Thank you for this brilliant text Alexis. You were touch on something that Alexandre also alluded to and which I wasn’t able to touch on: the realistic issues and mental problems that AT deals with. While Lemongrab could be considered Evil (even cartoonishly evil), the Ice King tends to be misunderstood and frustrated rather than properly evil.
So many other characters in AT come off as much more complex than one might find in any other cartoon. Villains are often just acting out of desperation or ignorance. Finn’s relationships are represented in a realistic manner. Although his failures might be frustrating initially for the viewer who wants to see him succeed, they end up being more true-to-life.
Things brings me back to a question we will probably not be able to answer right away. What do these serious issues bring to a children’s cartoon? Are they intentionally included, or simply the byproduct of an honest writing practice? Regardless, I’d like to link back to my discussion about fan appreciation of the show to suggest that these real issues that are dealt with by complex characters are part of the reason that AT is appreciated by such a wide-ranging audience. As fun as it is to see Finn vanquish demons, something even more special comes out of episodes such as “Simon and Marcy”, “I Rembember You”, “Puhoy”, “The Vault”, etc.
I initially wanted to point towards the examples of fanfiction throughout the series as another example of verfremdungseffekt, until I came across an interesting detail in each case. Both in the fanfic example and in this glitch episode, the Ice King himself is responsible for pushing the boundaries of AT beyond the established limits of a cartoon.
With all the discussions we had this week concerning the links between AT and our own world, I wonder if we could say that the Ice King plays a particular role in bridging the divide between the two universes. Any thoughts?
Good points, Colin. As an animator yourself, do you notice this trend of the alienation affect in cartoons as becoming more and more popular or is it sort of dated and cliche? Is it unique to AT or is does it have some historical context (I’m thinking specifically Chuck Jones’ “Duck Amuck” from 1953)?
Overall, it seems like the glitch is a perfect topic for AT to tackle mostly because it thrives on that area in between weird and WTF. Much like the other “outside” created episode, “Food Chain” by Masaaki Yuasa, “A Glitch is a Glitch” not only shows AT’s ability to push its own boundaries, but also those of the medium of animation in clever ways.
You also mentioned in a conversation we had how you would argue that AT is heavily influenced by Fliescher and his “wavy lined” aesthetic. Is this episode and its heavy use of Verfremdungseffekt in line with your theory?
Thank you both very much for your comments. I have been quite obsessed with the parallels between Ooo and our own world since the show’s inception. I believe that if Ooo is a post apocalyptic version of earth, much can be interpreted from the social as well as political facsimiles with our world AT seems to make allusion to.
Alexis, your point on how children would respond with empathy towards the fact that Lemongrab was created out of someone else’s will is an excellent interpretation that I had not considered. I believe that this also ties in with what Lawrence mentioned about Lemongrab’s other half. He does in fact eat his double, claiming that there can be ‘only one’. Lemongrab could then be the reflection of a child brought into the world without consent, as is any human being, and then experience jealousy towards a sibling. This is also something a child could express empathy for. This does not however completely explain Lemongrab’s development into the awful dictator we see in this clip.
Lawrence, I am also glad you mentioned Lemonhope in your comment because I did not find space to include him in my note. You are right in stating that Castle Lemongrab only changes with the coming of Lemonhope. I would then ask at this point if Lemonhope could be considered a reflection of the fear of change within a totalitarian social order and if so are we to understand that change is a good thing within any society really?
Overall, much can be discussed when treating on Lemongrab’s place within a children’s cartoon program. I cannot help but wonder where the show will go from here on.
You both bring up good points about the role of Lemongrab in AT. I think Alexandre is correct in noting the “darker” nature of Lemongrab’s totalitarian presence in the show, but Alexis also makes a good point that AT goes to great lengths to blur the line between our world and the land of Ooo. This, however, is problematic as there are also insinuations in the show that the Land of Ooo is, in fact, our would after a cataclysmic “mushroom war” that is fleshed out (opaquely) in the episodes “I Remember You” and “Simon and Marcy.”
Also, what about the fact that Lemongrab ultimately tries to “consume” his nicer half? As you both mention, initially, the blame for Lemongrab’s tyranny lies with Princess Bubblegum and her intention to play God. Although she “fixes” the problem with her “nicer” Lemongrab, it is only with the coming of Lemonhope that the Lemon kingdom begins to change. Overall, Alexandre digs out an interesting, if complicated, issue with AT that gets to the huge question; is this really a kids show?
I agree with Alexandre that Lemongrab is a perfect example of the limits that Adventure Time is willing to push in terms of acceptability. Alexandre’s summary makes it pretty clear that Lemongrab is meant to be an allusion to our own human history. But what’s the consequence of presenting such themes in the context of a children’s show? I think that Adventure Time uses animation in the same way that South Park does in that it creates a universe with fantastical elements and over-the-top personalities so as to more surreptitiously present biting social commentary. Yet, I think that the important aspect of Adventure Time to keep in mind is precisely that the creators chose to set the show in a a universe ostensibly so outside of our own that they are able to present social critique in the context not of what it is to be American, or even to be human, but rather what it is to be a product of someone else’s will to create. This existence of Lemongrab as the result of someone else’s will to power is something that I think children would respond to with a certain empathy that doesn’t exist with the other characters.
Whoa. Those are awesome links! I’ve never even thought about how bodies and forms play a role in gendering of characters (outside of David Cronenberg). Great points!
Great comments Lawrence. I’d like to add the example of BMO to your idea of queer characters in the AT. Mike Rugnetta of PBS’ “Idea Channel” has suggested that BMO, with her fluid gender identity, is representative of third-wave feminism (http://youtu.be/uqtNSdDFGBM http://www.youtube.com/gif?v=uqtNSdDFGBM&g=aybV6kz88cA). I find this is a really interesting proposition, and I suggest you check it out. I would also add that Jake is sometimes as fluid in his gender identity as his body is fluid (http://i.imgur.com/ih7GTB2.png.)
So, I definitely agree that there is an important queer component in AT, and I specifically agree with Mike’s (and your) observation that this part of the character’s personality is not radicalized or made into a huge deal. This is just who these characters are, “but not necessarily ‘all’ they are.”
Finally the self-discovery aspect is something I wish I could have dealt with a lot more, but I definitely think that this plays an important role in the fan appreciation of AT, as well as in the show itself. Finn is the last of his kind, as far as we know, and there are big questions surrounding his origins. These questions come to play an important role in the series, especially the further it progresses. Marceline and Simon (as well as Marceline and PB as you pointed out) are other characters who have a dark and mysterious past which we, as viewers, slowly discover, adding more depth to already interesting characters.
Thanks for this incisive comment Alexandre, you bring some interesting ideas I couldn’t discuss in my post. I recently found an interesting theory on the genderswapping in AT’s own fanfics that applies to this (http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2013/054/8/a/finn_x_ice_king_____finn_...). This person proposed that genderswapping allows characters to work through their feelings, in a potentially safer way. They can fantasize about these relationships they can probably never really have.
I also agree that many other shows have a great connection with their audiences through cosplay and more, but I’m not sure I know of any other children’s cartoon that has this type of impact on an adult fanbase (“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” being a huge exception to this, albeit for other reasons entirely.) Also, it seems to me that the fact that AT takes part in this process is pretty important, and it gives credence to this practice.
You bring up some great points, Philippe. AT seems to not only acknowledge fan interaction, but incorporates it into the canon of the show. One of the more interesting facets of the fan reaction to the show has been the insinuation that Princess Bubblegum and Marceline dated in the past, (which Pendalton Ward has confirmed, http://www.buzzfeed.com/skarlan/adventure-time-actor-confirms-princess-b...). Although we have had the insinuation of queer characters in kids shows (I’m thinking Pee-Wee specifically), I think its interesting that AT and it’s creators not only encourage queer fan interaction, but incorporate it into the complex storytelling of the show. Fan fictions and cosplay in AT become more about self-discovery and the inclusion of otherness (without normalization) than the commonly accepted and celebrated fanboy/girl giddiness. Besides being remarkably progressive for a popular show, this inclusion of otherness is yet another salient lesson the show teaches without being ham-fisted and preachy. Maybe we should use AT as a pedagogical tool???