Any toon goes
“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
But now, God knows,
Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
–Cole Porter, Anything Goes (1934)
Pop culture standards change, and that’s often a good thing. For example, relationships shown on TV are much more diverse than they used to be. Interracial couple, gay couple, lesbian couples…they all appear now. Some people may not like that, of course, but it allows programs to more accurately portray what happens in America.
Those standard changers may come from some surprising places. The first interracial kiss on TV was on…Star Trek. Science fiction and fantasy have always been a safer place to show controversial ideas. That’s not just because it is seen as unreal, in my opinion…it’s also because it is not seen or credited as influential by the mainstream. The kind of person who would object to female empowerment might not have been likely to read The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (in 1871).
Today, this is especially true in cartoon series on TV.
I’m going to increase the hits on this blog today just by using the phrase, “cartoon nudity”. ;)
Now, there have certainly been American cartoons with adult content before (not to mention Japanese “hentai”). Fritz the Cat, in 1972, was an X-rated movie. Heavy Metal (1981), had cartoon humans involved in sexual situations.
However, I’d say one difference there is that there were live-action movies that had already been there and back in the movie theatres.
On US basic cable, cartoons go where live action shows don’t.
Archer, which I think is a truly funny show (and is between seasons right now), has had cartoon nudity. One character is a masochist. They’ve talked about the “gushiest”…well, I’ll leave it there for now. They use the “s word”.
While you do probably pay a monthly fee for your basic cable package, if you get Nickelodeon for the kids, you may be getting FX as well. It’s not like you’ll get a separate listing on the cable bill if your children watch it, like you would with an x-rated movie.
Ugly Americans has recently gone quite a bit further.
SPOILER ALERT: In an episode called “Treegasm”, which centered on public “sex” between “treetures” (tree creatures), the male reproductive organ of one of the main human characters, got some significant nude camera time. Now, it wasn’t attached to him at the time (he’s a zombie), but it was alive…and, um, drinking from a straw. END SPOILER
If that had happened on a live show, it would have been all over the media the next day.
Adult language, adult themes, and yes, cartoon nudity…do cartoons get a pass? Yes, cartoons have been criticized before…famously, when Ralph (Fritz the Cat) Bakshi had a new Mighty Mouse cartoon series, he was accused of showing the world’s mightiest rodent using drugs. I haven’t seen much in the culture wars about the new “cartoonudity”…maybe they are too busy, or maybe…any toon goes.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.