India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Screen + Sound + Stage
November 20, 2014

Adults Only

Text by Nittal Chandarana

No self-respecting adult wants to be seen with youthful comics; and so a noir world of cartoons, graphic novels and games exist for ‘mature audiences’. Have you succumbed?

  • Violent Cases, Neil Gaiman, Adults Only
    Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman
  • Mary and Max, Adults Only
    Mary and Max (2009)
  • Family Guy, Adults Only
    Family Guy
  • The Sims, Adults Only
    The Sims

Adults love to revisit things they loved as children. You know, Suppandi’s misadventures, hours of Super Mario, yearning for Tom and Jerry…. It’s probably linked to the gene that finds and acts on every opportunity to regress. Although, we’re not so sure how much we’d still enjoy those same products that gave us so much joy then. And therefore, there’s a whole industry at work, bitter-coating their products to make them less ‘juvenile’. Directors, graphic novelists, game developers and artists alike have taken up the morbid task of making content appropriate for adults.

Take cartoons, for instance. Little Lulu, Swat Kats, Road Runner and Scooby Doo were an integral part of childhood. Barring The Addams Family, we never got a taste of dark cartoons, this one itself being enjoyed more by teens. Enter adult fare of Family Guy, The Simpsons and South Park. Termed as cartoons for ‘mature audiences’, they are laced with a healthy sprinkling of abuses, innuendos and adult world problems. You’d think this strata of audience would act their age but remember when the makers killed Brian from Family Guy? A worldwide outrage, a Facebook RIP Brian page and a petition signed by 12,000 loyalists later, this pet was brought back on the show.

Then appears the problem of animated movies. Not everyone enjoys an out-and-out happy Cars (2006) or Bolt (2008). Mary and Max (2009) is an undisputed gem in this category. It speaks about Asperger’s Syndrome, depression, self-doubt, suicide attempts, alcoholism, failure and a whole lot else. It premiered at Sundance and is as stark as it gets. No child will be able to sit through this one. But it’s a lovely movie; certainly one that makes you think and reinforces the dreaded ‘be careful what you wish for’. Animated short films are also guilty of this crime. This Way Up (20o8) presents a narrative of undertakers and their histrionic journey of carrying a coffin to the burial ground. The comedy is absolutely slapstick but is veiled under a theme that’s dark and makes you question whether this is something you really want to laugh at. Another one titled Where Are They Now? (2014) traces the lives of our favourite cartoons to the present. It guarantees a shock.

Enter the graphic novels. They’re comics, really (there’s a different dictionary meaning for both but are they really different?). Imagine explaining to the world why you’re reading a comic book and you may be sure to see a raised, judgemental eyebrow respond. Rechristened as graphic novels, these comics have bolder, sexual and darker themes. The illustrations compliment the themes. V for Vendetta and Neil Gaiman’s Violent Cases are just some of examples of these.

Lastly, we’d like to make our case against gaming. We’ve been reprimanded for calling them ‘video games’. But then, what else are they? GTA gives you murder, missions and scantily-clad women. But then, ever so often comes a game like The Sims. Described as having ‘no definite goals’ and ‘open-ended simulation of daily activities of adults’, it is really a glorified installment of house-house. You create a character and take them through the routine humdrum of eating, working, using the powder room…. Mind you, this is a best-selling PC game, having sold 11.3 million copies worldwide. The irony shall never be lost.

Much effort is made to fashion content dressed in shades of vindictive, harsh and ugly. Noir takes forefront even as an exhausted palette of blacks, blues and greys pervades the frame. It’s a dark world out there.

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