At first glance, it seems like a cute kids' show—which it is, but there's more to this show than what meets the eye. "We Bare Bears" says a lot about brotherhood and minority status, all the while maintaining an adorable and charming portrayal.
The three protagonists—Grizzly, Panda, and Ice Bear—seem to be happy, go-lucky characters. They are laid-back and friendly to pretty much everyone, whether it's a human or animal that they befriend. There's plenty of comedic relief in each episode that caters to both children and adults. The plots are usually pretty simple, but the writing is creative and entertaining to bring it to the next level. The bears are also depicted to be very cute, especially during flashback episodes that show glimpses of their childhood.
Despite the animation and content of the show as adorable, comedic, and carefree, the bears have gone through a lot of hardship in their lifetimes. The show featured a couple of episodes showing the three bears' childhoods—which were all pretty traumatic if you ask me. As a child, Panda was so lonely that his zookeepers gave him a stuffed panda to befriend. Ice Bear, on the other hand, was being hunted in the Arctic. He was saved by another hunter, who came to be the closest thing he had to a father figure but was forced to be separated from him by leaving on a floating ice block in order to escape the other hunters. And worst of all—at least in my opinion—Grizzly's mother abandoned him high up in a tree during a lightning storm, and he was crying so loud that a team of firefighters was called in to save him. Not only that, but he was later adopted by a television show and thought that the cast was his actual family even though they all really didn't care about him in that sort of way. I mean, that's dark for a kid's cartoon show.
Eventually, they all meet, although it has yet to be explained how, and they really struggle for a while. They are stolen from, almost kidnapped, and almost killed on many occasions. They are homeless orphans living on the streets. In many of the episodes of their childhood, they often worry about when their next meal will be. Obviously, these moments are hard to watch. It's difficult to comprehend how the world can be so cruel to these innocent creatures, but that's the reality of their childhood in the show: full of hardship and trauma.
Despite all this, the cubs seem pretty happy because they have each other. Even though they aren't related, the bears see each other as brothers and continue to support each other all throughout their childhood and adulthood. Their bond is stronger than blood, and their brotherhood is what gets them through all the hardships that they come across in their lifetime. They're all pretty different from one another: Panda is more shy and introverted, Grizzly is outgoing and the big brother of the trio, and Ice Bear is more mature and silent, often referring to himself in third person as well. Yet, the bears are often shown valuing and appreciating each other's' differences from one another rather than conforming to a "norm." Despite the cruel world they have experienced, they still turn out as decent and caring adults, which I think is because of their unbreakable bond to one another.
Adulthood for the bears is definitely better: they have a cave for a home in the forest, food, and each other, but the reality is still not very kind to the bears. They have quite a few human and nonhuman friends, but for the most part, the people in their world treat them differently. They're not hated necessarily, but people just kind of seem to tolerate the bears, which is similar to the treatment that we saw throughout their childhood. The three, for the most part, are caring and compassionate beings, but are often not treated the same in return unless it is by their friends. Daniel Chong, the creator of the show, has stated that he made this purposeful in the show to present what life is like for minorities. They are just like any other millennials in modern day society, partaking in different forms of technology and general urban life in San Francisco, but are still misfits nonetheless, as they are bears trying to implement themselves in a very human world.
Overall, I think the beauty of the show is that you really do root for the bears, all three of them. You see them grow and get through their everyday life. Even when something terrible happens they find a way to get through it together, always. They cherish each other and the bond they have, and stay positive and kind despite the way life has treated them. It helps that they are depicted, both in their art and in their writing, to be adorable, but their experiences are also just as important and are what truly elevates the show to be much more than the average cartoon.
Child or not: if you're not watching "We Bare Bears," you're missing out on an amazing show.