For the longest time, animation was aimed specifically at children or young adults. Disney and other major markets would produce animated programs with themes of magic, the power of love and friendship, and the adventures of a certain mouse as he conquered many different situations. Somewhere along the way, though, the idea was had to make animated programs aimed more at teens and adults. FOX came out with The Simpsons, which has gone on to become pop culture history. MTV came out with programs like Beavis and Butthead and Daria. Seth McFarlane became a television juggernaut with shows Family Guy and American Dad. All these shows kept popping up, and essentially played out the same or similar situations. Then things began to get dark.
With the rise of instant streaming and the maturing of audience tastes (for the most part), adult animation has hit an all time hi terms of quality. Netflix has produced several series that cater to an older audience and discuss actual issues faced by many, including depression, drug abuse, poverty, the difficulty of raising children in a bad economic climate, and the turmoil found in current event politics. Netflix programs like Bojack Horseman, F Is For Family, and the upcoming Big Mouth all tend to focus on issues that teenage and 20-something audiences relate to, and take rather dark measures with the comedy within them, making for some amazing writing and messages.
Over on Comedy Central, South Park still reigns supreme as the cutting edge of satire. The series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone has stuck around much longer than anyone thought, and has since become an excellent POV for modern satire, with the main core of characters actively (and profanely) addressing everything occurring in pop culture and politics and making sure nothing is off limits.
Finally, on Cartoon Network's [Adult Swim] block, creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have come up with the mother of all dark comedies with their hit series Rick and Morty. Tackling issues like depression, divorce, political corruption, and everything in between with a sense of nihilism and intelligence, the series has built a huge following and cemented itself as a dark comedy gem.
Cartoons are no longer about distracting your child for 30 minutes with bright lights and messages about sharing. They now can make us think, laugh at the current events of our world, and make us feel. They're no longer for little ones, and have established their own presence and fan-bases. We're living in a time where the dark comedy reigns supreme, especially in animated form. Hopefully, this will lead audiences to expect more out of their entertainment.