How Adventure Time Addressed the Generation Gap

Millennials have long been told that good things come to those who wait.

Adventure Time | ©Cartoon Network

Adventure Time | ©Cartoon Network

WARNING: This article may contain spoilers for season six.

Season Six of Adventure Time has been a roller coaster of character development so far. We’ve seen Princess Bubblegum loosen up her control over the Candy Kingdom. Finn has gone up and down about his dad and dealing with having a deadbeat for a biological father. Jake and his brother Jermaine had a heart to heart about taking responsibility for their father’s legacy. Yet, so far, the episode that has struck a chord with me is Episode 31, Walnuts & Rain.

In a show designed for children but written for adults, viewers have come to expect a certain level of complicated undertones from Adventure Time. This particular episode addresses something Millennials have been talking about and battling against for years now: the generation gap between Gen Y and Gen X.

In this episode, we have Finn fall through a hole and land in The Vain Kingdom of Huge where everything is large but keeps being referred to as normal-sized. The old King here sits in his throne while his mindless Food Boys make and bring him food. He sits in his plush red chair literally just spending his time waiting for his clock to chime on the hour while the drones around him do all the work.

He tells Finn to stay where he is so that if Jake is looking for him, they won’t miss each other and encourages Finn to join him in “awaiting the clock chiming in style and comfort.” After the clock chimes, Finn decides it’s time to leave so he can go find Jake. The King of Huge is shocked by this and has the Food Boys trap Finn, tying him up so that he has to wait for the clock to chime again on the next hour with him. He remarks that Finn going to look for his friend is “not the Huge Kingdom way.”

“I’m sorry son, but this is for your own good. If you just stay put, all you need will come to you in time, like it has unto me. But you must sit. You must wait. All good things come to those who wait.”

Of course at this point, Finn is working on a plan to escape, taking advantage of the fact that Food Boys have never known generosity and hoping it will make them name him as leader so he can escape and destroy the clock. His plan mostly works, until the King of Huge sees them untying Finn and barks at them to capture him again.

This commentary illustrates Generation X, the predecessors to Generation Y (or the Millennials), stagnating the job market and offering outdated advice to the next generation. Articles have been published declaring that 7.7% of young adults are currently unemployed. 33% percent of Millennials still live at home with their parents despite an improved job market according to an article by Pew Research Center published on July 29th, 2015. One article by The Huffington Post quoted an Obama Administration aide as saying that there were three unemployed persons competing for every job opening in America.

Millennials have long been told that good things come to those who wait. Our parents and grandparents tell us about their job experiences and that if you work hard from the bottom you’ll get to the top. But the Food Boys, the hard working caretakers of the King of Huge, receive no generosity. They will not be given better opportunities despite their constant work.

Furthermore, Millennials don’t get to have jobs where they can excitedly watch the clock chime because all those positions are still filled by the previous generation. USA Today posted an article in June this year stating that both Generation X and Baby Boomers are holding onto their jobs because they’re afraid of retiring. Having held onto their positions for decades, they are more financially secure, yet, while they carry pensions, retirement plans, and the additional benefit of Social Security, they are still afraid they don’t have enough. Due to these groups not retiring, their jobs remain closed, and upward advancement is hard to come by for Generation Y.

The King of Huge is also astonished that Finn wants to go out, pursue his own goals, and look for Jake instead of sitting with the King and waiting for the clock to chime. He tells Finn that this is not the way things are done. This is another piece of advice we often hear as the upcoming generation: We need to stick to the way things have been done because they have proven successful for the previous generation. However, times change, and as we come into the job market and positions of power, we change the way things work, we alter established priorities.

We break the clock.

About C. L. Foltermann (7 Articles)
C. L. Foltermann is the holder of a Bachelor’s of Psychology from Old Dominion University and has been crafting fanfiction online since 2009. Currently, she works at a preschool full time and runs CynFol Adventures, a blog about her adventures in Maine.

2 Comments on How Adventure Time Addressed the Generation Gap

  1. Rachel Smith Cobleigh // November 13, 2015 at 4:26 pm // Reply

    Wow, this article is really insightful, strikes an important chord, and draws attention to a fascinating, multilayered concept. Thanks for analyzing Adventure Time with such thoughtfulness! Although the allegory in this episode seems simple to solve, in real life, the situation is a hard problem to solve. I’m not convinced that Generation X is anywhere close to being ready to retire yet. Not because we’re a bunch of greedy, paranoid jerks, but because we’re still in the midst of raising our kids and approaching middle age, and we’re watching our grandparents and parents (i.e., the Baby Boomers) live longer and longer lives and thinking, “Can we afford to retire at 65 if we’re going to live to be 95? I don’t have 30 years’ worth of retirement money saved yet!” No one wants to be destitute and an undue burden on their children in their old age. Do the Millenials really want to eventually be funding the older generations while they mooch off the hard-working young people? It’s just practical realism, but with this unfortunate side-effect for the generation of people coming after us. My two youngest sisters are Millenials and they’re definitely struggling to find good-paying, stable jobs. But I’m not sure the answer is to throw the Baby Boomers and the Generation Xers out on the curb. With all that unused mental capital that the Millenials have at their disposal, perhaps the only way to make the situation work is for more Millenials to be entreprenuers and create value where none exists and jobs for themselves and each other. But not everyone is suited to the demands of that kind of lifestyle.

    So thanks for the thought-provoking analysis of popular fiction, showing how storytelling has something to relevant and uncomfortable to say about real life.

  2. This. All of this. Adventure Time is pretty good at hitting the nail on the head, and so is this article, especially on outdated advice.

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