First this, then Robbie Coltrane passing away. Our childhoods aren't safe!!!
If you felt something inside of you die this week, it may be your inner child reacting to the news that the Cartoon Network we know and love is gone. For this, the internet is blaming one person: David Zaslav. Don’t panic– the shows you know and love aren’t being wiped from the earth. Phew! However, the prospect of seeing new original content is slim-to-none, and its nighttime alias, Adult Swim, hangs in purgatory.
When I heard the news, I was heartbroken. Not because I still watch Cartoon Network’s currently scheduled programming, but because it’s painful to see a cultural cornerstone of that magnitude fail to outlive xx due to (what appears to be) one person’s decision. In the wake of this chaos, the GoodFeed editorial team took a moment to share personal stories of why this matters so much in different ways.
Cartoon Network was a character-driven powerhouse that taught us comedy, tragedy, the meaning of diversity, and in some cases fortified our pubescent sexuality. As much as it pains me to mentally revisit those years, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t turned on by Jonny Bravo (probably BECAUSE he was so toxic, but that’s a whole other issue for a whole other article).
Confused? Crying and throwing up? Read on as I do my best to summarize the drama and take a moment to reflect on Cartoon Network’s most valuable contributions with a little help from the staff at GoodFeed.
What’s going on?
Well, when we say “gone”, you should know it isn’t that simple.
According to a company-wide memo obtained by Jamie Lang at Cartoon Brew, Warner Brothers laid off 82 creative employees, bringing the total number of position vacancies at the company to 125– a whopping 26% of their scripted, unscripted, and animation workforce. Cartoon Network Studios, now merged with Warner Brothers Television Group, will “no longer [have] any independent say on either creative or operational matters, something that has never happened before in its existence.” (Lang)
Why does this matter?
The programming that built and fortified 3 generations of children’s culture was forged by the creative freedom fostered by CNS’s environment. Their ability to creatively ideate and control the production process end-to-end was crucial in the assurance of a worthy product. In other words, a significant chunk of the creatives responsible for making the cultural golden nuggets we crave have been fired, the teams have merged with ideologically foreign forces that don’t have Cartoon Network’s core beliefs in mind, and experts are projecting that David Zaslav will shift strategy from the creation and nurturing of original characters to prioritizing reboots. Gross!
It sucks to realize that our children can’t count on Cartoon Network’s trusted team of geniuses to contribute the comedic references we’ve all shared at recess, the characters to inspire their future Halloween costumes, the accents of whom are still something my (30-years-old) friends and I compete to most closely mimic to this day. If I had a dollar for every time I screamed the words “THIS CASTLE IS IN…UNACCEPTABLE…CONDITIONS!!!” (IYKYK), I would buy back the company and let the masters get back to work.
Let’s hope the fallout from this doesn’t deter the newly jobless creatives from joining forces elsewhere. I think we would all be cool with that.
The Characters That Knew Us:
For better or worse, I’m hardly the only one in mourning. Our staff is taking this sudden death pretty hard as well. GoodFeed is a platform that strives to highlight and amplify diverse female voices and had it not been for certain character representations seen in our youth, we may not have felt that validation elsewhere. Cartoons are arguably the most expressive form of visual media– the ultimate embodiment of creativity. When kids see cartoons, they don’t get hung up on the theater of it all, they see possibilities that reach beyond the physical world. They invite us to believe in something greater than the mundane. We saw our potential in some of these characters, and in some cases, the potential for what the future holds.
Donette Lowe, our Content Director, recalls the importance of Steven Universe:
“Steven Universe was the first time I really saw queer and trans cartoons without it being coded. The characters literally taught me about gender and sexuality and relationship dynamics across all types of relationships.”
She then goes on to describe the impact that the Powerpuff Girls had/has on the Queer community:
“Powerpuff Girls was extremely pivotal for me. For one, I could see my personality in all three of them and saw how they worked in tandem. Most specifically the character HIM was coded in the best way. Before coming out, this was my way of embracing queerness as a young person. Also, he served lewks and the boots were iconic. There's also a conversation here about gender fluidity and representation for me, but another topic.”
Adriana Tercilla, our Influencer Supervisor and resident Sailor Moon expert, reminds us that there would be no Sailor Moon without Cartoon Network:
As a Sailor Moon fan, it hurts to see Cartoon Network in such an insecure place. Their 90’s action block, Toonami, was an introduction to anime for many young adults, now life-long fans. Toonami’s willingness to air an abjectly failed Japanese cartoon lit a fire for female-centered shows on the network, producing acclaimed shows like Powerpuff Girls & Steven Universe into the 2020’s. Yeah, Sailor Moon was canceled like FOUR times in America before Cartoon network stepped in.
I also worry about what the Adult Swim block will look like and hope that Warner continues to bring unique shows from overseas and lets CN’s creatives be… CREATIVE. It’s the anxiety that hurts, and we can only hope not too much changes under the shadow that is David Zaslav.
As for me? Courage the Cowardly Dog played a fundamental role in my understanding of creativity. Before discovering that show, I didn’t know cartoons could be scary. I didn’t know cartoons could WORRY SO MUCH. That was a kind of representation that I wasn’t even grateful for until my late teens when I realized, “oh my god, Courage the Cowardly Dog wasn’t a coward. He was gaslit into oblivion and anxious as all get-out.” He was really out here picking up the pieces for his family who sometimes caused the trouble in the first place. Anyway, Courage, game recognize game.
Hopefully, not all hope is lost. Perhaps we can expect something decent to come out of this mess. You never know what a capable and spiteful animator is capable of hiding in their designs… I’ll certainly be on the lookout for signs of life in the refuge. Rest easy, CNS.