“It’s for Kids” Is Not An Excuse!

OK I said there was a weekly schedule and updates were on Wednesdays, but then I read something stupid and I wish to rant about it. I didn’t want to spend two weeks on the same angry topic and I didn’t want to put this on the backburner since I have plans for June and July. So here is a companion piece to “Cartoons Aren’t Just for Kids” that just sorta fell into place, because the universe is funny like that.

So it all started with this interview with Brian Michael Bendis, the creator of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic and a writer for its cartoon. In the interview he’s talking about the Ultimate cartoon and fans not liking, then he gave one of the laziest writing dodges and it’s one that I hate the most.

“I’ve had a couple of these people coming up to me on Facebook,” Bendis said. “I don’t know what to say — ‘You know, you’re watching Disney X D.’ It’s not on Showtime. I want you to like it too, but like it in the context of what it’s for. It’s for kids. We’re thinking of them while we write it.”

“It’s for Kids” is not an excuse for bad writing. It’s not an excuse for lazy storytelling. It’s not a reason why people don’t like the show or why it’s getting such a negative response. It is a dodge on why the show is written how it is and a way of saying, “hey you adults should not be complaining about a show not aimed at you.” Which, in a way, is valid since children are the target audience and thus anyone else is not where they want to get ratings from. However there’s the flip side to the argument, children’s cartoons don’t have to be dumb in order to be children’s cartoons.

You know what other Marvel cartoon was shown on Disney XD? Spectacular Spider-Man. That had a drug addiction allegory, a character with gambling addiction, had references to Shakespeare, jokes that played on Dante’s Divine Comedy, child abuse, and was smartly written as well as damn funny. The show was written for kids but it didn’t stop at just them, it was inclusive to ages above and below the target demographic. And let’s not forget Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes airs along side Ultimate and doesn’t get the same flack.

Well Spec and Avengers are action drama shows not an action comedy like Ultimate, so that must be the difference right? Nope. Batman: Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans were both action comedy shows that aired on Cartoon Network and aimed at kids. Both shows focused on comedy but knew which lines to cross in combining it with action and which ones not to cross. Brave and the Bold also did this as a response to the fans who like a “darker Batman” and may not like the show due to its lighter take on the character. It’s a very well reasoned and thoughtful response to those fans. Teen Titans also had episodes with major character death as well as episodes with alien tofu blocks that want to steal all the cows and replace meat with a meat-like substitute. Going both very dark as well as very wacky and silly, but never blending the two together.

Maybe Ultimate didn’t have someone that thought about more than, “It’s for Kids”? Bendis hasn’t worked on anything cartoon related except the MTV’s CGI Spider-Man show, and the less said about that show the better. Jeph Loeb has only worked in TV, Film, and comics, but not in animation till now. There’s the Man of Action team, a bunch of four comic writers, who created Ben 10 and Generator Rex, and while undoubtedly those shows are better than Ultimate it’s debatable if they were made with an “It’s for Kids” mindset. Then there’s the writer of the first two episodes and creative consultant, Paul Dini. Apart from writing for Batman The Animated Series, as well as every other series in the DC Animated Universe, he created Haley Quinn the Joker’s much abused girlfriend (on screen abuse as well), he’s worked on Tiny Toon’s, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid. He also wrote the Brave and the Bold episode ‘Legends of the Dark Mite!’ which was where that clip I posted above came from. All of which are cartoons made for kids that tell smart stories with three-dimensional characters.

So someone on their writing staff should know better, and the show uses a TV style writer’s room format too instead of the standard cartoon “Show Runners & Story Editors run the show” format so no real excuses there either. I’m not trying to put any blame on Dini or Bendis for why the show is bad. I think what Bendis said is spin on why people don’t like the show and probably not too reflective on his thoughts on what is made for kids. He has written a creator own comic for kids called, Takio. I haven’t read it yet but it’s probably where we’ll find out what, “It’s for Kids” truly means for him.

Children do not require dumbed down storytelling in order to find something entertaining. I thought the huge success of the Harry Potter books would have firmly established that long ago. Not to mention the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra series, which air on Nickelodeon the network famous for Spongebob Squarepants. Just because it’s on a kid’s network does not mean it has to be dumb.

“It’s for Kids” is a reason why cartoons don’t have buckets loads of blood, decapitation, immolation, nudity, sex, swearing, or any of those adult matters. However I think the lack of those can make an animated series more mature because they can’t fall back on any of those “mature” items in an immature way. Swearing, hacking off limbs, and boobs, are an easy way to a mature rating. Having mature themes and stories are a way to get a mature show.

“It’s for Kids” is not a reason for a bad cartoon. Bad writing, direction, animation, voice acting, etc, are the reasons for a bad show. No one is expecting Game of Thrones or Dexter from a cartoon, but if you strip away the blood, nudity, and other things you can’t show on a kid’s network, you get mature stories. That is something you can show on a kid’s network and most of the highly praised cartoons are the ones that don’t say, “It’s for Kids.” They try to tell good stories and do not underestimate their audience.

If you give up and box yourself into a self-made limitation then you’re not going anywhere.

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About Reaf

I'm Reaf. I run the Reaf Debrief. I'm from England so I spell things with a U and a sarcastic sense of humour.

Posted on June 17, 2012, in Animation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Try to count how many times in that article Brian Michael Bendis says some form of “It’s for kids!” It’s infuriating.

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  2. Oh yes I remember some defenders of the show “Teen Titans Go!” tried pulling that excuse and wrote me off as a bitter Young Justice fan even after I explained why I dislike the show and my reasons are the following…

    -The art is ugly

    -The humor is forced most of the time(which irks me the most)

    -It would’ve functioned better if it was apart of a series of shorts showcasing different kinds of characters from the DC universe.

    So my reasons for disliking TTG! Is the fact that it’s just a mediocre product and kids these days deserve better than shows that pander to the lowest common dominator.

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  3. Thank you.I really hate that excuse it for kids when making a craptoon.However that excuse can use in a good way, such as they cant put that on a kids show(sex) it for childern.I hate craptoon/junk food tvshow made for childern.They desever cartoon/healthly food tvshow.I hate when people critizes a kids show.However if a kids show happpen to be a like junk food or crap then yeah.

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  4. This is kind of unfair. Sometimes I mean.

    Many adults CAN be extremely bias toward movies.
    Some people called a story “weak” just because it was ‘predictable’ to them; that they have seen similar stuff in past (different) movies.

    This is very bias because if a movie is meant to be predictable for new people then “it’s for kids” IS an excuse because I find it extremely bias to compare a quality movie/show/etc it’s self to a completely different movie/show/etc.
    No matter what happened in other movies, the quality of a the current doesn’t change.

    It’s for kids isn’t an excuse for actual bad graphics and such, grammar, etc. (It would still be fair to at least point those out.) But adults who seen stuff in there own childhood isn’t either.
    I mean, the quality of the “predictable” plot is exactly the same as the older movies and this was meant for new children who never seen it.. So for that, it’s an excuse. Otherwise saying it’s not is like saying the selfish wrong audience should get what they want and destroy it’s main purpose.

    Let me make a comparison:
    Movie A 1999 had a certain plot
    Movie B 2000 had a very similar plot to Movie A – But had a different style

    Movie A had a target for new people (Often kids) who never seen the plot.
    But movie B was targeted to newer people who never seen the similar plot. It was not intended to be for the adults who seen the earlier one. It was intended for new kids to enjoy it just like how the adults for Movie A got to enjoy it.

    Both of the qualities of each of the movie was exactly the same on it’s self.
    The correct intended audience enjoyed it and praised it.
    But then something odd happened: The Movie A fans bashed movie B. Why? Because the wrong audience compares it to a whole different movie (Movie A).
    This sounds completely bias. As the main point of Movie B was for new people and that the quality on it’s self was exactly the same.

    Adults saying it now sucks based off a whole different thing is completely unfair and sounds very bias.

    This is what I mean.

    _____

    This is an old blog post, so I’m not sure if you will see this comment. But I hope you understand.
    I believe people should respect purpose of styles and such and not let the wrong audience choose just because of there own memories involving other stuff.

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    • What does any of that have to do with the price of tea in China?

      Seriously, what does any of that have to do with any of my points? You kinda took the title of my article and made your own little argument against that rather than any of the points made in the article. “predictability” “personal bias” none of that has to do with what I wrote.

      My main specific point, which I still think is plainly expressed in the article, is that “It’s just for kids” is used as a dodge for criticism against children shows when people say those shows aren’t good. In this case it was Ultimate Spider-Man, when people said it had badly written stories and characters, then the creators responded with “what do you expect, it’s for kids.” Then I pointed to other kids shows that were better written and no one had to say “it’s for kids” against criticism, some of which were on the exact same network. If the people in charge of the show respond to criticism with “it’s just for kids” it is incredibly telling that they inherently don’t respect their audience. They think that just because they’re kids it doesn’t matter if their show is substandard or not. They’re not trying to push the boundaries of the medium, they’re not interested in good stories. It says they don’t think kids can handle stories with nuance, with 3-dimensional developed characters, and complex plots that grow and develop as the show goes on. Because those were the complaints against USM, not that it was “predictable.”

      You might be right about criticism of predictability, but that’s not here or there. All the shows I mentioned, good and bad, I thought were predictable in some fashion. It’s not one of the issues I have with them. It seems you have your own personal bias that you’re reflecting onto me.

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    • “Bias”

      You keep using that word, I don’t think you know what it means.

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  5. And it’s also not an excuse for having a bad art style, which Spectacular Spider-Man DID have.

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