About a month ago Sausage Party came out in theaters, I didn’t care to see it because let’s be honest if you’ve seen one Seth Rogen comedy, you’ve seen all Seth Rogen comedies. I have nothing against his movies, and I’m sure he’s a great guy, but I’ve already seen a movie that gives the middle finger to religion twice in my life. The first time in a smart respectful way in the form of Kevin Smith’s Dogma (like seriously that’s one of my favorite movies), and a second time with This is the End staring Seth Rogen and a shit load of celebrity cameos.
Today though I’m stepping away from my high horse of gay representation in the media and religion and I’m going to talk about how fans of animation in the United States will always be screwed over (just like the animators for Sausage Party!)
The movie was advertised as a middle finger to Disney, Pixar, and probably Dreamworks SKG too with cute animated foods swearing as much as possible. Now I love giving the middle finger to big companies as much as the next person, but my issue with this movie is a big one; it was also advertised as the first R rated animated film, which is not true since we had an equally moronic Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie about ten years ago.
Rather than trying to be smart and edgy, or taking a better rout with the views on religion, Sausage Party sets out to be like adult oriented animation for the United States. Nothing but dirty jokes, swearing, violence, and one huge food porn at the end (thank you tv tropes for saving me nine dollars from this mess).
Not All Adult Western Animation is Bad
I don’t hate all adult western animation, but let’s just say I’ll pass on most of it. There was once a time I liked watching Family Guy, but having five to six classmates constantly quoting it during eighth grade made me hate it with a passion as a teen and make me continue channel surfing as an adult. I will admit I am likely to watch an episode of American Dad (I don’t know why).
For a long while [adult swim] green lit quite a bit of adult targeted animation based on the success of Aquateen Hunger Force. And most of it was about the same quality or worse. I think most of it got cancelled after one season. With few exceptions though it was more or less the same type of humor.
There are adult animated shows I do like; Futurama, The Boondocks, Bob’s Burgers, and some episodes of South Park. I think it’s because the following shows trust their audience to get the jokes. Futurama (my personal favorite of the batch) managed to sneak in a mythology arc, have character development, shame me for being single, educate me concerning ecology and mathmatics, and added the term meatbag to my vocabulary. There were even episodes where comedy took a backseat for actual stories, one of them my favorite episode Leela’s Homeworld.
Kids Cartoons with Adult Tone
There are also cartoons aimed for kids with adult tones; I would like to talk about Young Justice, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Avatar The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, and W.I.T.C.H., but there are actually a few handful of cartoons I watched as a kid that were not meant for kids.
From Mainframe Entertainment (now known as Rainmaker Entertainment) children of the nineties were exposed to war, murder, death, genocide, tragedy, and even girls that are there to be slightly more than the token girl. Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Shadow Raiders, and Roughneck Starship Troopers were all war oriented CGI cartoons aimed for children (probably boys) with all the horrors of war attached to the story and no sugar coating how dark the situation was.
Characters were killed off in all of the above mentioned shows; Beast Wars killed off many named characters with most of the characters dying before the series ended. In continuation of Beast Machines life gets worse and worse for the Maximals. Shadow Raiders starts off with a mass genocide and the destruction of an entire planet along with themes of many races overcoming prejudice animosity towards one another.
Finally there is Roughneck: Starship Troopers Chronicles which was anything but made for kids. First the cartoon is a spinoff from the R rated Starship Troopers and it only gets darker from there. Elements are taken from both the film and book series, there are little to no funny moments, characters are killed (offscreen), assimilated into a bug/human hybrid, and are driven insane (coincidentally all three character types were loved by one of two token girls). The series is dark, much darker than anything shown on Kids WB in the late nineties and early in the new millennium and ended on a cliffhanger that gave little to no hope for all of our heroes who barely have enough assurance they will win the war.
For modern youngsters there is the above mentioned Justice League and Young Justice cartoons that were good and realized it’s audience was more than what Cartoon Network wanted them to attract. There is also Star Wars the Clone Wars, which although was something to keep Star Wars fans happy, became something more with the subject of war becoming darker and darker beyond “Obi Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka getting into crazy adventures,” with the war having horrible effects on a friend of Ahsoka’s and resulting in Ahsoka questioning the point of the conflict.
When I was growing up I had anime, and around the age of eleven I realized not all anime was for kids after watching Blue Sabmarine No.6 where in the climax the lead villain is crying over the death of his creator saying his “father” was going to tell him of God and Jesus one day. Of course there was the badass violent anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and The Animatrix that I liked alot and knew weren’t for kids at all. [adult swim] did expose me to fairly uncut anime like Inuyasha and Cowboy Bebop and I loved it. Then there were other anime movies I saw.
In Japan anime is seen as a normal thing, they have cop shows, comedies, dramas, political thrillers, and many other genres. It has seasons and fans in all parts of the world waiting on fated breath for the next chapter of manga and the next exciting episode to be released so they can discuss, criticize, and agonize over their ship.
Until recently most form of story telling never got me to cry, except one time as a teenager. The one time I saw Grave of the Fireflies I was traumatized enough to never want to see the movie again. It brought a reality to me that I had suspected and been curious about in history class that was always glossed over because we were ‘the winning side’. It showed the perspective of two Japanese siblings who lost both their parents to the war and through foolish pride and decisions made by one sibling a series of tragic events follow.
So what is your problem with Western Adult Animation?
My problem is no one wants to take animation seriously when it comes to adults. We can get better stories out of the ones aimed for kids like Zootopia and Inside Out, but unless there is swearing, or it’s a adult oriented comedy all animation is seen as “something to get the kids to shut up” by most adults.
Maybe it’s because I grew up with the nineties Disney resonance, maybe it’s because of my teens watching anime and annoyance with classmates quoting family guy, but I just get annoyed and tired that the only way to get some adults to watch animation in the west is for it to be along the lines of Family Guy or South Park and sticking closer to the former.
I will say that I’m happy that in the case with comicbooks and YA literature that is not the case since in comics mature themes are explored and handled seriously, and there are cool plots without resorting to humor to be interesting. No I have nothing against humor, but it’s a nice breather. The ironic thing is that I do enjoy kids comics more.