I am a 30-something old girl and I have a lot better things to do with my time than watch cartoons… but there’s something about Adventure Time that has me hooked. Maybe it the nature of the show and how it cleverly disguises real disturbing adult themes.
In Australia, Adventure Time is rated Parental Guidance (PG) by the Australian Classification Board. This means the show is not recommended for viewing or playing by people under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians. It contains material that young viewers may find confusing or upsetting. In Adventure Time’s case, this is for themes and crude humour. But, buried behind the show’s wackiness are some really disturbing adult themes.
This is probably the reason why so many adults, like myself, thoroughly enjoy this cleverly written adult entertainment in the guise of a kid’s show. Its off-beat humour and randomness is merely a part of Adventure Time‘s charm. Those old enough to somewhat follow the show’s seemingly incoherent story-line might find themselves immersed in a post-apocalyptic story that tackles disturbing adult themes such as abandonment, loneliness, addiction, so much more.
Here are some subtle themes that you might have missed while watching Adventure Time.
World War III
Adventure Time takes place 1000 years after The Great Mushroom War. The Mushroom War. The war crippled and eventually resulted in the near-annihilation of the human species and left their civilization in ruins throughout the Land of Ooo.
Clearly this is a reference to the nuclear war as the clouds the nuclear bombs leave in their wake are in the shape of mushrooms. This is also strongly hinted at in the episode “Finn the Human” and “Jake the Dog” when they talk about the “mushroom bomb” that made mankind extinct.
Loneliness & Depression
It’s easy forget just exactly why Finn was so keen to adventure in the first few series. He was told that he was the only remaining human being left alive; human kind was nearly extinct. Since then Finn has been desperately searching Ooo for another living human being.
Perhaps he is the only human left on Ooo, and his crippling loneliness has driven him insane – so much, in fact, that he befriends inanimate objects left from the war and has imaginary conversations with them. If so, that’s pretty darn dark!
The Ice King wasn’t always crazy. He was once known as Simon Petrikov; a kind and caring antiquarian (someone who studies ancient artifacts). He looked a fiance called Betty who he would call his little princess. But, sadly, one day she died. After her death he is hell-bent on finding an ancient artifact that can give him the power to stop people from dying… and he finds the Ice Crown.
The Ice Crown gave him the power he craved but it came at the cost of his individual identity and mental health. Then one day Simon meets little Marceline and vows to protect her. But the temptation of the crown’s power sometimes seemed too much for Simon to resist, especially when he was doubting his own ability to protect little Marceline.
One of the most addictive drugs on Earth is crystal methamphetamine which is commonly known as ice. Ice is known to distort the users judgement which often gives them increased confidence. They also become overly aggressive and have extra energy to burn. Their skin also turns cold, sweaty and clammy. Did Simon turn into a meth head?
Existentialism & Gnosticism
Adventure Time is rife with existentialist themes. Although they may not always be obvious the theme is certainly consistent throughout the series. It is usually Jake who is questioning cosmic indifference and whether their lives have meanings, but the show has – at least once – gone full Gnostic. This much is clear with the reference to Ouroboros (snake eating its own tail)..
In the episode “A Glitch is a Glitch” we are plunged into ancient skepticism. Although it may just seem like a parody episode of the Matrix – with simulation theory and all – it is actually a nod to one of the most notable writings on existentialism called “The Butterfly Dream”:
“Once, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know that he was Zhuang Zhou.”
“Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuang Zhou. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt, he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.”
Adventure Time has a lot of fun with this theory. What is the dream, who is dreaming it?
Although Adventure Time has some disturbing adult themes, it also has many sexual themes, references and innuendos. If you aren’t catching them, you probably haven’t reached puberty yet – but they are certainly there. I can see it now, kids who grew up on with this show watching it for the first time as adults will be trying to salvage what remains of their tainted childhoods. This show will do that to you, but that’s what I love about it.
These naughty moments are everywhere, too. When you realise that BMO is actually an adult toy, you might kind of lose your drink. Think about all those scenes where they forcibly insert games or tapes into poor BMO’s butt. Or when Jake and Finn are playing with its controllers, and it has a euphoric look on her face. If that isn’t enough to convince you, there is even an episode where BMO and Finn and are rolling around on the ground; Finn has the controller in his mouth while BMO lets out little digital O sounds.
Yep, there is plenty of sex stuff and things in Adventure Time, I might have shattered the glass because you won’t be able to miss it now. Sorry, not sorry.