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Insightful cartoons for grown-ups

Lessons in love, family, friendship, and life can all be found in cartoons. You just need to know where to look.

By Fiona Teddy-JimohPublished 3 years ago 10 min read
Original Image: Gaspar Uhas (Unsplash)

A Cartoon To Heal A Broken Heart

It's 2014 and I had just been dumped. It was a beautiful August afternoon, but to me it felt like some endless night filled with nightmares and tears. I thought he was the love of my life, my ride and die, the "other" pea in my pod.

"How will I ever get over this heartache?"

By Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This was the question I cried helplessly to my girlies. As you can imagine, I got a lot of advice. Go out and party. Get a makeover. Stay single. Get back in the dating game. My best friend encouraged me to watch girl-power boxsets and movies about not needing a man.

I remember sobbing during film day at my bestie's house. These supposedly "empowering" shows and movies did not work. Out of frustration my best friend asked, “well what do you want to watch?”


I had always loved cartoons, and before you ask, yes, cartoons are for grown-ups too. They are for grown-ups because they teach us how to love wholly, persevere strongly, reflect deeply, forgive completely, and live our lives in the most wacky and wonderful way. Basically, the perfect recipe for adulting could be found in cartoons.

I was already interested in one such cartoon called Adventure Time that embodied all of these insightful traits. My best friend stopped the film and reluctantly searched for the latest episode. By the end of it, not only did my best friend enjoy the episode, I actually felt a bit better about my breakup.

Adventure Time | PG

Genre: Action, Short

Number of Episodes: 274

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

IMDb rating: 8.6/10

Adventure Time is the popular cartoon that follows the lives of a 14 year old boy-hero and his best friend and brother - who also happens to be a magic dog. They live in a post-apocalyptic world, fight bad guys, foster deep friendships, reunite with estranged family and find love.

During my breakup, I watched and rewatched every single episode religiously. I came to understand the deeper meaning that sat underneath the animation. Today I can say with confidence that Adventure Time not only supported my healing process, but it also taught me invaluable life lessons that I now live by.

These lessons included:


Adventure Time, Season 10, Episode 13

“Time is an illusion that helps things make sense. So, we are always living in the present tense. It seems unforgiving when a good thing ends, but you and I will always be back then.” - season 10, episode 13.

From childish infatuations, to teenage train-wrecks, to adult commitments. There are many key Adventure Time arcs that focus on romantic relationships and the way relationships mature as an individual gets older.

Adventure Time tells us how love can blossom into a life-long union. It also teaches us that love can sometimes regress to friendship, or breakdown and fade altogether. Ultimately, Adventure Time is a cartoon that provides insight into the shifting dynamics within romantic relationships, and how it can, and will change as we get older. Adventure Time also does a great job representing love from the LGBTQ community. This is an important message that teaches every single one of us to love authentically.

Family and Friends

Adventure Time, Season 2, Episode 12.

“Homies help homies. Always.” - season 2, episode 12.

Adventure Time is all about fist-bumping your friends and calling them bro. It’s all about looking out for one another and making them cups of tea when they are feeling low. It’s all about saving them from whatever trouble they are in a thousand times over with a smile on your face. Adventure Time is our how-to guide to making friends and keeping them.

There are also numerous complicated family affairs the cartoon tackles that many of us will relate to. You have the absent dads, overbearing mums, and hotter sisters who strives to steal your life. However, for every complication, there are a multitude of important messages on how to handle them with love and honesty.


Adventure Time, Season 5, Episode 24.

"Everything ahead of us is totally unknown and there’s no guarantee that everything is going to be alright. It’s exciting, but it’s also pretty scary, y’know?" - season 5, episode 24.

What even is a cartoon if it doesn’t have its fair share of slaying monsters and saving princesses? As the title suggests, this cartoon is all about adventure. Do not be fooled however, it’s not just about fighting foes and exploring dungeons, though there is a lot of that too.

Adventure Time focuses on the adventure of growing up and facing life’s biggest questions. Adventure Time appeals to your inner child, aligns it with your adult experiences, and guides you on your path to become a functioning whole who still enjoys the whimsical innocence of play, while simultaneously rising to the world of responsibility.


Fast forward to 2021.

I’m currently in a happy long-term relationship and I’m a cartoon junkie. I actively search for cartoons that introduces important issues and demonstrates realistic responses to these challenges.

If you found wisdom in Adventure Time, then you will benefit from watching the following cartoons:

Harley Quinn | 18+

Genre: Action, Adventure

Number of Episodes: 26 (third season TBA)

Where to Watch: HBO Max, Amazon Prime

IMDb rating: 8.5/10

(Disclaimer: Contains A LOT of bad language and gory fight scenes.)

I stumbled upon Harley Quinn by accident as I was searching for my next cartoon series after I had completed Adventure Time. I wanted to watch something that would give me a similar level of insight into the world of relationships and life. I’d never been much of a DC Comic fan myself, more of a Marvel girl, however the bright colours and daring outfit Harley was sporting peaked my curiosity.

Now you don’t have to have much knowledge in Harley’s backstory prior to watching this cartoon to know that she has a crazy toxic relationship with the Joker. What I loved about this cartoon is that they address this relationship and split them up in the first episode. What I thought was going to be a dangerous love story between two badly suited characters turns out to be a must-watch quest of self-discovery and maturing epiphanies.


Harley Quinn - Season 1, Episode 1.

“You have to leave him. And don’t say ‘you don’t know him like I do’.” - season 1, episode 1.

Harley goes from being trapped in a delusional abusive relationship with the arrogant Joker, to learning how to truly love herself and the people who look out for her. Unfortunately, many of us have been in Harley’s situation so this transition is super relatable. Harley Quinn helps us understand how to identify coercive and manipulative red flags, how to deal with the after-effect, and shows us that it takes time for our hearts to mend. However, time is the greatest healer that will open ourselves to the possibilities of real love in the future - a philosophy Harley Quinn powerfully portrays as the series progresses.

Similarly to Adventure Time, Harley Quinn also introduces romantic love between two same-sexed characters. There is an important message to be digested here - which is to engage romantically with pride with whomever your heart truly resonates with and not fall victim to society's expectations and judgement.

Family and Friends

Harley Quinn - Season 1, Episode 13.

"I have friends that love and care about me. I'm moving my life with the people that matter." - season 1, episode 13.

There is a lot of focus on Harley's relationship with best friend, Poison Ivy. While the two sometimes disagree on fundamental ways of living, ultimately, they always have each other’s back through thick and thin. There is also a mixture of different characters with contrasting personalities that end up becoming the unlikeliest of friends. That old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” really comes to light here.

As Harley Quinn progresses, the cartoon introduces complicated family dynamics. From broken marriages, to straight up daddy issues, we are not only presented with what happens, but how it affects the characters at different stages of their lives, as well as the lives of others. Harley Quinn tells us how people, sometimes good people, journey through life with such heavy pasts and still do their best to break the cycle of pain with the support of people that they trust.


Harley Quinn - Season 2, Episode 4.

"For me, the question is not who I will bring, but who I will be?" - season 2, episode 4.

Unlike most stories, animated or otherwise, Harley Quinn defines the essence of an anti-protagonist and a clumsy femme fatale. In this fantasy world, Harley Quinn offers realistic demonstration of what it means to be a “good guy who does bad things”.

It reminds us that we are human beings. We are far from perfect and quite frankly will screw-up sometimes and do bad things despite our best intentions. However, as long as we reflect on our actions and try our hardest to improve our behaviours for ourselves and the people around us, then over time we can minimise our shortcomings in favour of good deeds.

Rick and Morty | 15+

Genre: Adventure, Comedy

Number of Episodes: 36 (fifth season TBA)

Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime

IMDb rating: 9.2/10

(Disclaimer: Also contains A LOT of bad language and gory fight scenes.)

One night, I was deep in philosophical discussion with my current boyfriend regarding Adventure Time and how the cartoon successfully tackled important challenges that we experience in everyday life. He was intrigued and as a result I convinced him to watch a few episodes. We ended up binge-watching for several hours and at the end of our marathon, he looked at me with tired eyes and said:

“You know what you’d really enjoy? Rick and Morty.”

I had heard of the cartoon before but had not given it much thought. Regardless, I decided to give it a go. Today, as I write this article I still wonder why I hadn’t found this cartoon sooner as it just made logical sense for anyone seeking profound life lessons to watch.


Rick and Morty - Season 1, Episode 6.

“I hate to break it to you, but what people calls "love" is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage.” - season 1, episode 6

Rick and Morty does not sugar-coat the realities of love, and I like that. In real life, we know that love isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes love is extremely hard and painful to experience, and what was once a reason to smile everyday could end up becoming the root of your misery.

Two of the main characters that demonstrates the complexities of love are Beth and Jerry. Married for over 15 years, Beth's and Jerry’s marriage is far from perfect. In fact, their relationship is so broken that even their own family question why they are still together. The real nail in the coffin is that Beth and Jerry are actually good people in their own rights.

This is the harsh truth we all need to hear, and Rick and Morty delivers this truth perfectly. Sometimes good people simply will not stay together, and as painful as this may be, it’s okay.

As much as Rick and Morty takes us behind the scenes of marital difficulties, this cartoon also encourages us to follow our hearts in a different way - to work on ourselves and chase our dreams.

Family and Friends

Rick and Morty - Season 1, Episode 9.

"Traditionally, science fairs are a father-son thing." - season 1, episode 9.

Like Adventure Time, Rick and Morty has more than its fair share of dysfunctional family affairs. Most notably, the declining marriage of Beth and Jerry, and Rick’s constant self-indulging hedonism that frequently causes entire breakdowns in the family.

However, amongst the family wreckage, there is something very wholesome and real between the grandfather/grandson adventure duo that is Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith. While they are forever bumping head and one upping sarcastic remarks, Rick and Morty teaches us that family can also equal friendship.


Rick and Morty - Season 3, Episode 2.

"To live is to risk it all; otherwise you're just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you" - season 3, episode 2.

This cartoon is a kaleidoscopic of futuristic escapades. From aliens, to robots, to a psychic floating gas that has the power to terminate all carbon-based life, Rick and Morty is basically a synonym for adventure.

While the cartoon suggests that it is a lot of fun to lose yourself in wacky circumstances, similar to Adventure Time, Rick and Morty marinades each adventure with a cascade of emotional and ethical dilemmas, leaving us as the viewer wondering: “what would I do in that situation?” Our moral compasses are tested as we learn that decision-making is never black and white, and instead we are constantly faced with a spectrum of grey choices.

Final Thought

Sometimes we spend our entire lives exploring this wild planet we call home. With hearts full of ache and heads full of questions, we search every nook and cranny for that insight, that epiphany, that light that will guide us through the dark tunnel and out the other end to a better way of living.

By Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Every once in a while though, someone gives you a hand to help you during your quest. I wish you all the best with these cartoons, and hope they offer you the same inspirational life lessons as it did for me.


About the Creator

Fiona Teddy-Jimoh

Finding innovative ways to connect creative writing with technology in order to deliver an immersive digital experience.

My name is Fiona Teddy-Jimoh and welcome to my world.

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