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Firaga

Plot Is Overrated

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It is once again "Late Night Thread" time, and right now... well, uh, this is just gonna be another one of those things where I just ramble about something. Hopefully in a coherent manner. I don't really make threads like this that often anymore and I felt like getting something off my chest, so uh, yeah, here I go:

 

So, people who know me best know that I watch cartoons, and I have in fact been watching them since I was young. Hell, I made a status not too long ago about watching Baby Looney Tunes. I am nineteen freaking years old. And yet, I saw it when I was in elementary school, well above the age where you're actually "allowed" to watch it and continue to willfully watch re-runs of it today. And I'm proud of that.

 

That being said, I also dabble in today's ever-growing pool of modern cartoons, and just like most media consumed by people my age, it tends to be bashed a lot just based on principle ... I don't care about this either, but still take off the rose-tinted glasses people, yeesh.

 

The point I am trying to make is that while I am a fan of currently running cartoons like Adventure Time and Steven Universe, there is a mentality that I feel is present in those who legitimately enjoy these shows as well as those people I mentioned who someone "converted", a mentality that I highly disagree with.

 

Basically, it's that the reason these shows are actually considered good is because they have "plot", and by that I mean they all have overarching story arcs with things like callbacks to previous events/actions, backstories, character development based off those two things, and basically any type of world-building that leads fans to make up a bunch of fan theories. Kinda of like anime.

 

Now, is this a bad thing? Nope. Not at all. In fact, it's great that this type of media that is so wrongfully accused of being "just for kids" has an element to it that allows it to draw in fans of older and maybe even beyond... but that's not to say it's the only redeemable quality to these shows, right? Of course not.

 

Let me give you an example. I've made it clear that I'm a fan of The Amazing World Of Gumball. It's a episodic comedy centering around a blue cat, his family, and the denizens of his hometown Elmore that consists mostly of slice-of-life happenings and shenanigans. Why do I like it, you ask? Even though it sounds like something not unlike the shows that I described earlier?

 

My reasons are simple: 1) It's funny, both in terms of general silly humor and even dark comedy; 2) it's entertaining if not funny due to having good animation and fairly decent action/drama scenes when it wants to; 3) It has an unique art style that blends different forms of animation into one setting that fits very well; 3) the characters are good despite not having direct arcs for themselves; 4) it has good enough messages that you can take from it despite being a "silly" cartoon; 5) it playfully mocks animation tropes, writing tropes, and other subject matter; 6) it's gets more clever with each new episode; 7) even when it's mean-spirited, it can still be funny. I could go on but I'll stop right there. You get the point.

 

None of these reasons are (mostly) similar to why I love shows like Adventure Time or Steven Universe. They are more in-line with other shows I like such as Regular Show and Sonic Boom. But that's okay. It's okay not to have a complex plot like most anime have. It's okay not to have "deep" characterization carried over a span of story arcs. It's okay that if doesn't want to make you write up a theory about if the main character is really a duck from the Planet Jupiter. It's all okay.

 

In Gumball, there is no bigger meaning or bigger plot, but there are a few nods to previous episodes and storylines picked up from previous episodes. The characters aren't given personal arcs or grow along with the story of lack-there0of, but they able to learn and adapt if given the time to do so, and that includes Gumball himself. There isn't a deep lore made up of backstories of previous events or characters with time spent on building the world that the show takes place in for the same purposes, but as the title says, it certainly is an "amazing world", as in a world that clearly shows that it is a world filled with characters and places and interesting things, and all of that done without exposition dumps.

 

The bottom line: cartoons, or anything in general really, are good because it is what it wants to be and what that is has quality. Cartoons of the past, the cartoons my generation and I love such as Courage The Cowardly Dog, Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Spongebob (the good seasons), Hey Arnold!, Rocko's Modern Life, and even going back further to stuff like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Scooby Doo, and the Looney Tunes, aren't all held in high regard because they all serve a deeper purpose other than to just entertain somebody for eleven minutes. Some did have bigger intentions, but not all, and even then, they had qualities beside that which helped serve to make them as popular and well-regarded as they are now. They were simply all good cartoons.

 

And it's possible to find that same level of quality in today's cartoons. It doesn't even have to do with the fact that they are made in today's age because like I said earlier, and I mean it this time: take off the rose-colored glasses. Just because something is new and wasn't part of your childhood doesn't make it automatically horrible. In fact, if you look back and really think about it, not everything about your childhood is awesome. You might even realize that it's as bad or even worse than the stuff you have today. Let me remind you that there is crap in every era of time. The 90s had it, the 80s had it, the 70s ​definitely had it, and so on. For every good cartoon comes a bad one. Plain and simple. This even applies to today, but honestly, it's very easy to find more examples of good than bad, and if you look back on those previous eras, you might agree with me.

 

I know I sort of got off topic and turn this into a rant about nostalgia but my original point still stands. 

Edited by Firaga Sensei

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I agree with you completely about this. And for me it expands to video games as well. I do enjoy plots, but it isn't something that is always required to enjoy media. I'm a huge fan of the cartoons you mentioned, not because of their plot, but because they are so entertaining and make me laugh on a regular basis (I only watched one episode of Sonic Boom so far, but man is it good!).I always cringe when I see people going on about how things were better "back in the days" and recent cartoons are stupid. xD Like you said, every era will have its ups and downs.But all in all, sometimes it is great to unwind and watch something that doesn't take a million years to get to the point or 20 episodes of character development. :P

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Just because something is new and wasn't part of your childhood doesn't make it automatically horrible.

That's true. But honestly one of the reasons why I don't watch Amazing world of gumball, Steven Universe, and Regular Show is because I don't find them interesting. I gave those shows a chance but after watching like four episodes I drop them because I don't find them interesting. It's not about nostalgia it's about what kind of show people will find interesting. Some people like cartoon shows with a plot and character development and some don't. And some people like cartoons shows with a episodic and misadventures and some don't. I can watch cartoon shows with either a plot or misadventures as long as I find them interesting and keep me hook. But I prefer shows with a plot, story arcs, and character development because I like shows where the characters grow, mature, learn from their mistakes, and discover themselves and find their purpose. But that's just me. If you like Steven Universe, Adventure Time than that's cool because I respect your opinion and I'm glad you find shows you can look forward to.

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Plot is overrated?Hmmmm I don't entirely agree with such statement

 

 

It really depends on what kind of genre you're talking about

 

If it's an episodic show(say comedy or eventmonster of the dayweek type of show) where each episode is it's own story then yeah you don't need a big overarching plot to make it enjoyable though you should focus on making the story in each episode worth watching

 

 

But if we're talking about a showgame with overarching story where you have to pay attention to the events,characters and overall backstory and mythology then............................no you need a well-thought out story with great world building and great character development(I won't say names here but someone told me character development is overrated and it was the stupidest thing I've heard in my entire life).......because the audience will be spending good chunk of their time experiencing said story especially if it's a long running series or a 40+ hour RPG

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For the most part I agree with you, though I don't know that most people tend to like "modern" cartoons simply because of plot. There are a lot of other factors that I consider more important, like the quality of the animation, writing, voice acting (and especially in the case of Steven Universe, stellar tunes). I obviously can't speak for everyone, but in my experience all those take precedence over plot, though it's certainly a plus when it's done well.

 

Speaking of which, there have been times in cartoons when plot was implemented very poorly and were well liked in spite of that. Most notably for me was Xiaolin Showdown- if anyone's not familiar, it's about four kids from different parts of the world training to be (a very loose interpretation of) Shaolin monks and spend a majority of their time gathering various mystical artifacts called Shen Gong Wu that basically give whoever uses one of them super powers, and preventing bad guys from getting their hands on them.

 

And it was kind of a train wreck- villains would drop in and out for no reason, multiple different Shen Gong Wu would switch hands between the bad guys and good guys in a single episode and then trade back like the very next episode, certain Shen Gong Wu would be retconned to change what they're able to do (looking at you, Changing Chopsticks), etc. There was plot, sure, but it wasn't good. It was nearly impossible to follow even if you managed to catch every episode, and god help you if you did miss one; at least with Steven Universe, I'm usually able to keep up if I do happen to miss an episode or two.

 

Of course none of that necessarily means the show was bad- it had decent animation, and voice acting that ranged from meh to pretty great- I could listen to Jack Spicer just say dumb things all day long. People tend to remember it pretty fondly and it still has a lot of fans (and even a reboot series called Xiaolin Chronicles that's not nearly as good). Xiaolin Showdown is a really good example of a "kids" cartoon with a terrible plot that's otherwise a decent show.

 

Long story short, you're right, though i'm not sure how many people feel that way to begin with.

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That's true. But honestly one of the reasons why I don't watch Amazing world of gumball, Steven Universe, and Regular Show is because I don't find them interesting. I gave those shows a chance but after watching like four episodes I drop them because I don't find them interesting. It's not about nostalgia it's about what kind of show people will find interesting. Some people like cartoon shows with a plot and character development and some don't. And some people like cartoons shows with a episodic and misadventures and some don't. I can watch cartoon shows with either a plot or misadventures as long as I find them interesting and keep me hook. But I prefer shows with a plot, story arcs, and character development because I like shows where the characters grow, mature, learn from their mistakes, and discover themselves and find their purpose. But that's just me. If you like Steven Universe, Adventure Time than that's cool because I respect your opinion and I'm glad you find shows you can look forward to.

 

That's all well and good, but my point isn't about having differing opinions, it's about perspective.

 

Plot is overrated? Hmmmm I don't entirely agree with such statement

 

It really depends on what kind of genre you're talking about

 

If it's an episodic show(say comedy or eventmonster of the dayweek type of show) where each episode is it's own story then yeah you don't need a big overarching plot to make it enjoyable though you should focus on making the story in each episode worth watching

 

But if we're talking about a showgame with overarching story where you have to pay attention to the events,characters and overall backstory and mythology then no you need a well-thought out story with great world building and great character development(I won't say names here but someone told me character development is overrated and it was the stupidest thing I've heard in my entire life).......because the audience will be spending good chunk of their time experiencing said story especially if it's a long running series or a 40+ hour RPG

 

You don't seem to be getting the point.

 

I'm not dissuading the idea of a cartoon having a story arc and all that stuff. I'm just saying it's not the standard of quality for all cartoons. I mean, if a show does have elements like that, then fine, and yes, they should be good, but that's doesn't mean that show that don't have those elements are automatically bad.

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I see your points and I definitely agree with how people perceive shows today compared to ye ol' days. Don't get me wrong I loved the cartoon shows back when I was a kid, Rugrats, Johnny Bravo, Dex's Lab and Recess among others. Yet two of my favourite cartoons in Avatar: The Legend of Aand and Regular Show are those of the modern era and are something that I watched when I was far older. Both completely different shows from one another of course.

 

It is unfair for some to say that cartoons of today are terrible in comparison, when our parents probably thought the stuff we watched was bad compared to their TV shows growing up. It's kinda like music in that sense really. Like you said, every era has its fair share of duds.

 

Cartoon Network has been doing pretty well recently with its line-up, but I have to be honest, I'm not all that keen. Regular Show is my favourite thing on there and they just released a movie and are in their 7th season, with an 8th on the way. Yet Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball are probably the most popular among kids. I think Regular Show is more for the teenage audience any ways to be honest. Things like Clarence, Uncle Grandpa and Steven Universe have passed me by. I've seen one or two episodes and they aren't for me. Although I admit Steven Universe is something I should give a fair crack at. Uncle Grandpa is weird, like... I have no idea what is going on. Gumball for me was dreadful after the first season, I really liked it and then I grew tired of Gumball as a character. He's just so... aggravating to watch. As for Adventure Time.... I have to be the only person on the planet that just doesn't get it, nothing happens in most episodes. I've tried over and over to get into it, but I can't.

 

I like the over-arching plots to things like Regular Show, but it's not to say I think it is worse because it isn't like an Avatar for not having one. They are two separate shows. When comparing cartoons to anime sometimes I feel like it helps not having a constant storyline happening. In anime if something isn't relative to the plot we call it unnecessary filler, yet in cartoons when something does a few episodes of an over-arching plot we get excited. It's strange really. I do this for shows like Pokemon, if Ash isn't catching/evolving Pokemon or getting badges then it is giant filler as really nothing is happening. Yet, if Regular Show turn around and do a half-hour special or a movie I get excited because they get to give us a longer length of time to enjoy whatever story they've got cooked up.

 

I think cartoons have three types of experience in terms of plot. The first is an Avatar or Samurai Jack scenario, we have a story, run with it. The second is something like Regular Show or Adventure Time where we have this world where things happen, sometimes it's a one off story and other times it is a much bigger story. The third is something like The Simpsons or South Park, where it is a new thing each week with barely if any tie-ins to what happened last week. As a result, I don't know why people feel the need to complain about cartoons nowadays. Cartoons are just as fun and imaginative today as they were when I was a kid. In terms of the whole plotline thing though, the shows are first and foremost for kids. There is no need for shows to have complex plotlines as long as they tell a good story and have fun in their runtime. Just because something is light on plot doesn't mean it is bad, far from it.

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