Tag Archives: Gravity Falls

Into The Bunker (S2:E2)

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @Callum Petch)

Spoilers of varying degrees for Gravity Falls abound throughout this article, up to and including a short scene from Season 2 Episode 8 “Blendin’s Game”.  You are strongly advised to go and watch Gravity Falls before reading this article.  Trust me.

gravity falls“Mabel, how can everything be so amazing and so terrible all at the same time?” – Dipper Pines

Throughout Secondary School, I had a crush on a very close friend of mine.  From pretty much the moment I saw her, I was rather head-over-heels – she was funny, tough, kind, smart, good-looking, and she voluntarily chose to acknowledge and associate with me, which meant a lot since my first year or so at Secondary School was a relentlessly lonely and miserable experience otherwise.  We hung out a lot, talked a lot, there were frequent out-of-school-hours email conversations (not IM or anything like that cos have I ever mentioned that I was a really weird kid), and became really rather close.

I also never properly told her how I felt.  I hinted a lot, wrote godawful blatantly manipulative blog posts expressing my feelings hoping that she’d never read them but steering her towards them anyway (because goddamn was I ever a sh*tty teenager), and one time – during a really, really stupid idea that our school only implemented once – I bought her a Valentine’s Day rose from our school reception and explained it away as a friendship thing.  She almost certainly figured it out because I was nowhere near as subtle as I thought I was and she was not stupid, but we never openly acknowledged it, as if we realised that bringing it into the open would make things uncomfortably weird.  And I planned to never tell her, because I could live with just being her friend.

Except that I couldn’t.  I really couldn’t.  Save for one very short and incredibly bad experience at the outset of Secondary School – another reason why my first year or so was awkward and horrible – I had never had a girlfriend (still haven’t to this day), but Secondary School is Secondary School and damn near every last one of my friends – and the majority of the people I was at least on good speaking terms with – ended up in romances of varying degrees of seriousness and success, which left me feeling left out and lonely, because I never had that experience.  Further compounding the problem was that, as friends of mine typically tend to do, we started drifting further apart the older we got, going from tight-knit buddies in Year 8 to very occasional acquaintances by Year 10.

Having realised this, and likely spurred on by the fact that my crush on her just would not die, I asked if she could meet me one lunchtime to talk.  I couldn’t have been any vaguer or, as far as my memory recalls, slightly creepy, which would have been part of the reason why she never turned up.  I took this incredibly personally.  Soon after, I arranged, through the school’s Student Services, to have her meet me for about half an hour so I could get an explanation and tell her everything, as if that would somehow change things.  That second part didn’t happen.  Instead, I non-specifically and non-committedly alluded to things in sh*tty ways, refused to accept her excuse of her having her own life and her own friends, and generally acted like a horribly possessive jerk.  The meeting ended with neither of us satisfied and, for the remaining 18 months of Secondary School and 2 years of Sixth Form that we shared, we basically never spoke to each other again.

You know how I said earlier that I was a sh*tty teenager?  That transcends just being a sh*tty teenager, for me; that was me being a pure bona-fide grade-A asshole.  I have regretted everything to do with it for the past five and a bit years.  I regretted it the moment I stepped out of that room and I still did nothing to make it right due to the resultant awkwardness between us keeping me from trying to make amends no matter how much time passed.  Seeing her was just this constant reminder of how badly I screwed up and how utterly sh*tty of a person I was, how I refused to just accept being friends with her instead of slightly creepily possessively crushing on her, and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for it.


The Dipper Pines-Wendy Corduroy runner throughout the first season of Gravity Falls – where the 12 year-old Dipper develops a major crush on the 15 year-old Wendy – is a very divisive subject for fans of the show.  In one camp, it’s a funny, sweet, and often painful to watch plotline that constantly finds new ways to cover seemingly old ground, and excellently and realistically handles the difficulty of being friends with somebody you are quite possibly in love with, especially accentuated by the fact that, since Wendy is 3 years older than Dipper, there is only one way this story can end.  In the other camp, it’s pointless re-treading of familiar ground that wastes Wendy’s character potential by limiting her solely to stories about Dipper’s crush on her and her relationship with jerk-ass teenager Robbie, especially since there’s only one way this story can end so why bother dragging it out.

I fall into the former camp and it’s because of my experience with that girl – whose name I haven’t divulged here because she deserves better than being associated with my dickishness.  That extended awkward push-pull between having a crush that causes you tangible physical anxiety every time you accidentally think of them in that way, versus wanting to not blow that friendship you’ve built up with them by openly admitting that feeling to them, is excellently represented in Dipper Pines, which in turn resonates deeper in me and causes multiple conflicting feelings every time the plotline is brought up.  I sympathise with Dipper’s situation, I cringe and suffer along with him whenever he puts his foot in his mouth, I laugh at his jealous hallucinations of people like Robbie, I desperately root for him to beat his crush or to just admit to Wendy his true feelings, since I’d gone through all of this before myself – just without the age gap as she was in the same year as me.

It helps that Dipper shares multiple aspects with me when it comes to this type of thing: he stumbles over his own words frequently, he overthinks and over-plans every last scenario because he’s terrified of failure, he’s at his best when he just lets the situation overtake him, and he will never admit the truth to Wendy because he’s afraid of what will happen, but he also can’t just stay friends at this moment in time because the crush is killing him.  This is not meant to short-change Wendy, incidentally, who is a funny, cool, sarcastic, well-rounded and flawed character who feels like a person, someone who clearly exists outside of the show’s usage of her.  These two are incredibly well-drawn characters who feel real and that extra resonance that I have with the material wouldn’t be there if that depth wasn’t there.

This all comes to a head in “Into The Bunker”, the second episode of Season 2.  It starts off like it’s going to be yet another episode in which Dipper trips over his feelings, which I don’t have a problem with as again this kind of constant circling really can happen, in a B-Plot whilst the A-Plot pushes forward the overarching mysteries of Gravity Falls, Oregon – which are way too numerous and in-depth to touch on here; seriously, this show has the kind of attention to continuity and plotting (without ever sacrificing them at the expense of character work) that would make most live-action adult dramas feel like they’re half-assing it.

Instead, the mysteries of Gravity Falls take a backseat to bringing this runner to its logical end-game.  Despite his insistence otherwise, Dipper cannot keep hanging out with Wendy without telling her of his feelings.  When he exposes Robbie’s deception and brainwashing in “Boyz Crazy”, he’s mainly doing it out of selfish desires of wanting to have Wendy to himself, although he doesn’t realise so until after he pushes his luck too far.  By “Into The Bunker”, it’s reached breaking point, he even brings along his planned feelings speech, that he scrunched up at the beginning of the episode, in his jacket pocket because he can’t let it go.  His twin sister Mabel, fed up with all of this and realising that the sooner that he admits his feelings to Wendy the better, proceeds to shove the pair of them into what turns out to be a Decontamination Chamber to make sure that Dipper has no way of avoiding the issue.

In the end, his constant dodging and inability to come right out and admit his feelings nearly gets himself and Wendy killed by a shape-shifter, and he once again only realises this when he thinks that she’s been killed.  Running from his problems has solved nothing and if it hadn’t turned out that the ‘dead’ Wendy was actually the shape-shifter and that the real Wendy was just off-screen and heard every word of Dipper’s anguished and regretful admission of his true feelings, then he would have gone through the rest of his life carrying that regret and guilt, never letting him go.  It is, to me at least, the literalising of what metaphorically happened to me, as my refusal to just come out and say it cost me one of the strongest friendships that I ever had.

That’s what makes the conclusion of the episode so goddamn beautiful to me.  With the truth now out in the open, Wendy and Dipper sit down and talk.  They actually talk.  Wendy admits that she kinda always knew – “You think I can’t hear that stuff you’re constantly whispering under your breath?” – she lets him down easy, Dipper understands, and the two resolve to remain friends because that, above all else, is what matters out of all of this.  And though Dipper doesn’t actually feel any better at the time by getting these feelings out in the open, the change sticks and Wendy’s subsequent appearances with the gang exist in awkwardness-free purely platonic friendship stakes.  Hell, to further drive home the point, when Dipper and Mabel travel back in time about 10 years in “Blendin’s Game” and bump into younger versions of Wendy and Tambry, he feels super-awkward when Young Wendy mentions how cute he is, as if he now understands how he made Wendy feel.

And as I sat there watching the conclusion of “Into The Bunker”, through non-stop waterfalls of tears, the awful way that I handled the first friendship that I made in Secondary School came into clear-as-day focus.  I always knew that I treated her sh*ttily, that I should have handled the situation better, that I was as pure an asshole as they come with regards to how things ended, but I don’t think I realised the extent of it and how much different things could have been until Gravity Falls laid it out in front of me like that.  Because Dipper and Wendy are so well-drawn, because the writing felt so natural, because I saw so much of myself and my own experiences in the story’s progression, it hit me like a jackhammer-shaped freight train when the inevitable conclusion came around.  “I should have just told her and moved on,” I thought to myself constantly over the next several days as the episode refused to leave my brain.  “The aftermath may not have been as smooth, but at least we could have moved on.  At least we may still have been friends.”

There is a tonne more to “Into The Bunker” – the absolutely terrifying John Carpenter’s The Thing-referencing shape-shifter villain, the outstanding animation, the way that the narrative excellently pulls the bait-and-switch on the seemingly answers-focussed plotline in favour of character-work, the badassery of Wendy, the way it balances horror and drama with comedy, The Gravity Falls Bargain Movie Showcase – and they are all individually reason enough as to why the episode could be inducted into this wing of Failed Critics, but they’re not the reason why this episode hits me so.  It’s the payoff.  It was always going to be the payoff, and though the show has and will improve even on this in the years to come – “Not What He Seems” exists, after all – for me it’s probably never going to top that final scene in the woods where Dipper and Wendy sit on the fallen tree branch and just talk.  No other scene in television is going to hit me like that scene did the first time.

In a perfect world, I would have been more like Dipper Pines in that moment, where I accepted what happened, accepted the consequences, moved on, and tried to retain that friendship.  I didn’t do that.  That will stick with me for the rest of my days, but at least I know that Dipper will be OK.  He did it right.  One of us did.

Callum Petch has got love to kill from a man of steel.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

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What If

What If this was a good movie?  Ha.  Ha ha.  No, but seriously, this is insufferable tripe.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

what if 1It took roughly 20 minutes for me to consider whether walking out of the cinema would be preferable to sitting through the remaining 82 of What If, a “romantic” “comedy” from Michael Dowse, the director of 2012’s exceptional Goon.  It was during yet another conversation about shit, at least the fifth in that very short time-span, that I genuinely started wondering if I should just get up and leave.  Oh, I should mention, that is not me comically oversimplifying the various “witty” conversations that our two leads, Wallace and Chantry (and, no, I’m not making that up, either, that is her actual name), engage in.  There are multiple lengthy, graphic, in-depth and overall disgusting conversations about shit and, specifically, the way that you deal with a dead person’s shit.  This film has a weird obsession with shit which is apt, quite frankly, seeing as the film itself is total, irredeemable shit.

Folks, this one made me angry.  It made me really angry.  I saw it for free at an early screening and I wondered if I could go up to staff after the film had finished and try to swing getting a refund.  What If (previously titled “The F Word”) is a thoroughly misguided film predicated on two of the most vehemently unlikeable rom-com leads I have had the displeasure of being forced to be in the company of in I don’t even know how long.  Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in Blended were more likeable than these two turd-buckets!  At least their romance wasn’t based around them both being the most terrible people and having to screw over a perfectly decent guy in the process.  And this would be fine if that was the point or if the film at least had the tiniest bit of self-awareness of just how terrible these characters are and how their prospective romance makes them despicable people, but it’s there egging them on at every opportunity and openly inviting you, the viewer, to beg them to just cheat on the third wheel with one another so that true love can conquer all and other such shite.  Funnily enough, I did not; in fact, I found it quite reprehensible and only wanted them both to get together because they, being utter shitstains of human beings, truly deserved each other.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Daniel Radcliffe plays Wallace, a British med-student drop out living in Toronto with his sister and her son and nursing a broken heart after his girlfriend, a fellow med-student, cheated on him over a year ago with their professor (and, yes, he did drop out as a result of this because he is a child).  At a party, his friend Allan (the normally dependable Adam Driver) introduces him to his animator cousin Chantry (Zoe Kasan) and the two hit it off until she offhandedly reveals that she has a boyfriend of five years, Ben (Rafe Spall, goddammit).  Wallace seems ready to just forget they ever met (because he is a child), but circumstances conspire to have them keep meeting up and they resolve to remain friends.  Except that both Chantry and Wallace seem to be really attracted to one-another, and when Ben’s job forces him to leave the country for six months, Chantry ends up spending more and more time with Wallace and you receive absolutely no prizes for guessing what eventually happens between the pair.

Here’s the thing, Ben absolutely does not deserve the treatment he gets put through by both Wallace and Chantry (hang on, allow me a second to restrain my laughter rage at that ridiculous name; apologies to any actual Chantrys out there, but when your name is used for a character in a rom-com as try-too-hard quirky as this one, I’m going to find it stupid).  You know how in rom-coms where one of the two leads are already in a relationship with somebody they make that other person a giant dick or show the lead to be unhappy in that current relationship, in order to make it less of a moral quandary that you’re basically wanting them to cheat or dump their partner to get with the other lead?  Yeah, that doesn’t happen here.  Ben is a stand-up guy, Chantry is happy being in a relationship with him, and they both try really hard to make the long-distance thing work.  The only crimes that Ben is shown to be guilty of are being correctly suspicious that Wallace just wants to get into Chantry’s pants, and not daring to ask her if she wanted to move with him to Dublin which he didn’t do because he didn’t want her to choose between her job and him.  That’s it.

Yet the film wants you to shout “YEAH!  F*CK THAT GUY!  You go for Wallace, Chantry!  You two are clearly meant to be together!”  And I know that that is the film’s intention because it keeps constructing these scenes where the pair share longing glances at one another, where the soft focus is deployed, the reverb drenched guitar strings ring, and one or the other spends a long time uncomfortably close to each other looking like they’re strongly considering making out.  Maker, there’s even a bit where the two go skinny dipping and Chantry actually says to Wallace as they both keep their gazes at eye level and cover up their private parts, “I’ll look if you look.”  So, what exactly is Ben guilty of?  Why should I root for Chantry to cheat on this perfectly nice man?  Because he may possibly have cheated on her with a member of the Argentinian delegation?  OK, why would I believe that, seeing as it’s Chantry’s suspicious accusatory remarks over a Ben and film who have given me absolutely no reason to disbelieve his insistence that they’re just friends?  Because he didn’t ask her to move to Dublin?  That would be a bit more understandable if, I dunno, his swell and non-dickish behaviour had given me any reason to distrust his pleas that he understands how much Chantry loves her job and doesn’t want her to have to sacrifice her career for their relationship.  Because he strongly distrusts Wallace’s intentions to just be friends with Chantry?  Err, yeah, sorry to burst your bubble, What If, but he’s completely right.

Why am I supposed to root for these two to screw over this guy?  He even asks for Chantry’s approval before taking the job overseas, and it’s not like those times where characters like her reluctantly say yes.  She jumps into his arms and embraces him over the idea!  He tries really hard to make the long-distance thing work, as does she.  He even takes her out with him on work-related commitments when she visits unannounced in order to spend time with her.  Why should I have to root for misery and unhappiness to befall him?  Because she can come up with more alternative names for Cool Whip with Wallace than she can with Ben?  F*ck off.  And this is especially bad with Wallace as, lest we forget, his last relationship ended when he was cheated on and we’re supposed to view that as completely unforgivable.  Yet we are supposed to root for Chantry to cheat on Ben with Wallace as it’s for true love, and Allan’s girlfriend (Mackenzie Davis) met Allen by cheating on her boyfriend too but that’s OK because true love!  So, according to What If, cheating is perfectly fine and dandy as long as the person you’re doing it with is your true love, otherwise it is an unforgivable sin and you are perfectly within your rights to act like a petulant child over it.

Again, this would all be fine if the film was about the fact that these are terrible people or if it had any modicum of self-awareness about proceedings or if the film really was just a mature look at how you handle being friends with someone you have a giant crush on but is off-limits (which is something I have been through multiple times, let me tell you).  But it isn’t, it doesn’t, and it doesn’t want to be.  It wants to be a straight rom-com where you are supposed to root for these two to get together no matter the cost.  There is one scene near the end where it seems like the film has been building all along to the “surprise, they’re terrible people!” reveal, but then it just turns out to be the late-game falling-out scene that staves off the inevitable for another ten minutes, like in pretty much every rom-com ever.  In a world where Gravity Falls, a Disney Channel cartoon for children between the ages of 8 and 11, is able to offer up a mature, heartfelt and sensible take on this kind of scenario, there is no excuse for something like What If (although that sounds like a dig at Gravity Falls, one of the best shows on television, which it is not, but I’m getting off-topic).

And maybe I could forgive this if the rest of the film wasn’t so insufferable.  But the presentation is so half-assedly try-too-hard quirky (the first half of the film has frequent overlays of stuff like how Fool’s Gold is made, or faces of people that our leads were previously in long-term relationships with when they’re discussed, or has Chantry’s animations very occasionally be displayed in the real world to create a false sense that they mean anything; before dropping all such “quirky” stylistic cues in the entire second half), and the leads are so checked out (Harry Potter proved that Daniel Radcliffe could be rather proficient at deadpan snarking but he clearly does not give a crap here) and have so little chemistry with one another, and the supporting cast are all so inept or so totally wasted (Adam Driver turns up to alternately say dickish-yet-ultimately-right things or yell randomly because people who yell are funny), and the script is completely devoid of wit (once again: shit) or jokes or actual romance, that I can’t.  I just can’t.  There is nothing decent about this film and all that ends up doing is exposing its more systemic flaws.

What If’s premise, a look at how hard it can be to remain friends with someone you have a giant crush on, is one that deserves far better than it is served here: as a straight rom-com that asks the audience to root for the petulant guy who doesn’t seem to understand boundaries and a girl who permanently seems five seconds away from cheating on her boyfriend to get together and screw over this perfectly nice third wheel.  If the film was more mature or showed reasons for the audience to get behind this central will-they/won’t-they (like maybe Ben really is a dick, or actually showing Ben and Chantry growing apart from one another), it could still be salvaged.  But the script is tone-deaf and has no setting beyond “but TRUE LOVE!!”  Mind, in the end, I was rooting for Wallace and Chantry to get together because, as it turns out, they really do deserve each other as they are both utter shitdicks.  Still didn’t stop me greeting the ending with a resounding “Oh, f*ck off,” of course.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like my romantic-comedies to contain at least a trace amount of romance and/or comedy.  As you may be able to gather, I don’t find possible infidelity to be particularly romantic, and as for the comedy I would like to once again remind you that there are multiple conversations about faecal matter and shit in dead people.  I despise this movie, despise it with every fibre of my being, and I will give both of my hands, Only God Forgives style, before I let this film go down as anything other than a putrid stain on the rom-com genre.  Do not let Daniel Radcliffe’s face fool you, this is tripe.  Avoid at all costs.

What If is released in cinemas nationwide from Wednesday 20 August 2014.

Callum Petch hopes it doesn’t seem like he’s young, foolish and green.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Am I Ruining Cartoons?

Callum Petch believes that he may be part of the problem and for that he is not sorry.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

gravity fallsI am probably ruining cartoons for kids merely by enjoying them to the same degree adults enjoy, say, Star Trek.

This epiphany hit me the other day when I read an article on The AV Club about the official Season 5 renewal for the hit animated kids’ show (and one of my personal favourites on the air today) My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.  It was a thought that had been rolling around in my brain for a while, anyway, the side effect of being really friggin’ anxious about everything you ever do because trying to live like a good human being is really hard in this crapsack of a world, as well as a theory I had been working on a bit, but that article made it clear.  In fact, I’ll just quote the exact sentence that led me to this realisation.

“The 26-episode order will push the series over the milestone 100-episode mark, a remarkable achievement for a show primarily aimed at teaching young girls self-confidence, the importance of friendship, and the fact that anything that’s special for them will eventually be co-opted and stolen by dudes.”

The Brony fanbase, adult fans of the show (typically depicted as male as that apparently makes for a much more interesting narrative when reporting on them), have become inexorably tied to the show and the discussion surrounding it.  If you haven’t even heard of the show it’s based on but you spend some time on the Internet, you’ve still probably heard of the concept of Bronies.  It’s inescapable, to an extent that I honestly fear that, once the show is done and wrapped, everyone has moved on to other things and the passage of time sends the show fading into memory, its legacy won’t be “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was a great show that broke down gender stereotypes thanks to strong writing and characterisation.”  Instead, I’m incredibly worried that its legacy will be “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was the show that gave the world Bronies.”  That’s it or, at the very least, the show will get a passing mention in maybe paragraph 12.  Neither outcome is one I particularly desire.

I don’t consider myself a Brony but I do consider myself a very big fan of the show, enough to own several shirts and the second season on DVD, enough to frequent the show’s main fan-site, and enough to have to talk myself out of walking into Build-A-Bear and getting a Rarity plushee every single time I walk past my local store (I also have an affinity for cute things, so that may not be just the fan in me talking).  My rejection of the Brony tag comes primarily because I don’t associate myself wholeheartedly as a member of any fandom anymore (and partly because “Brony” is second only to “Avatards” on my list of Embarrassingly Stupid Fandom Portmanteaus) and, therefore, keeps me at a distance.  I enjoy the show for what it is; very well written, strongly characterised, funny, gorgeously animated and full of a tonne of heart.  I enjoy it for the reasons I imagine its target audience would, not because there’s a two-second reference to Bioshock Infinite in the background of one of the episodes and not because I want to marry Twilight Sparkle (that is not a joke and is still nowhere near the most disturbing thing I have come across from fans of this show on the Internet, trust me).

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if that, appreciating and loving the show for what it is, is a problem in and of itself.  I understand that this is a kids’ show, made to be enjoyed firstly by little girls from ages 5 to 8, and I would never want the show to start pandering to myself, the older male fan.  I am a periphery demographic.  Yet that periphery demographic is the one driving discussion of the show, it’s the one that has become the focal point of discussion surrounding the show.  Hell, I wouldn’t have given it a test-run just over two years ago (I ended up accidentally picking one of the episodes that requires prior character knowledge, which is why I didn’t try again until my growing knowledge of animation led me in the direction of anything with the name Lauren Faust attached to it about six months later) if it weren’t for the periphery demographic making a giant noise about it.  And through all of this I wonder, what about the little girls from ages 5 to 8?  The ones the show was made for?  How do they feel about the show basically being stolen out from under them by grown-ups whose mere existence may have forever tainted the show for future generations?

Probably not too much, in all honesty.  The merch keeps selling, the ratings keep climbing (as far as I can tell, most of the adult fandom gather together to watch live streams on the Internet instead, which don’t count) and the kids still care enough that there are more than enough of them to turn up to most of the 900-bazillion fan conventions that have sprung up for the programme to redress the balance somewhat (I may spend a lot of my free time watching VA panels on the Internet, not just ones for this show, don’t judge).  Plus, even with the peripheral demographic, the show has yet to forget about its target audience.  It doesn’t openly pander to the periphery demo (the few times when it has have been the most cringe worthy things the show has done) and it still has the same style, voice and attitude that it did when it started, just with a slight bit more maturity to represent the growing up of its target audience.  The Bronies may dominate the conversation (enough to have two separate feature-length documentaries on their existence made) but the kids still have the show.  They still exist which goes some way to lowering my anxieties.

But this is not a feeling that is just linked to My Little Pony.  Regular followers of my Twitter may be well aware that I am a big fan of Gravity Falls.  For those who don’t follow my Twitter or aren’t aware: I am a big fan of Gravity FallsA big fan.  It is fast, it is hysterical, it is gorgeously animated, superbly voice acted, excellently plotted and full of immense heart.  It is one of the best shows on TV and I don’t know a single person in its target audience who watches it.  Of course, one could put this down to the fact that I don’t live in America and I don’t hang around children (…probably could have phrased that better) but I see a lack of kid fandom or references to children anywhere in discussion of the show, even though its target audience is children aged 7 to 11; that’s what the TV-Y7 rating is for.

Instead, it’s a collective group of intense adult fans combing the show for clues to its mysteries.  The show’s creative staff (creator, writer and voice actor Alex Hirsch, especially) lean on the show’s more grown-up fandom in conversation much more frequently than those in other shows I know do (Hirsch even all but said that it’s down to us if we want Disney to release merch for the show).  I’ve seen precisely one kid at a panel for the show (they asked a question that Alex, who teases and trolls like a master, wasn’t allowed to answer, it was cute) and few, if anybody, would refer to the show as “a kids’ cartoon,” even though it kinda is.  We’re about to enter the second season so we’ll get an answer then as to if the periphery demographic have managed to infect the product we adore so, but it worries me as to whether the target audience cares at all about Gravity Falls.  And if that is the case, then have we adults hijacked the show from them and co-opted it for our own?

Maybe it’s a question of gender roles and gender narratives.  My fear of my stealing of Gravity Falls from its target demo is less vocal because the talk surrounding the fandom is non-existent, arguably because the target demo for Gravity Falls is not exclusively little girls and the story “Adults Enjoy Watching Cartoon For Children” is not as sensationalist as “Grown Men Love My Little Pony”.  You could argue that it’s the same reason why the very large and very vocal adult Adventure Time periphery don’t get any such “co-opting” claims or fears; ditto Regular Show.  They make up a huge percentage of the fandom for Adventure Time, we’re talking near-Sherlock levels of activity on Tumblr…  OK, maybe not (practically nothing else on Tumblr gets close to Sherlock levels of devotion), but you get the general idea.  From what little I’ve glimpsed on the Internet (I’m still yet to get into Adventure Time, I keep switching off because the first season is just weird and rough as all hell), they’re basically a well-organised fan convention away from being near equal to the size and scale of Bronies.

Except that Adventure Time and Regular Show are barely for kids as it is.  They both sport TV-PG ratings and wear them with pride, watch either show (in their American formats, for the love of the Maker, if you’re going to watch either of these shows, do not watch their bowlderised UK edits) for more than three minutes and you’ll get why they’re intended for an older audience than My Little Pony (TV-Y) and Gravity Falls (TV-Y7).  It’s hard to steal something from a group of society if it’s not exactly being made primarily for them as it is.  And besides, the best cartoons aren’t just enjoyable for kids.  They’re enjoyable on multiple levels for all audiences: there’s a great throw-away scene in Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends where the show’s creator Craig McCracken pops up in its universe that caused my 19-year-old self to almost fall out of my chair in gleeful amazement.  But the scene also works if you’re young and have no idea who the guy is because the joke is rooted in the situation, not Craig McCracken.  (Ditto pretty much the entirety of “Frankie My Dear” which becomes extra hilarious if you believe rumours that Mac is based off of a young Craig and Frankie is based off his wife, Lauren Faust.)

Maybe my anxieties are just rooted in lack of the passage of time.  After all, I’m a huge fan of The Powerpuff Girls and I don’t feel like my being so is going to/is ruining it for future generations.  If I were a fan at the time it were going out (which I was) but this age, I’d probably feel how I do with My Little Pony and Gravity Falls.  And then you have the collective nostalgic waxing by the Internet every time somebody announces a movie remake/adaptation/reboot of some beloved Saturday morning toy commercial (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, most recently, Power Rangers).  Perhaps the distancing effect of time creates the effect that things are now allowed to be freely appreciated by everyone equally, regardless of their age or the work’s intended audience.

But… just what if none of this matters?  What if I’m not actually co-opting jack?  Yeah, I may be a big fan of cartoons made predominately for kids, but does that mean I’m truly ruining it for the kids?  No matter how large the Brony fandom gets, no matter how many conventions they create, no matter how loud they may get on the Internet, no matter how many Rule 34 ship-drawings of Applejack and Rainbow Dash there may be, and no matter how many plushees get sodomised by people that I would like to forget exist, thank you kindly, the little girls aged 5 to 8 will still have the show.  They will always have the show.  Friendship Is Magic hasn’t changed due to the stuff surrounding it; if anything the show has strengthened its resolve to non-corporate outside influences.  The target audience will still have the show.  Everything else is just noise.

Maybe the simplest way to resolve this problem is to just stop labelling cartoons as explicitly for kids in daily conversation.  I don’t mean “stop making cartoons directly for kids,” not at all.  But what I mean is that we should stop having to separate kids’ stuff from adult stuff so much.  A random episode of The Amazing World Of Gumball has way more laughs and stronger characterisation than The Big Bang Theory at its best, for example.  I have heard that Steven Universe blows most current prime-time dramas out of the water (I need to get around to watching it).  The Legend Of Korra and its more famous original series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, are almost never referred to as kids’ cartoons even though they are; that’s the kind of level they operate on.  You class something as “for kids” and you immediately class it as “other”, something that requires lowered expectations, a different metric for success and can only be enjoyed by its target audience.

Entertainment can be enjoyed, loved and embraced by all.  So what if mainstream society is co-opting something made primarily for a specific demographic?  Who said they’re trying to?  Maybe they’re just in love with a show and don’t care about its “other-ness”?  If we had a generation of children get really into Community, would we be accusing them of co-opting media that’s not for them?  No, because that would be dumb.  Good media is good media and we shouldn’t be discouraging people from liking good things because “it’s not supposed to be for them”.  This is why I never pull any punches when I review films aimed at kids because crap shouldn’t be given a Get Out Of Jail Free card and quality should not need an appended asterisk.

So, yeah, I am probably ruining cartoons for kids merely by enjoying them to the same degree adults enjoy, say, Star Trek.  But I don’t care and I’m going to keep on preaching about how Gravity Falls is the best thing to hit TV since Community debuted because I refuse to be made to feel bad for liking something that’s apparently not supposed to be for me.  Maybe this makes me selfish, stealing away pleasures designed for people who don’t often get enough pleasures aimed at them.  Maybe this makes me progressive, somebody who is sick of barriers dividing what is supposed to be enjoyable to who and who thinks that cross-demographic enjoyment on equal levels is something to be encouraged not shunned.  Maybe it’s a bit of both.

All I know is that I don’t care either way.  Now, would you pass the remote?  Wander Over Yonder is about to start.

Callum Petch has been putting up with your constant whining.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!