Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Want My Kids To Turn Out Like Finn (Adventure Time)

I’ll start with this. Adventure Time is not a kids’ show. Or rather, it’s not just a kids’ show. Like how Spongebob Squarepants and Pixar movies appeal to both the kiddie and grownup sets, Adventure Time is fun for kids but actually pretty interesting for adults too. So good job there.

The show is an animated short, each episode only lasting about eleven minutes without commercials, and it’s pretty seriously strange. But I mean that in the good way. The show follows Finn, the last human child, and his adoptive dog brother Jake, as they have adventures in the magical land of Ooo.

Getting the strange yet?

There’s a distinct implication that the land of Ooo is actually our world after some kind of horrific apocalypse, but the series doesn’t linger on that, because, you know, kids. Instead, the show is about Finn and Jake and the adventures they go on. What makes it interesting is the nature of those adventures.

You see, it would be very easy to make a show like this where the main characters are constantly rescuing beautiful damsels and getting neat moral lessons, or fighting monsters, or going on epic quests. To be sure, they do do those things, but they also do other stuff. Like go on a great journey to find musicians so that a group of mushrooms can dance. Or try to convince a mountain to stop crying, only the mountain is crying because the village of marauders at its base likes rough-housing and the mountain is scared someone will get hurt. Stuff like that.

What makes the show really interesting is that Finn doesn’t discriminate between the two types of quests. He doesn’t view helping carry tarts across the kingdom differently than he views saving Princess Bubblegum. Every task is equal in his eyes, and that’s pretty awesome.

But more than that, Finn is actually a really fantastic role model. Not because he’s orderly and nice and responsible, because he’s none of those things. He never cleans his room, he can be kind of a jerk, and he is wildly irresponsible sometimes.

Finn’s a role model for one simple reason: he cares.

Finn is the last human. Everyone he sees around him is wildly different than he is, and his response to this isn’t to become jaded or secluded or to isolate himself from the world. He isn’t on a great quest to discover his origin, or find his birth parents (he was adopted by talking dogs that found him in the woods). What Finn wants, more than anything else, is to help people. To help everyone, in fact. Everyone that needs help.

What better role model do you want for your kids?

And sure, he gets it wrong sometimes. He gets it wrong a lot of the time, actually. But even that is great to see. Because we watch Finn not just try to do the right thing and then either have it succeed or give up when it’s harder than it seems. He tries one thing, and when that doesn’t work, he tries something else. He keeps trying. He tries hard. Because he genuinely cares about the outcome.

Finn is a hero, and his mission is to help people. Not because he has to, but because he wants to, and because he thinks its fun. How is this guy not a great role model?

To be sure, there are other reasons to watch the show as well. Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, Lady Rainicorn, and Lumpy Space Princess are all interesting, well-rounded female characters, who add to the story and develop as the plot progresses. They’re all deeply unique, and the fun is seeing how each of them plays into the story. Plus, not a one of them is a stereotype of anything. They’re all completely unique.

That can be said for most of the world of the show. Finn spends a lot of time rescuing princesses, but those princesses are wildly diverse, from Hot Dog Princess to Doctor Princess (not actually a princess, that’s just her name), to Lumpy Space Princess, to Zombie Princess. Again, all unique and interesting. This is a world where dogs can shapeshift and change size, where candy talks and wears pants and where Lemongrabs do whatever it is that Lemongrabs do.

Still, the best part of the show remains Finn. Finn and his optimistic, enthusiastic desire to help people. Not because he has to, but because he genuinely believes that he is better off if the people around him are happy.

I just want to hug that kid. And I want my kids to turn out just like him, messy rooms and all.


  1. I love Adventure Time. I even beat the video game "Hey Ice King, Why'd you steal our garbage?" which is a quest to get their garbage back (with side quests to find Bubblegum's panty hose, find Tree-trunks apples, find a lost Hotdog Dog). There's this part where Jake calls Bubblegum "Babeh" and she says "I am not a 'Babeh' I am a woman whose pantyhose has been stolen." <3 <3 the whole show.

    1. It's all just so fabulous. I had to be careful here, lest it drift into me just sort of drooling for a while. But yeah. So awesome.