Animated ‘Kids Shows’ That Can Teach Us About Adulthood

When I was a child, you could always find me glued to a TV screen. As a young adult, this is still true, but I find it hard to relate to some of the most popular shows on-air. Today, I tend to find more enjoyment in “kid’s shows.” I used to think I was alone, but some of the most popular content among young adults these days comes from programs with a target audience of children.

Here are some of the best shows that target young kids, but resonate with 20-somethings like me:

Regular Show” (Cartoon Network — Available on Hulu)

You might not think a kids show featuring a talking blue jay and raccoon would have much to say about adult life, but Mordecai and Rigby (said blue jay and racoon) have been failing at adulthood since 2010, so you don’t have to.

In one multi-season arc, Rigby decides to finally get his high school diploma in his early-30s, showing young people that it’s okay to get an education on your own terms. Whether it’s dealing with their over-the-top boss Benson or showing us that sometimes romantic relationships don’t work out the way you expect (and that’s okay), the show demonstrates that it’s never too late to keep learning, a lesson I learned when I graduated from college and was unsure of my next steps.

“Voltron: Legendary Defender” (A Netflix Original)

This is another show that sounds completely wild but explores the human experience in ways that resonate with me and other adults. This sci-fi/fantasy program features a team of teenagers who are chosen to pilot machinery in order to form the robot, Voltron. Each episode they face different alien enemies that seek to use Voltron for evil.

My favorite storylines are about the relationships that exist between the main characters because they show how they are able to lean on each other for strength in hard times. The leader of Voltron, Shiro, has a mental illness (PTSD) and is able to entrust his friends to hold the team together until he is able to take care of himself.  As someone who has dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, I appreciate seeing mental illness being taken seriously and treated respectfully in a kid’s cartoon.

Steven Universe” (Cartoon Network — Available of Hulu)

They are the “Crystal Gems,” a group of rebel aliens that are from a distant planet, but choose to fight for planet Earth, with a musical number, or two, sprinkled in. I love that this show is about a sensitive young boy who teaches other young boys that it’s okay to express their feelings and also features interesting, complex female protagonists as co-leads.

Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are different in so many ways, but this is the first time that I had seen female characters that all had different body types. As a plus-sized woman, this is the kind of representation that I didn’t realize I needed until I saw it. Garnet is tall and strong, Pearl is lanky and fast, and Amethyst is short and unpredictable (much like myself). It felt great to see their diversity showcased as something that makes them a great team. I’m excited to know that there is a show that people of all ages can see themselves represented in.

Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Nickelodeon — Available on Blue Ray)

In a show that features compelling characters, an interesting setting, elements of the supernatural, and many profound messages, it’s hard for me to pick just one aspect of this show to rave about. This fantasy series follows Aang, the last descendant of the Avatars. They are the only beings that are able to master all four elements (air, water, earth, and fire).

My favorite character, Zuko, prince of the Fire Nation, is the main villain of the series. After facing banishment and cruel punishment at the hands of the tyrannical Fire Nation led by his father, Zuko relentlessly hunts the Avatar to bring him to his father and regain his honor. (*Spoiler Alert*) He turns into an ally after he gains the trust of the Avatar and his friends, shows real regret, and is forgiven by those he has hurt the most. This show proves that forgiveness is not only possible, but necessary — a message we can all take with us.

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