Pretty much every single one of my hobbies, and for that matter most of my professional career, has the taint of arrested development around it. I like videogames and theme parks enough to get jobs working for them, at least half of my TiVo season passes are on Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel, and I’ve got almost as many comic books as I do gray hairs.
So I’m familiar with the whole “but blank isn’t just for kids!” argument. So familiar, that I’m pretty sick of it.
First, it’s pretty dull at this point. The people who matter have already caught on, and those who are still convinced that it’s all inherently juvenile are never going to be convinced otherwise. “The Simpsons” and even “South Park” have been on for so long at this point, they’ve already gone through their cycles of being dismissed/cult favorites/popular favorites/tired sell-outs. There are still flare-ups here and there, especially around videogame violence, but for the most part it’s background noise. Big business doesn’t care one way or the other as long as there’s money involved, and at the moment, there’s a lot of money in videogames and animation.
Second, the argument is always being made by people who are a little too desperate to believe it’s true, and who somehow always end up shooting the argument in the foot. They’ll start quoting statistics and end up saying stuff like, “Research has shown time and again that the median age of videogame players is 25 and rising, and to dismiss it as juvenile is just — hey, look! Boobies!”
This list of “15 Animated Films For Grown-Ups” from The Onion AV Club manages to do both. (Of course, it’s The Onion AV Club, so it’s “Animated Films” in the title, but if I started going off about the Pompous Hipster mentality, I’d never stop). The AV Club used to do round-ups of “The Most Inessential Albums of the Year” (maybe they still do); this list feels like a candidate for Most Inessential Pop Culture Commentary On the Internet.
For starters, the whole concept is stupid on two fronts. First, because it distinguishes animated movies from the live-action ones, which is a distinction only the Academy Awards makes nowadays. And we’re hipsters, right? We’re supposed to hate the Oscars. Second, because as it tries to assert that animated movies aren’t just for kids, it starts with the assumption that people still think they are just for kids.
Then, there’s the apparent criteria for entry. Read enough of the comments, and what do you see pop up again and again? Porn. Sex. Boobies. Violence. All of which are aces in my book, but is that what makes something “adult?” What about concept, tone, message, or execution?
What’s heartbreaking is that the author seems to be aware of the basic distinction, but not enough to compile a simple 15-item list based on it. There are frequent mentions of “teen raunch” and “the old sex-and-violence tropes,” but except for three of the entries, that old sex-and-violence is the only thing that seems to be required to be “adult.”
And the list itself is so damn boring. Fritz the Cat? Seriously? Does anyone out there, anywhere still think this movie has any value at all? I could go on for another 10 pages about all the ways Ralph Bakshi sucks, but I was under the impression that at least he’d used up all of his pop culture cred from making a cartoon movie about cartoon cats screwing each other. I thought even the most knee-jerk simple-minded hipster had already accepted long ago that the movie had no value even as an anti-Disney novelty.
The list makes a long disclaimer about not including more than one anime movie on the list of “films for grown-ups,” and then includes Akira? The movie about teenagers on street bikes fighting each other with psychic powers? Yeah, it’s a great movie, but whenever I think of it, “adult” doesn’t spring to mind. The list mentions Perfect Blue; what about Millennium Actress? That’s one of the most mature, moving animated movies I’ve ever seen.
I don’t really need to say any more about the inclusion of Heavy Metal, right? The author makes another long disclaimer about how adolescent a movie it is, but includes it anyway. And — here’s the kicker — also includes Rock and Rule for good measure.
The whole thing is just dumb, and it pushed my “animation” and “pompous hipster” and “stupid generalization” buttons all at once, which automatically generates a blog post. And it’s been said so many times that it’s become trite itself, but it’s still true: the best movies aren’t ones that are made for kids or for adults, but don’t pander to any audience and just stay true to themselves.
Now, it may seem like a cop-out not to include my own list, but like I said, I think the whole idea is stupid; both for making distinctions between animation and live-action, and for not making a distinction between “adult” and “adolescent.”
Plus I just tried to, and realized I haven’t seen enough feature-length animation to come up with 10.