Monday, January 14, 2013

Brief Thoughts on "Jake the Dad"

I haven't been keeping up with Adventure Time as much as I'd like. In fact, far less than I'd like, mostly because it's difficult to bypass that part of my brain that wants to see things on TV or DVD instead of torrenting them. I really should, especially with all the famous tear-jerker episodes that have everyone talking. I have been diligent and avoided (most) spoilers, really.

I love this show, I really do.

But I managed to remember to find a copy of "Jake the Dad" online, and I was impressed with this episode. Yes, it does almost the exact thing Bloom County did, but I'm not accusing Adventure Time of ripping off Berkely Breathed. Besides, the rest of the story was good enough that I didn't care.

What I liked about this episode was that, before the status quo was neatly resolved, this was one of the few TV programs I can remember where a male character is actually happy to be a parent and tries his best to be a loving, caring father.

I don't want any kids and I'm a lady, but it's always struck me as incredibly disturbing how one of the major activities of the human race is perceived as undesirable and scary by male characters, while female characters always accept it unconditionally. Such representations are annoying for both genders, and for different reasons.

While it's true that Jake loses his babies while taking them for a walk, it's only because he's overstressed from worrying and falls asleep, and those little beasties discover the ability to teleport away from him. Jake actually worries about his kids instead of himself, and his anxieties feel genuine and heartfelt, like I'd imagine a real new parent feels, though it's tempered with Adventure Time's weird humour. It just feels so much more honest and generous than a lot of other cliches about television parenting.

Which is why comments about Jake being a "deadbeat dad" had me expecting  much, much worse. Shame on everybody for calling him that.

(And the same episode also had Finn, a goshdarned young boy, excited to see his brother's babies and trying to accept Jake living in a different place, instead of whining about not being able to hang out anymore.)

I suppose it's no big deal that Jake and Lady Rainicorn were capable of breeding, since Adventure Time is funny like that. I liked the bizarre designs of the puppies, although the face design for Jake Jr., a diamond-shaped opening surrounded by wrinkles, with the eyes (if there were any) covered by hair, was unsettling. She reminded me of something Daniel Clowes might draw, like that dog without orifices from Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Brrr.

Still, fun episode.


  1. My only issue with "Jake the Dad" was the return to the status quo at the end. It was inevitable, but given how important a step it seemed in Jake's journey and the show's usual conviction, it felt like a particularly timid development. Everything else is gold, though.


  2. I kinda liked that they went back to the status quo so quickly. Fans are right in saying they expected more plot out of all this, I did as well, but I think that's what makes it such a bold decision. They chose not to strech this out, but instead to choose a topic in which they could exploit some parenting issues en show us all some really adorable (though indeed also disturbing) pups, and then move on. This way they didn't have to deny the show a mature topic, with rainicornpups to boot, but could also keep it as the one-shots kinda show that it is.

    1. It's not really bold to do what so many other cartoons have done before AT--to exploit a new event but to return to the status quo.

      I suppose I also fundamentally don't *get* the idea that Finn and Jake would be eternally separated or never be able to do anything fun ever, which is a justification I've often seen for the conclusion of this episode. It seems childish to me, like it suggests being a parent means your life is over.

      The better thing to do would be to keep the pups as recurring characters, at least.