It wouldn't be a big, shocking secret if I reveal that, despite of my age, I still watch cartoons, just like 86% of the Internet (citation requiered); somehow, I never truly grew up that phase, probably because I've always seen animation as something more than just entretament: I used to draw a lot when I was a kid and I still do it to some degree today.
Now, cartoons for adults aren't exactly something new: I grew up with The Simpsons since way before I was supposed to watch them, but in a funny paradox, most of the grown up animation enthusiasts don't watch adult animation shows: the ones they watch are supposedly child-oriented stuff, like...
This is awesome
And of course...
I'd insert a joke, but making fun of this series by now it's like beating a dead horse...hehehe, dead horse...GET IT?!
That doesn't mean they don't like older stuff; my friends still watch other kind of shows: The Walking Dead, Glee, Community...more "conventional" series that you would expect being in the taste of young adults. But it is funny how the crude, Seth Macferlanesque school of animated comedy isn't specially well-liked by them.
But someone has to watch those shows, I mean, they're still hits...who watches them? Well, on my personal experience, the ones devoted to those TV programs are...kids.
So, we have this scenario where the childish animated shows are followed by grown ups and the adult oriented are followed by kids and teens...how the heck this happened?
Of course, I'm over-generalizing here, but it's a trend surely I've noticed: the younger ones love the stuff aimed to the older crowd because...why?
One of my favorite phrases is "There's nothing more inmature that trying to act like an adult", and I see the point: I remember when I was a young child and I was wishing nothing but grow fast, being older and independent, free to do what I wanted to do.
Yeah, that was the idea...
And then, I became an actual adult, and I had to deal with the reality: it turned out I wasn't as independent since I was chained to old debts nor truly free because I had bosses, and responsabilities, and bills, and stress.
Luckily, I'm not bold...yet
And from time to time (some days more than it's healthy) I look back at the past, and while I'm aware my childhood was far from perfect, now it doesn't look that bad...being at my age is scary as shit, since you're on your own, you're supposedly to make it yourself, everybody expects so much of you, or at least, they expect to put your shit together and don't be a failure.
Yeah, with that in count (because I'm sure I'm far from being the only one from my age who has to deal with situations like that), aren't then the enjoyment of these colourful, bright cartoons some form of escapism? Of course, you can make the case that the point of fiction is escapism itself. Is it some sort of nostalgia for a more innocent time?
That may be one reason...but not the main reason...
Just look how innocent modern cartoons look like
First of all, let's see some of the adult animated shows: we've got The Simpsons that is reaching its 882th season, we've got two shows from Seth MacFarlane (since "The Cleveland Show" was, as some would say, mercifuly canceled), there's South Park too, and the rookie of the team in the form of "Bob's Burgers". What do those series have in common? With the exception of South Park, they're all black comedies about the struggle middle-class families.
I don't see any genre of fiction and/or media as inherently bad (except of course, child porn), but I do know that you can only exploit a style until it becomes a cliché, and mainstream adult animated shows are trapped in the same formula: high on shock factor, heavy on pop culture references, and very family-centric. Is it a problem? It shouldn't be, but it is.
The generation that originally grew up with The Simpson are now authors and creators on their own, and of course, they'll try to mimic what they liked it; there's nothing wrong with that, the problem IS when they miss the point of what made that series so great: when they read "Black Humor", they seem to over-read BLACK, and forget the part of "humor": Most of those current animated shows rely too much on the shock factor, to insult, to impress...comedy that only frat boys and 8 years old kids would find amusing because they just discover the words "pee" and "dick".
In picture: the writers of "Meet The Spartans", "Epic Movie" and "New Girl"
The Simpsons were big in the 90's because the writers knew the art of crafting and put together creative, edgy plot lines, black humor and memorable characters with strong, well-defined personalities. But nowadays, authors (at least, in mainstream TV) have forgotten about almost every other detail but "try to be as disgusting and gross as possible".
The Simpsons at least had the decency of build a plot, a story; then they started their non-sense, and we were cool with that. Family Guy doesn't even to put that minimum effort and respect for their audience.
Not that their audience deserves a lot of respect anyway, but still...
So, you combine the same model made once and again (even Bob's Burgers, a series that I do respect to a little degree for at least trying to build plots) and a minimun effort in story-making in favor of fast-speed pop culture jokes, and you got why the modern crop of adult animated shows are so unnapealing for animation fans. It is more or less the same scenario when people claim "The Big Bang Theory" is well-liked by the mainstream public, but relatively ignored (or even despised) by those who you could consider "nerds" (including me).
But there's still a question: those more child-oriented shows deserve their praise? Not that I'm saying it's annormal for an adult to watch child's cartoons (I'll be a huge hypocrite if I even suggested that), but we'll answer that the next time...