Adventure Time, a show about the adventures of a “butt-kicking” human kid Finn and his dog Jake in the algebraic land of Ooo, is beloved by children, stoners, and Netflix bingers alike. Another audience for the show is the Internet’s cultural critics, who have sifted through its themes and characters in a smattering of essays.
Now, those essays have a singular home on the web: the Adventure Time Forum, which bills itself as “the Leading Journal of Adventure Time Research, Commentary, and Analysis.”
The Forum product of co-editors Tim Hwang, who was recently brought in as Imgur’s Head of Special Initiatives to help scale and develop the business, and Darby Smith, assistant managing editor for Grist. The two met at an event for the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund where they nerded out about Adventure Time and planted the first seeds for the publication.
Mr. Hwang is already the founding editor of the Journal of Venture Studies, a two-volume publication dedicated to scholarship about the show The Venture Bros. After the shows fans gushed about the journal, Mr. Hwang started digging around for other cartoons to apply the premise to.
“Adventure Time is perfect,” Mr. Hwang told Betabeat “It’s a kids show, but it’s also really deep — adults watch it as much for serious content as kids do for just entertainment.”
Mr. Hwang gives as an example a monologue from the show about the origin of laws, wherein Jake, the talking dog, tells us that laws exist because of the insistent incumbency of power.
“It’s like, ‘Wow, this is hardcore messaging around a kid’s show,'” Mr. Hwang said. The clip:
“There’s an episode about why you shouldn’t allow business people to do things you can do yourself,” Mr. Hwang said. “The whole problem with dealing with business bros is uniquely adult, but these are fables in a kids story.”
The most notorious work of Adventure Time scholarship is Maria Bustillos’ nearly 10,000 word treatise for The Awl, which dug into the show’s “philosophicomical” meditations on love and gender politics. Reading this kind of erudite take on a kid’s show constantly pulls you between a sense of amazement that such an absurd medium can carry so much weight, and the feeling that you’re taking this shit way too seriously.
The essays in the Winter 2014 edition of Adventure Time Forum include “Princess Politics” by American Review’s Jonathan Bradley, and “‘Daddy, Why Did You Eat My Fries?’: The Role of Parent-Child Relationships in Adventure Time” by Haley Flannery.
One of Mr. Hwang’s favorite pieces from the Winter edition is from AV Club writer Eric Thurm, about the way the show’s value system has evolved along with its aging readership and maturing characters.
“You can read the seasons of Adventure Time as following the progress of maturity in all of the characters,” Mr. Hwang said. “Jake and Finn start out facing clear cut moral battles, but as the show wears on, it becomes complex and multi-layered, and the heroes are acting like assholes.”
The site launched with seven inaugural essays, but Mr. Hwang said that if there’s enough interest, we’ll see another round, perhaps for the Spring season.
“Adventure Time is cutting new ground, and it’s great getting people together to talk about it,” Mr. Hwang said “It’s going to be remembered as one of the shows of the 2010’s.”