Cartoon characters are traditionally goofy and lovable. They make silly mistakes but in the end, they do the right thing and teach the audience a valuable lesson about friendship. Over the last thirty years, however, the cartoon has evolved into a platform for cutting social commentary. Here are the cartoon characters that changed the game.
When The Simpsons first aired, it was ahead of its time. Lisa Simpson is and always has been a progressive, compassionate, intelligent young girl who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. We’ve seen Lisa fret over her body image while also leading activist campaigns. Her relatability and relentless empathy make her so much more than your typical goofy cartoon character.
Rick and Morty has been a gamechanger from the start. Rick Sanchez spins the lovable cartoon grandpa stereotype on its head and instead becomes a model for true nihilism. His character enables the show to move away from the American nuclear family and into outer-space.
Bojack Horseman is one of the most controversial cartoon characters on TV. His backstory is harrowing and time and time again we find ourselves forgiving Bojack for his atrocious behavior. The irritatingly likable washed-up TV star is used as a tool for social commentary. It works so well because the whole time our hearts are getting ripped open by the show’s writers, we are rooting for a guy with a horse’s head.
Bean is the fierce protagonist of Disenchantment. She reverses stereotypes of the Disney princess and instead belches, yells, and fights her way to the life she wants.
Just when we thought South Park couldn’t get any more controversial, PC Principal shows up. His character provides witty meta-commentary on the culture of political correctness and brings a new lease of life to a show that remains relevant even after 23 seasons.