Gravity Falls as a Transgenerational Cultural Forum
by Molly Sharp — The Ohio State University
October 10, 2012 – 00:00
Popular discourse surrounding crossover animation often focuses on how the television show melds together two different sets of content. The show may have unsophisticated, silly humor or a simplistic, child-centered narrative working alongside something else that children do not comprehend. This is certainly true for Gravity Falls; in regards to the posted clip, it is reasonable to assume that at least some younger viewers born after the Cold War would not fully understand the references to the Soviet Union or to the “traditional power-ups,” although some adults may not understand these references either. However, Gravity Falls also offers its viewers a set of content that transcends age barriers, sustaining equal relevancy to both children and adults.
Gravity Falls uses supernatural phenomena to engage in discourses about cultural norms. In the posted clip, Dipper, the boy, struggles with his masculinity. Knowing that his society expects him to engage in violence but also knowing that he has little desire to do so, Dipper feels deeply ambivalent toward fighting with Robbie. Hyper-violent, hyper-muscular, hyper-active Rumble, the video game character Dipper brings to life, is the embodiment of the man Dipper thinks his culture wants him to be. Originally enamored with Rumble, Dipper slowly comes to learn over the course of the episode that he cannot allow his culture’s version of his masculinity to fight his battles; he must define his masculinity in a way that suits his needs and desires and incorporate that version of himself into his identity.
These struggles with identity are exclusive to neither children nor adults. Children learn sex and gender categories very early, and negotiating their meanings, both for oneself and for others, is a life-long process. Gravity Falls provides a singular cultural forum for people across generations to question and make sense of their shared social world through light-hearted science fiction and fantasy. Children and adults can use Gravity Falls to engage each other in conversations about their culture, working together to construct the present they share and to shape the future that younger viewers will inherit.