hypothesising about the new status quo Finn would have to adapt too, with a very obvious disability and how that wou…… or a bee could have sex with his arm 4 episodes later and void the whole thing. Adventure has this issue that it can’t sit still, or think through one specific idea, it is there for 1 or 2 episodes, if you’re lucky it’s 2 right next to each other, if you’re unlucky there was 5 episodes of filler and sometimes it just never appears again or is even recognised by the characters later down the line.

It’s a shame that after basically any large development, the show will inevitably return to a status quo with the characters vastly unchanged from the experience

The world doesn’t progress around the characters:
Everything in Adventure Time appears to happen in a small bubble, all on it’s lonesome. Events from one episode never seem to have a dripping effect on other people and often aren’t bought up again. It’s almost as if people forgot previous adventures leading to a disjointed overall narrative. I could take whole chunks of recent adventure time, reshuffle the episodes and you would never know they were out of order.

And now I think I’m out of gripes, probably because these are all fairly big gripes, and I’m loathe to spend another 1000 words just repeating what I’ve already said so to finish……

It should be noted that, yes, all of these issues raised are non-issues in various episodes, for example whilst Jake and Princess Rainicorn’s relationship is alien, Marceline’s and Ice Kings is incredibly well done.  What I’ve done here is point out that Adventure Times biggest issue is its inconsistency, one episode will be stellar, the next will fall flat and the next will be inconsequential to anything. And it’s obviously not that it can’t be done, as next week I follow up this post with, the more I think about it, my favourite cartoon, Regular Show and how it deals with all these issues.

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