Cartoon Demographics – Are We Infantiles, or are Children More Adult-like?

I’ve been thinking of the intersection of genres and demographics for a while, especially as I’ve recently discussed how some shows have demographics as meta-genres, and instead of genres. This recent blog post on The Otaku Lounge by Artemis discussing anime/manga demographics made me try to formulate my words on the topic. I sat down and thought – this genres don’t really apply to me – I watch children shows (though less as time goes by), and I watch both female and male-oriented young-adult and adult shows. I also tried to even¬†identify shows that fall within certain categories and had a really hard time doing so.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 2)

That’s when I realized – the shows don’t have these demographics within them. There is no magical connection between the so-called demographic which is supposedly¬†of the show and who really enjoys the show, or can enjoy it – especially if we’re going to resist gender and age-based essentialism, though obviously we’re talking more about life experienced and supposed socialization lines here.
That made me realize – these demographics are merely a construct, and not one truly used by the authors of shows or movies, but by the marketing teams that have to release the work into the wide world.

Well, let’s backtrack a bit and talk about some shows, movies, and other things:

Avatar the Last Airbender – This cartoon by Nickolodeon had first come out in 2005. The Story-Game RPG community I was part of had absolutely loved it. I was 20 when it’s come out, my friend Christian who was 30 years old who watched it with his 3 year old and 13 year old sons. We’ve had numerous men and women ranging from 15 to about 40 who all absolutely loved the show. So what if it’s been categorized as a “Children’s show”? It has good characters, good character and plot development, real conflicts and conflict-resolution that isn’t entirely based on violence. It’s for everyone.

Disney/Pixar movies – Children here are usually taken to watch Disney films as they grow up. I remember being taken to watch Bambi as a five year old, and when I saw my grandmother crying next to me I consoled her, “Don’t worry grandmother, it’s not real – it’s just a movie.” My best friend and I had watched plenty of animated films in the cinemas – all of the Shrek films, Toy Story 3, and recently we’ve watched Monsters University.
We definitely weren’t the only adults there, though going at later hours and watching the films in English rather than dubbed to Hebrew definitely raises the age. The point being, there is definite adult interest in these “Children-shows”.

Now, let’s look at some different examples:

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Monsters University – Show Versus Tell

MU, Monsters University

Monsters University is the prequel movie to Monsters Inc., which had been released almost 12 years ago. I didn’t watch that film in the cinema, but when my brother rented the DVD from Blockbuster’s for the weekend (yes, people used to rent physical DVDs in brick and mortar stores in the past), my baby brother watched it non-stop all weekend long. I’d pop around now and then, the movie would play, and I’d sit and watch. I estimate I watched it about 3 complete times that weekend, and I don’t tend to rewatch films in close proximity.

The above is basically me saying that I think Monsters Inc. was something special, a movie you could rewatch time and time again, a movie which had a really good emotional backbone (Boo was so good). They waited quite a bit before they’ve released this latest movie. I think it was a solid movie, but it’s not really a successor to Monsters Inc., and the setting is almost immaterial.

We meet Sully and Mike before they are friends, as they embark on the road to become Scarers in Monsters University. What follows is a regular run of the mill opposites become friend, underdogs rising to the top, how much are you willing to give up for success – a regular story of friendship and attempting to achieve your goals. The jokes are alright but not hilarious, and there are special effects, some special moments, and a general setting that tells you you’re in the same universe as Monsters Inc. – but on the whole, this movie could’ve just as easily belonged to any other franchise.

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