Adult Cartoons Tell It Like It Is

From South Park to Big Mouth, crude, but honest comedy lives on.


At 8 years old, we all knew that when the Cartoon Network logo turned to the Adult Swim logo, it was time to turn off the television. Although we were too young to understand it at the time, shows of that sort can sometimes convey a deeper message. Often, adult cartoons use unorthodox humor to share their opinion on everyday issues such as derogatory terms, stereotypes, and current events. 

Originating in the late 90s, South Park is one of the earliest examples of this technique. Season one touched upon every topic from obesity to religion, receiving mixed reviews. The Parents Television Council ranked South Park the Worst Cable T.V. Show of the Week, due to its violence, foul language, and crude sexual content. Critics stated that South Park’s vulgar humor has been a major contribution to the behavior of today’s youth, however, I believe this is a bit of a reach.

As society has progressed, South Park’s content has followed suit. Many people today consider themselves “PC,” or politically correct. South Park features PC Principal, a frat brother turned principal who only wants the best for his students. In an episode called “Sponsored Content,” created in 2014, one student uses the R slur in the school newspaper. PC Principal is furious and does everything in his power to shut it down. How could critics call this a bad influence on children? I have heard way too many people use the R word, which is completely offensive to disabled people. In my opinion, this episode is for the betterment of our generation’s beliefs on stereotypes. 

Furthermore, South Park goes so far as to critique society as a whole. In the episode, “Dead Kids,” which aired at the end of 2018, the local elementary school is attacked by a shooter. Students are more concerned with the math test they had just failed than the sound of gunshots and do not even think to mention the tragedy, because it has become nearly a daily occurrence in America today. When one boy’s mother is outraged with resident’s disregard of the calamity, she is labeled as an overly emotional woman. Considering the amount of school shootings that have occurred in the past year, South Park was clearly in the right on the way they spoke on the subject. Although producers made it comedic, they also called out the lack of empathy in our society.

This technique is a staple in comedy. When done correctly, and not offensively, it can be amusing to both children and adults. One of the most modern examples which applies this comedy is the hit Netflix series, Big Mouth. It’s like a collaboration between a seventh grade health class and a children’s cartoon. The most recent season explores women’s rights, gender inclusivity, and standardized testing. Although these are serious topics, the show utilizes humor to convey an insightful message to teens. It teaches the audience to be who they want to be, and accept others for who they are as well. By keeping up with modern day issues, Big Mouth is a phenomenal example of using crude humor to not only entertain, but also educate. 

I am proud to be a self-proclaimed connoisseur of dark humor cartoons. Ranked from most risqué to least, I would recommend: South Park, Family Guy, BoJack Horseman, Big Mouth, Paradise P.D., Brickleberry, Beavis and Butthead, Rick and Morty, Bob’s Burgers, and The Regular Show. The majority of these shows can be found on Netflix and Adult Swim. Don’t knock it until you try it!

Please share our stories: