What Animated TV Has Gotten Away With That Animated Film Hasn’t

by Tito W. James

The End Of The World

Gravity Falls, Teen Titans and Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated are just a few examples of cartoons where its characters witness the end of the world. The apocalypse has been seen in animated TV and live action film regularly but we’ve never really seen it in an animated film.

Bare Booty

There was a time in Cartoon Network’s history where every other show had butt nudity. I’m still surprised they got away with this in kids programing. If they were to revisit this trope in animated film, I’d rather see a tasteful shower scene than a rude butt-flash.


American cartoons have had their own share of sexual subtext. There’s a long-standing cartoon trope of attractive redheads: Jessica Rabbit, Velma, Kim Possible and Ms. Bellum being a few examples. Subtle sexuality could be explored in animated films to create romantic tension and drama.

A Politically Complex High Fantasy World

The Avatar Series was a pioneer–with its diverse cast and epic world building. However, it’s the political complexity of its world that makes the show stand out from all the others. The villains have compelling motivations and in many way are more interesting than the heroes. In Avatar’s second season, the characters travel to the “city of walls and secrets,” a commentary on American politics that still holds critical power.

Same Sex Kissing

Despite legalized marriage equality and a strong push for social acceptance, homosexuality remains a taboo topic. There have been steps made in animated TV. In Mystery Incorporated, Velma was implied to be bisexual and given a girlfriend even though they never kissed.

The creators of The Legend of Korra intended their leading lady to have a romance with Asami. However, the mere implication of homosexuality in Avatar made executives at Nickelodeon nervous enough to pull their best quality show off the air and relegate it to online streaming.

In the series finale of Adventure Time, we finally saw love equality in the brief kiss between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the vampire queen. Disney princesses have been kissing princes in films for years, so there’s no reason why we can’t have same-sex kissing in an animated film.

Why Does All This Matter?

I’ve written about animated film and TV on many occasions because I feel that American cartoons have the same evolutionary potential as American comics. Just because it’s a comic or a cartoon doesn’t mean it has to be exclusively for children and just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean it has to be watered down. Animated television has explored mature themes that deserve to be explored; it’s time for animated film to catch up.

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