(Melody Evans posting on behalf of new Rogue writer Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry)
I like watching cartoons better than almost any other variety of entertainment. In fact, I had kids just so that the amount of time I watch cartoons would seem less weird. Having grown up on the awesomeness that is all things Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbera, Disney and other great franchises, I have a rather a sophisticated palate when it comes to the consumption of cartoons. I need good story lines, good characters, good art and a good theme song in the cartoons I’m going to watch with regularity. So, when many of the contemporary cartoons made their debuts, I sometimes wouldn’t even give them a chance because their art was so…repulsive. People don’t look like people, things are the wrong colors—so much seems so out of place. Being the snob that I am, I almost lost out on some really amazing cartoons because they didn’t fit my ideas of what things should look like. Thank God I have sons who will try watching almost anything that’s animated. These are my three favorite cartoon episodes from the 2014 series’ in no particular order—some of which I almost missed because of my foolish prejudice.
When I first saw bits of The Regular Show, I was intrigued, but was creeped out by the appearance of some of the characters. The first episode I saw was mainly about Muscle Man, who is one of the most unsettling-looking creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on. However, the writing, 80’s references, over-the-top action and storylines made it a must-watch in my house. And, while the theme “song” is not really a song, the voice talent and everything else that makes up the show is incredible. Since it’s on at a time when all of us are running in different directions, by kids watch the On Demand list like hawks to see when new episodes are available. We love it. My favorite episode from this season was “Maxin’ and Relaxin’” because not only was it very funny, it presented parent/child, boyfriend/girlfriend and wife/husband relationships in a really sweet light. Mordecai learns that good girlfriends are impressed with boys who respect their Moms, that nice girls want to be friendly with their boyfriend’s families and that his family (while they are embarrassing as heck) really wants the best for him and for him to be happy. There’s an adorable exchange between Mordecai and his Dad when Mordecai wants his Dad not to tell his Mom that the girlfriend, CJ, will be coming over. His Dad says, “I can’t lie to that woman! Haven’t in 25 years. Except if she asks if she can pass as a college student. Then you lie. Otherwise, no lies.” You don’t really see that kind of nice family interaction in most shows these days. And, as the mother of a son who is noticing that all girls aren’t gross, this episode reinforced many of the relationship qualities I want him to recognize as being something to strive for.
Clarence: “Nature Clarence”
This is one of those shows whose artwork initially threw me off. The characters are ugly. They are straight up weird-looking. I only watched it because we were too tired to leave the hotel room on vacation one day. And I’m so glad we watched it—it is such a clever, wonderfully imaginative show. The writing is impeccable, the characters are well-developed and reminiscent of people I’ve known throughout my life. And I’ve gotten used to the art. Even the theme song has grown on me—it suits the show perfectly. A constant motif (although I have no idea if it’s intended to be) is the many different types of genius and intelligence that children possess. The kids in this show are so unique and it would be easy to dismiss several of them as just odd or deficient, but they all shine in one way or another. My favorite episode—the one that got me hooked—is “Nature Clarence.” An ill-fated trip into nature with an ill-suited adult guide named Joshua, gets Clarence, Percy, Jeff and Sumo stranded overnight in the park (although Sumo gets separated and finds help) where Clarence emerges as a natural leader. Clarence is so innocently trusting in their inevitable rescue and certain safety that he has the freedom to really become an excellent leader—way better than Supermarket Josh (this adventure makes him realize that he belongs in a supermarket, not nature). There is something really endearing about Clarence’s faith that everything is going to be okay—the situation was pretty much out of their control, and all they could do was to try to be comfortable. He settled right in to that thought and brought everyone else with him…Josh came along half-crazed, but he came along, too. There’s truth in that—you don’t have to be a genius to be a leader. You don’t need mad skills or even to be the most “qualified” in the group to accomplish great things. Sometimes the best person to lead in a particular situation is the one who believes in a positive outcome. Jeff was the smartest, Josh was the most well-trained; Clarence believed.
Gravity Falls has everything—from the first commercial I saw I couldn’t wait to see it, and it did not disappoint. Good art, the best theme song in the whole cartoon kingdom, a story that builds with time, suspense, humor, nice messages about relationships and some of my favorite actors in television voice the characters—I LOVE this show. No detail in the show is superfluous—everything has significance or is eventually used for a joke. It’s so completely well-written. My favorite episode from this season is “Soos and the Real Girl.” Everything about this episode is awesome. Poor Soos is not a ladies man. He can’t even talk to girls. In an effort to find him a date for his cousin’s engagement party, twins, Dipper and Mabel try to help Soos meet a suitable girl (suitable being alive, and not fearful for her life). His awkwardness causes spectacular failure, ultimately leading him to find an awful Japanese tutorial computer game on how to date. Like many things in Gravity Falls, this is no ordinary game. The female video game character, Giffany, is “alive” and very possessive. She claims him as her boyfriend, and he’s happy to spend hours and hours with her in the darkness of his room, avoiding all human contact and forgetting to show up for work. Soos accidentally meets and successfully secures a date with an actual (real) girl who is a perfect match for him when Dipper and Mabel wrestle him out of his room and get him to the mall. Giffany follows them on their date (through wires and such) and attacks them. Soos has to destroy the game to be rid of her. Through the silliness of the action comes real meaning. The ever-growing isolation among people in this digital age, and the appearance that technology can satisfy every need we have is put on display in this episode. Ultimately, we find that nothing can replace our need for human contact and more than virtual relationship. And, of course, there’s that old adage that “there’s someone for everyone.”