Let me begin by introducing myself: Hi! I’m Jess. I’m a 37 year-old Libra (Aries moon *wink*). I do, as the cliché goes, enjoy long walks on the beach. And I friggin’ LOVE cartoons. Love them. So, you see, I’m not just a writer talking about cartoons, I’m also a viewer.
And what follows, my friends, is my testimonial.
I see a lot of folks talking about using the extra time at home—even if still working from home, you’re not spending time commuting to and from your job—to work on crafts, side hustles, learn new skills, and so on. You know what, though? We’re living through a collective trauma right now: working to survive is enough. And sometimes survival does mean distraction. So, I’m not here to guilt you for not learning a new language or maximize the profits of your side hustle. I’m here to help you find distraction.
Today, the distractions I’m showcasing are cartoons that are widely considered to be for children but that are entertaining to me, a whole-ass adult human who is definitely not multiple raccoons in a trench coat. I recognize that cartoons are not every adult’s jam (though, if that is you, you’ve probably already clicked away) nor will all of these cartoons be everyone’s taste. That being said, I have six recommendations for you!
Before I say anything else about this, allow me to offer the following advice: watch it exactly one (1) time and do not watch it with children. That last bit is especially important. It is entertaining the first time; not so much the thirtieth time. Okay? Okay!
Now, I saw this last fall when I visited one of my best friends and her adorable kiddo. Though I came in smack in the middle of the thirteen-episode season, I did see the entire season over the course of that weekend. It is mesmerizing. The animation and the voice acting is fantastic! Between the familiarity of the rhyming scheme and its consistency with Seussian aesthetics, it is soothing. It is a chicken soup for the inner-child-trying-to-survive-a-traumatic-historical-moment’s soul. Much like chicken soup, though, may not be something that you want every day. You only want Green Eggs & Ham occasionally. As a treat.
As a child of the 80s who *loved* My Little Pony, I was really skeptical about this reboot.
But y’all! It’s good! So good, in fact, that I have long-since claimed the updated Pinkie Pie as my patronus (well, okay: half of my patronus. The other half is Bruce Banner/The Hulk—MCU edition). I have a Pinkie Pie TATTOO, y’all.
The updated MLP addresses a lot of serious themes and issues—imposter syndrome, self-doubt, gaslighting, the importance of asking for help, etc.—in an approachable, kid-friendly way. And, while not entirely non-problematic, it handles those issues in generally healthy and validating ways. It’s also bright and full of color and silly. 10/10 – definitely recommend!
So, I have a confession. I did not watch the original The Magic School Bus (also available on Netflix)—I think I saw one episode before I checked out this reboot—so, I don’t have the attachment to the original that so many in my generation do. I did, however, go back and watch a little bit of the original to see how faithful Rides Again is and, I’ve got to say, I think it carries the same energy.
This updated version sees Ms. Frizzle become Professor Frizzle and her younger sister, Ms. Fiona Frizzle, takes over the class. Lily Tomlin still voices the now Professor Frizzle and Kate McKinnon voices Ms. Frizzle the younger! And the show features a list of awesome guest voices: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Sandra Oh, Nathan Fillion, and more! It is still an education-focused show, so it is excellent for folks with kiddos in the house, as well as those looking for a bit of a nostalgia fix.
Okay, so, SpongeBob is not currently on Netflix. It was. And given last year’s deal between Netflix and Viacom, it will hopefully return to the streaming service. So, I guess, let’s just consider this wishful writing and also a call to Netflix: Can we get some Bikini Bottom up in this bish? PLEEEEAAASE?!
It is almost obscene how happy SpongeBob SquarePants makes me. It is silly while also retelling familiar stories and addressing themes like peer pressure, the possible dangers of good intentions, and homesickness. Plus, it’s inspired the denizens of the internet to create amazing content like this:
I adore this!
Y’all this show is hilarious! It’s got the same combination of goofiness, slyly snuck-in adult humor, and colorful side characters as SpongeBob SquarePants and Rocko’s Modern Life. I mean, the main characters are literally a cupcake and a dinosaur (or a muffin and a scale-y horse, depending on who you ask in-universe), their uncle always wears a paper bag on his head, and their grandmother is a sentient steak who loves to dance, work-out, and date (which—hell, yeah! with the active senior representation).
Much like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I was *super* skeptical about this reboot. As much as I loved My Little Pony in the 80s, She-Ra was my shero! Get it? Shero. She-Ro. She-Ra. Hahahaha *finger guns* …I’ll show myself out. Well, after I finish telling you about how awesome the new She-Ra is.
Okay, so this is my very favorite cartoon on this list. It holds that spot because, much like The Magic School Bus Rides Again, it is not an attempt to re-write the original She-Ra but expand the universe over time. And while it continues the story, it explores some really deep themes associated with C-PTSD after childhood trauma/abuse: the different ways people cope with abuse, coping with flashbacks, gaslighting, co-dependent relationships, unlearning ideas we’ve been socialized to believe, crippling self-doubt, feelings of abandonment, and the difficulty of accepting love and validation. It also deals with issues like settler colonialism and genocide, offering some searing critiques of social issues. Despite the heaviness of the themes, it always remains approachable. And—AND it is chock full of Queer representation and validation, which is just *melts*. Honestly, watch this show: you won’t regret it. It makes my heartparts so happy.
And that’s what I’ve got for you! Go forth and distract yourself from the existential terror that is Plague 2020, even if for a short period of time. We all deserve a few minutes respite from *gestures at everything*.
Take care of yourselves. AND WASH YOUR HANDS.