This isn't to say that I didn't like kid's entertainment when I was a kid; of course I did. Nor is it to say that there aren't occasionally thing I find to enjoy in kid's entertainment now, but they tend to either be things that are obviously aimed at adults, like the writers slipping in jokes that are clearly intended for the grown-ups watching, or that are independent of their existence in a children's-entertainment context, like the beauty of the art in a Miyazaki movie or the technical audacity of a Pixar project. But as a rule, children's entertainment just doesn't do much for me, because, well, I am not a child.
And in saying that, I don't mean that children's entertainment is inferior; to the contrary, I've always been disappointed that I lack the ability to create kid art. It's a very valuable and rare skill. All I mean is, kid's entertainment is aimed at kids, and since I'm not a kid, it doesn't have the same appeal or impact on me that it would have when I was a kid. I don't know why this is such a controversial statement; people's tastes, values and aesthetics change all the time. I would think it would be goddamn shameful if everybody liked the same stuff as a 35-year-old as they did as an 8-year-old. And again, this isn't to say that I don't see stuff made for 8-year-olds and appreciate its craft; it's just, well, it's not made for me, and I don't look on it as some sort of moral, artistic, or critical failing that I don't really have much interest in it beyond that.
But the mere fact of admitting that, as an adult, I prefer cultural products aimed at adults, seems to send people into spasms of anger. I get accused of being a snob; I get called a joyless old crank; I get accused of hating kids; it is inferred that I have no imagination, no sense of fun, and no appreciation for silliness and play. That none of this is even remotely true would seem to go without saying, but I find myself having to say it anyway, over and over again. Ordinary, intelligent, sensible people -- people who under most circumstances understand that tastes evolve and change, and that there are fields of entertainment that are directed at demographic groups to which they do not belong -- still get riled beyond belief when I say that, as a rule, I don't like kid's shows or kid's literature. People who wouldn't dream of getting offended when I say I'm not interested in, say, Christian-themed movies and books get really bent out of shape when I say I'm not interested in pre-adolescent-themed television. I frankly don't get it. As I've said before, calling an adult joyless and unimaginative because he doesn't like children's entertainment is like calling a child stupid and unsophisticated because he doesn't like adult entertainment.
Now, of course, folks is folks, and while I can't imagine an lone adult, without a child, sitting down and actually, genuinely enjoying Arthur or Backyardigans or Wonderpets, I'm not trying to judge anyone. I like all kinds of stuff a lot of people consider crap. But I think that plays up part of what's happening here: the mere fact that grown-ups feel a little weird about liking kid's shows makes them defensive, so when someone says "I don't really like kid's shows because I am not a kid", they think it's a referendum on them and get hostile about it.* I also think there's probably an element of misperception at work: with a lot of these shows, what people are really admiring are the adult elements. Case in point: with Animaniacs, everyone I know who likes it got into it either as an adult, or as an adolescent -- in other words, as someone outside of the show's defined user range. What they're recognizing isn't the excellence of a kid's show; they're recognizing their own development and ability to pick up (adult) references and (adult) humor that the (adult) writers stuck into the show. Other times, it's just a misunderstanding of the material itself: lots of people cite Batman: The Animated Series and the other Diniverse cartoons as excellent children's programs, but those shows were never aimed at children. They're aimed at the very least at adolescents and high school kids, but more realistically, at late teenager and people in their early 20s, just like most superhero comics have been since the 1990s.
I'm not going to make any grand pronouncements about how this ties into our collective refusal as a culture to develop beyond adolescence, not only because I don't particularly believe it, but because I'm just as vulnerable for liking comic books and role-playing games. And I don't have any real stake in the whole unreflexive nostalgia trip other than that it doesn't appeal to me. I'm just going to repeat: this isn't for me, and that's fine, because it isn't supposed to be for me. Why anyone would be offended by my not liking something that was in no way designed for me to like is completely baffling. Do these people get mad because their dogs don't like macaroni & cheese?
*: One thing I find particularly hilarious is when people discuss what has come to be termed "young adult" literature -- what largely used to be called children's literature until a bunch of grown-ass folks started reading it -- and they very frequently will start the conversation by saying "Well, it's not very well-written, but...". For me, that's where the conversation STOPS. There's nothing to say after that. Because, I mean, it's a book. If it's not very well-written, what the fuck do I want to read it for? Because the page numbers are all in order? Because it's on really white, shiny paper?