More Than Meets The Eye

Op-ed on what most people call “kids shows” and showing how much it teaches about life and society.


Kage Blakeney and Janelle White

Main characters from “Star Vs The Forces of Evil”, “The Owl House”, “Gravity Falls”, “Miraculous Ladybug”, and “Steven Universe”.

Kage Blakeney, Comic Editor

“The Owl House”. “Gravity Falls”. “Miraculous Ladybug”. “Star Vs The Forces of Evil”. “Steven Universe”. When most people look at this list, one thing comes to mind: kids shows. The type of shows they most likely watched when they were younger, maybe when they were in there 7th or 8th grade year. Or for the newer ones, have seen little blips of when they go through the channels at home, or when they watch TV with their little siblings. Most people wouldn’t think twice in saying that these shows are just for kids. Some would even go as far as to say that those in their late-teens or later ar being childish for watching these shows. But there are some people like me who see that list at the top, and have a multitude of things come to mind: not conforming to society’s perspective; “normal” is boring; being weird is what makes your life awesome; never lose hope; love is a powerful weapon; you don’t have to have magic to be magical; “we’ll always be your family”. The many messages about society and life that have shaped the way we are in life, and the same messages that we still learn from and go by today. A kids show? For so many of us, we don’t think so.

Starting with one of Disney XD’s newer shows, “The Owl House” follows a young Dominican girl by the name of Luz (meaning “light”)Noceda who, while waiting for a bus to take her to a normalcy summer camp, stumbles upon a magical portal that takes her to a magical world full of demons, monsters and witches. Taken under the wing of a rebellious and outlaw witch by the name of Eda, and a tiny demon warrior by the name of King, Luz lives in this world and pursues her dreams of becoming a witch, despite having no magical abilities or lineage whatsoever. This show delves into what it means to be unordinary, and that being “weird” is one of the few unique traits we have left in today’s society. Not only that, but it talks about how the most amazing things in life are those that go against the views, wishes, and perspectives that society tries so hard to force onto everyone. The shows also, to fans delight, has LGTBQIA+ representations between Luz and Amity (meaning “friendship”) Blight, a powerful high class elf witch who has a crush on the main character, which becomes EXTREMELY apparent in the episode “Enchanting Grom Fright”. The show also talks about how sometimes those in the higher ups in society will do anything to keep people in line and make them conform to the society they essentially control, one of the main reasons why Eda is considered an outlaw, mainly because she didn’t chose a coven, or a “school” of magic, to focus and conform to. What I believe to be the shows true message  is that being “normal” is boring, and that being “weird” is one of the few things that can make your life so amazing and awesome.

“Gravity Falls” is a show that most people have probably seen at least once in their life. The show follows two twins, Dipper and Mabel Pines, who solve mysteries and go on outrageously magic-fueled adventures in a weird filled town called “Gravity Falls” while spending their summer vacation with their grunkle (great-uncle) Stan. The show goes into how being weird is nothing new, and how people should embrace the weirdness within them. It also discusses how one of the first messages from the show “TRUST NO ONE”, is an absolutely absurd and outrageous idea. Throughout the show, the characters willingly (or are forced to) trust someone, tossing the idea of trusting no one aside. In life, no matter what, you have to trust someone to be able to go through life. The story also focuses on the importance of family, even if it’s not a family you’re related to; a family made of friends and strangers that you can trust with just about anything. The life lessons that are taught from Mabel’s point of view is that life is an adventure; life is beautiful; life is fun; nothing lasts forever; listen to your heart. The life lessons taught from Dipper’s point of view is that some mysteries aren’t worth solving; listen to your head; trust is everything; family is everything; never lose hope. The story also goes delves into the question that a lot of families ask each other from time to time: How much are you willing to risk for your family? For Dipper, he was willing to risk his life for his sister. Mabel was willing to risk her relationships and the world for Dipper and her Grunkle Stan. For Grunkle Stan, he was willing to risk the world for his twin brother, Stanford, and he was willing to lose his memories for the world but more importantly for his family. Stanford was willing to push his entire family a way to save them, and was willing to go to the point of insanity to not only protect the world but his own brother. In short, no matter what happens, family always come first.

“Miraculous Ladybug: The Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir”, one of the other more recent additions to the cartoon world. Set in modern day Paris, France, the tale follows a clumsy French-Asian high schooler by the name of Marinette Dupain-Cheng and a popular French high school model named Adrien Agreste. Given mysterious mystical jewelry by the even more mysterious Master Wu, they both transform into Ladybug and Chat Noir, two superheroes that fight against the akumatized villains created by the omnipresent Hawkmoth, a mastermind supervillain who can turn helpless people into terrifying supervillains by manipulating their emotions. The story is an action romcom, with (to a lot of fans) an infuriating love square with Marinette, Luka (a rock and roll dreamer), Adrien, and Kagami (an elite Asian fencer). A main theme that is consistently used throughout the story is the idea that love is a powerful tool, but can at the same type can be used as a powerful weapon. This is used constantly when people are akumatized by Hawkmoth: because their love was either misused, abused, neglected, rejected, or destroyed. It shows viewers that people, while some are strong willed, can be broken down in an instant and, in that moment of vulnerability, can be manipulated by others through their desperation, despair, sadness, anger, misery to do just about anything. Another theme that is consistently used throughout the show is never giving up hope. Everyday, the characters come across a personal conflict that they each individually have to overcome, without the help from each other. Even when they go up against someone who seems unstoppable, they always come up with a plan to be able to stop their enemy, all because they never gave up on each other and, most importantly, never gave up hope.

“Star Vs The Forces of Evil” is a show following a young interdimensional magical princess, Star Butterfly, as she goes to Earth to prove to her parents that she is a mature teenager and can handle the responsibility of her magic wand. While there, she moves in with her host family, the Diaz’s, and becomes quick friends with their teenage son, Marco Diaz. Together, they both take on and battle evil across dimensions while learning to use and protect her family wand. Throughout the show, the two becomes close friends, and act more and more like siblings, and it is hinted that both have underlying feelings for each other, which was first shown in the episode “Blood Moon Ball/ Fortune Cookies”, in which we not only got a hint at a romance blossoming between them (evident when Marco hears a painting saying that the blood moon is ‘the lovers moon’, and when they dance the blood moon light shines on them, entwining their souls) but we also get a look at one of the most powerful, eminent, deceptive, stoic, and cunning villain in the entire series: a sharply dressed lizard humanoid, with a missing middle finger, by the name of ‘Toffee’. Along with that, the main characters (mainly Star) are forced to deal with and reflect upon their past, battle their fears and regrets, and come to terms with not only friends, crushes, ex’s, foes and allies, but also with themselves. Eventually, the show comes to a one of its highest climax’s yet when in the last episode, “Cleaved”, where Star decides to destroy all magic in order to protect all dimensions, at the cost of losing contact with everything dear to her, including Marco. In the end, all the dimensions end up combining together in a giant explosion, and the two see each other and, with shy smiles “Hi.” The store ends with a high note and a resounding message: no matter what, with or without magic, love always finds a way. Though Marco didn’t have any real magic, he nonetheless was still magical to Star, and their love blossomed, slowly but surely.

“Steven Universe” was all in itself one of the most powerful, compelling, and emotional series I have ever watched within my life. I can NOT count how many times this shows has left me slipping on my own tears or calmly crying in a puddle of my tears. The first part of the story follows  Steven Quartz Universe, a half-human/half-alien boy as he goes throughout his life cracking dad jokes, hanging out with friends, and fighting galactical space alien monsters with Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet, the last remaining members of a revolutionary galactic alien group known as “The Crystal Gems”. Throughout the beginning of the show, it’s lighthearted as Steven fights against corrupted Gems, makes friends, and discovers/destroys ancient Gem artifacts. However, the story starts to become more darker and more emotional as Steven starts to come to terms with the emotional pain his mother left each of The Crystal Gems, and all the other problems his mother created while she was alive. Soon, alien soldiers from Homeworld, the planet where all gems come from, start to come to try and destroy both the planet Earth and the last stringent forces of The Crystal Gems. Steven is forced to be held accountable for all the wrongs and crimes his mother committed, and starts to question his own identity: is he is mother, or is he himself? More so, it delves into the question that even the creator’s of the show debates over: what does it mean that Steven has his mother’s gem? The shows delves into LGTBQIA+ representation (which they received a LOT of backlash for), identity, emotional health, racism, and self love, while in Future they delve more so into mental health and self worth. In Future (the series epilogue series), the creators decided it would be a good plan to go through with an idea they wanted to put out in Season 1 of the show: Perfect Steven, which in Future turns out to be a destructive, chaotic, and self-degrading version of Steven that only wants to help others, because he is afraid that after he saved the galaxy, his life has no more meaning if he can’t help people, and no one will ever need him again. The one line that hit home with me and broke me down in tears: “We’ll always be your family.” Even after all the chaos, all the destruction, and all the madness that had happened early in Future and in Seasons 1-5 with the show, they all knew that they were family, whether they were really related or not. The series speaks so clearly on LGTBQIA+ issues that not all shows or TV networks are so willing to talk about or stand behind. All within 11-15 minute episodes. Even authors have to spend at least a novel or a book series to be able to talk about it and represent it fully. With all that combined, this show sets itself apart so clearly and so amazingly, it’s hard to say that it hasn’t changed the world in some way or another.

Still, there are people out there who make fun of others for watching shows like these, even though they have such a powerful impact and a deeper meaning than what is presented in commercials or trailers. All they see is it being on Disney, Cartoon Network, or Nickelodeon, and immediately assume that it’s for kids 12 and under. They bully and degrade them because they believe their acting like little kids and watching little kids shows. But there are those who understand, those who know that it is more than “just a kids show”. For some, it’s a representation of the struggles they go through everyday; for others, it has to deal with the issues they have either overcome or have known people who have had to overcome; and still, it is to some a mirror of their actual life, only displayed in a way that makes it so much more noticable and explainable. These shows are not only a way for us to escape, but a way for us to relieve our pain from the reality that we are faced with everyday. And sometimes, it’s just a way for us to relax and enjoy the little things in life that make us happy. For those who have watched these shows, they (hopefully) have changed our lives, in one way or another. I know that they have definitely changed my life and how I view my life and others. They have made me value my life and the life of others so much more, knowing that there are people that think, act, and feel like me; that there are people that I can relate with and vice versa. So, to those who watch these shows in secret, or hide their feelings and thoughts about these shows, I say this: BE PROUD OF IT!