Smart Media We Watch: Cartoons

When I started this post, I intended to just cover a few shows we watch together and talk about what makes them smart. I ended with the three choices you see below and they all happen to be cartoons that start with an S. Enjoy…

Not everything my kids are tuning into is educational, or even meaningful. I’m ok with that as long as the media they consume is, by and large, a healthy media diet.

With that said, I do like to know what their favorites are and why and I do like to try to influence their tastes. I know that sounds manipulative as fuck but don’t worry, my kids are way smarter than me with complete and total minds of their own.

Sometimes they agree when I say something is or is not trash and sometimes they don’t.

Fortunately, my kids have great taste and that’s what I want to share with you all today. Some of the smart media my kids are watching on television.

Steven Universe

A young boy takes his mother’s place in a group of gemstone-based beings, and must learn to control his powers.


The show follows four main characters – three crystal gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and a crystal gem/boy hybrid: Steven – as they defend earth from being colonized by the crystal gem home world.

Why my kids watch: I think at the heart of the program is Steven, a relatable and likeable character you want to see win. His bond with the three gems (his other worldly guardians) is endearing and their confusion over earth make for endless fodder)

Pros: There is a lot of creative license in these characters as they experience worldly and other worldly experiences. To that end, the show has brought me and the kids to a lot of discussions revolving around some pretty heavy themes like, gender nonconformity, same gender love, racism, and personal accountability. There is also plenty of characters of color to be found, all with exciting stories of their own.

Cons: Because the gems are not human but they are coded with some human characteristics that might be stereotypical. For example both Amethyst and Garnett read as black women characters and the writers tend to fall back on the ‘strong and sassy black woman’ trope.

Why I watch: At the end of the day it’s a really a great show with great characters and intriguing writing. It has also opened us up to discussions I mentioned above and then some.

Star Vs. The Forces of Evil

Star, 14, is a fun-loving optimist who never wants to have a dull day. She’s fascinated by the world around her and wants to explore as much of it as possible. On Mewni, Star’s parents put pressure on her to be the perfect princess, but on Earth she has freedom to live by her own rules


A Disney Princess in almost every sense of the word, she is a slender, blond, blue-eyed, girl with an adventurous spirit. Usually I wouldn’t be attracted to such a character but Star has a compelling story. Born into a magical legacy, Star is being groomed to follow the traditions and trappings of royal life. To meet these obligations she must endure training. Her parents send her to the relative safety of earth and her guardian Marco.

Why my kids watch: The adventure and the magic. With a book and a wand Star is able to create cute yet deadly magic to protect herself, her friends, earth, and Mewnie from the forces of evil. Whether conjuring stampeding narwhals or a spider with a top hat, her hits are always fun and fatal!

Pros: She is a bad ass character. Fearless, fun, loyal, trustworthy, and flawed in some very typical ways. She does not want to be a princess and she rebels against this in as many different ways as possible. This is so common of every kid who combatting the will of their parents. She is funky and atypical and no matter how hard she tries to forego her responsibilities, in the end, she always does the “right” thing her own way.

Cons: Not a lot of diversity here, although her guardian, 14-year-old Marco, is of LatinX decent, there are really no other characters of color to speak of. The one character that codes as ethnic, (Star’s best friend Ponyhead) is played to some stereotypes.

Why I watch: I like magic and I like strong female characters and I love adventure and this happens to have all of that plus some great writing and plot work. The story is interesting and I am a true fan. Hoping to see them expand to more diverse characters moving forward

Spongebob Square Pants

Whoooooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea – SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!

Absorbent and yellow and porous is he….


I personally hate this show and I know there are many parents out there who agree but Spongebob aint for me! It’s for the kiddies. By now we all know this sponge who, as the song would suggest, lives in a pineapple under the sea. He has many cohorts including a starfish and a squirrel and none of it makes sense but it’s decades long run proves, I don’t know shit about the popularity of sea sponges.

Why my kids watch: The show has been on for decades. My 16 year-olds still watch and really love this show. I think it’s the nautical nonsense. There is so much tom foolery and malarkey it is literally laughable. Silly songs, silly plots, and ridiculous characters make this cartoon a timeless and enduring classic.

Pros: Spongbob is really altruistic and a loyal friend to the end. As far as fictional characters go, he is gold. He teaches lessons about being oneself and accepting other’s for themselves. Squidward is the absolute worst and yet he still loves him dearly. I think that’s some role model worthy stuff.

Cons: This show is obnoxious and ridiculous and totally just for the kids. My dog barks at the tv constantly whenever it’s on. It’s that annoying to her too.

Why I watch: I really don’t but sometimes the kids leave it on the TV when they go out and I find myself cracking the fuck up at the shenanigans and asking myself, “Why?”

What are your kids watching and loving and learning from?

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