Adventure Travel Abroad

How Adventure Time Tells A Story – Wisecrack Edition

How Adventure Time Tells A Story – Wisecrack Edition


Hey, Wisecrack. Jared again, and today we’re looking at
the candy-flavored fever dream that is Adventure Time. With Finn and Jake now in their final season
of adventures, we wanted to look at what makes the show so special. And while there are lots of reasons people
love Adventure Time, I’m going to argue it has a lot to do with a storytelling style
as old as written storytelling itself and an epic too epic for most to finish: “The
Iliad.” So, let’s see How Adventure Time Tells
a Story. And as always, spoilers ahead. Of course, some of the similarities to the
classics of old come down to the adventuring part. The classics have monsters, dramatic rescues,
long journeys to distant kingdoms, and a beautiful princess that sends soldiers to battle. “The Iliad” is also sometimes referred
to as the “Song of Ilium” and is written in verse, giving it strong links to music. Likewise, Adventure Time features plenty of
music and songs throughout its seasons — “Bacon pancakes! Makin’ bacon pancakes! Take some bacon, and I’ll put it in a pancake!”
— and characters even occasionally speak in rhyme. “I’ve got something for you – a metal
shoe! Don’t you know you might stub your toe?” “The Iliad” and Adventure Time also both
start with a musical call to hear their story: “Adventure Time, come on grab your friends. we’ll go to very distant lands!” But what really connects Adventure Time with
epics like “The Iliad,” “The Odyssey,” or “The Aeneid,” is a surprising one:
the structure of poetry. Rebecca Sugar, former Adventure Time writer,
once said of show creator Pendleton Ward: “He’s expressing thoughts about very modern
feelings that people have… Good poetry is like that.” Many of the things Adventure time is known
for have origins in poetry: its mix of modern and classical language, — “Awake! Avast! Hold tight your buns! If buns you do hold dear!” — its music, its use of colorful and evocative imagery, the invention of new
words, objects and creatures, — “Oh my glob you guys! drama bomb!” — and just how plain surreal
it all is. But one of the most telling ways it relates
to poetry, is in its length. Adventure Time’s episodes only last roughly
ten minutes, half your average TV show, which means each episode relies on compression. When you hear any story it has been compressed
– it jettisons the boring details for the exciting stuff. Classical poetry, and a lot of modern poetry
too, has some pretty firm rules on how this compression is achieved. “The Iliad,” for instance, compresses
each line in a form of poetic rhythm, or ‘meter’, called ‘dactylic hexameter’ which is a
fancy way of saying each line must be exactly eighteen syllables. Almost all poetry, even if it doesn’t use
meter, is a mode of compression. And sure, movies compress stories to a few
hours, TV compresses them to under an hour, but Adventure Time is even more hardcore,
compressing a whole story into 10 minutes. This type of ‘stripping down’ requires
the essential elements to be focused on in imaginative ways. In the episode “Puhoy,” Finn lives an
entire lifetime in a pillow dimension where he gets married, has kids and grows old. All in 10 minutes. This economy of exposition shows how compression
feeds creativity and helps focus the story. And unlike other stories that get compressed
in infuriating ways – Game of Thrones season 7! – Adventure Time uses this compression to
be more outlandish. The first shot of “Puhoy” features raining
knives outside, which shows us why the characters are stuck indoors within the first second,
without having to tell us. But aside from just “both poems and Adventure
Time are short,” we can also draw similarities between how they use these narrative snippets
to tell a larger story. Traditionally in an epic poem like “The
Iliad,” the text is broken up into paragraphs, called ‘stanzas’. Stanzas compose larger chapters ,called ‘Cantos’,
from the Italian word for “song”. You could see a season of a TV show as a Canto
and an episode as a stanza. The Stanza focuses on the individual and their
feelings, a short vignette or scene that gives an insight into someone’s character, even
if it lasts a lifetime, like in the ‘Puhoy’ episode. A Canto, on the other hand, is the accumulation
of these scenes that tell the story of several characters or a whole world. In “Dante’s Inferno” – another epic
poem – the stanza will be a short interaction or description but the Canto will be the story
of a whole circle of Hell. Just like “The Iliad” and other epics,
Adventure Time tells its stories on a micro and macro level. Not only are there the contained narratives
of each episode, but an overall narrative that reflects the history of the Land of Ooo. Through dialogue, geography, and even just
certain names we discover the different types of government and rulers Ooo has, — “King
of Ooo!” — that the main deity is a Cosmic Owl, and, especially from the episode ‘Simon
& Marcy’, it is hinted that Ooo was formed after a nuclear apocalypse. One of the most interesting ways in which
Adventure Time can be compared to poetry is with something called Bathos. Bathos is a sort of anti-climax, a sudden
shift in tone or a thoroughly mediocre end to suspenseful moment. There are some great examples of this in the
classics, like the defeat of Achilles, an invincible warrior brought down by the lamest
of weaknesses… his heel. And in “Paradise Lost,” We learn that
divine angels defecate not through their poop chutes but by a kind of mist from their skin. That is Bathos. Something built up then brought crashing down
to earth. Adventure Time is full of this. Just when something gets too dangerous, — “Help
me… hang these streamers!” — or scary, — “I have come for you, Finn.” — or
romantic — “Kiss me, Finn. I mean… kiss me, Finn!” — it is either
interrupted or undercut by another character undermining it or shrugging it off. “Jake, hurry!” “Is he crushing you, man?” “No, he’s just… hugging me gently!” While Adventure Time is not the only show
to use bathos for the sake of humor, — “Ooh, child. Things are gonna get easier. Ooh, child, things will get brighter.” “What are you doing?” — it certainly
helps make some of the more creepy moments palatable to a younger audience. Bathos is also often integral to the story-telling
and the moral message of the show. Characters, usually villains, are introduced
and dispensed with in an episode, and even long-standing ones like the Ice King, develop
using Bathos. “I was gonna start up on the elliptical
again, but I got depressed, okay?” One of the key lessons you learn from Adventure
Time is ‘prejudice is bad,’ or the more cliched ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. This is accomplished by setting up a villain
as evil and then finding out they are simply misunderstood — “This is rad! I’m hot again! Thanks, little dudes.” — or a good guy
who was a villain all along. This type of Bathetic technique is used frequently
in poetry both from antiquity and today but is also a lynchpin for character arcs in Adventure
Time and an integral part of how it tells its stories. Although some see Adventure Time as prime
TV for stoners, — “I am the dream warrior. I’ve summoned you here to hang with me in
your together dream.” “Are you gonna show us a move to beat The
Farm?” there is a fierce fandom out there who have
invested a lot of time interpreting the show’s rather vague narrative. The same can also be said of poetry, which
can often seem intentionally cryptic. And even though poetry isn’t as cool as
whoever this Jake Paul dude is, Adventure Time is a prime example of how millennia old
poetic techniques are still being used to tell funny, sensitive and down-right weird
stories; and to extraordinary effect. Thanks for watching, guys! Peace!


Reader Comments

  1. All the evidence you provided to link Adventure Time to the Classics is true of like… All cartoons. For example, having half-length episodes, songs, a musical intro (like almost all tv), and Bathos as just the concept of undercutting a serious moment with comedy (… which is not a revolutionary form of telling jokes.) If you wanted to argue that Adventure Time is similar to the classics then go ahead, but this is a stretch.

  2. It should also be noted that AT has many pupils to its name like Star VS or Steven universe. Which also use the compression and music to their desire.

  3. when you said something about jake paul being cool..you blew my fkin mind..it was like i thought "is he really pandering to people out there who think jake paul is cool? it cant be"

    if there is any correlation between your channel and people who think jake paul is cool..the world has gone even crazier than i previously thought i had once ascertained…in the past…a time long past

  4. Wait, Adventure Time is unique for having ten minute episodes?? That's the standard for kid's cartoons. Like 90% of kid's cartoons have that length

  5. Dang dude, shockingly bad. Wow.AT is like the Iliad because it is short, has a song, sometimes rhymes, and has an overall plot. That applies to over 75% of all shows on air.

  6. Tells a story over the span of 6 11 min EPs of randomness that somehow furthers the main plot which, in all honesty, does not exist….and I love it

  7. You're stupid. You just said the entire art to their stories is in its unique time length but Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network has MANY shows of such length. I'm pretty sure they just weren't given the okay for a longer time length. Next time just say the style of storytelling the show employs is called Bathos.

  8. "Don't judge a book by its cover"… Except the Lich, and Orgalorg… And Hunson Abadeer… And the Flame King… And Finn's dad…

  9. I really dont like the music played in the back ground through out the episode, I dont mean that i dont like the music itself I mean I dont like playing music through out the entire video in the background

  10. This is the only time I’ve seen bathos talked about as something good the videos I’ve seen has criticized movies or shows for using bathos for not completely delivering on the tone on the scene

  11. Just started watching adventure time a few weeks ago.. Already on season 5. But thank you for that exposition. I was one of the people who judged this series before watching it, but now I totally love it! My fave characters are Fionna and cake. But I love Marcy and bubblegum too. Finn is cool as well. Why did I wait until it was almost over to watch this?!

  12. Makers of Mr Pickles did exactly the same. An episode lasts for 20 minutes, and feels like a full-lenght tv episode of 24 minutes.

  13. How dare you troll the audience with Jake Paul comment Jared lol. I started watching adventure time a few years ago at about age 25 or thereabouts. (Not a Stoner) I had a friend who kept wanting me to watch it. The only way to watch it is from the beginning. If you try to just watch a random episode, there is to much information missing. It is honestly not a good format for television re-runs. I like your poetry explanation for this.

  14. Can we get some wisecrack adventure time breakdowns just unpacking some of the philosophical and emotional issues and lessons

  15. I never realy understood the appeal of Adventure Time, despite Rebecca Sugar being involved. And I realy like her Steven Universe series.

  16. Poetry is worlds cooler than both the Paul brothers combined. I would say that they're a thousand times cooler, but a thousand times zero is still zero sooooo…

  17. Gunther is a bad guy!!!!!!!!!? :c oh man, i should start to taking serious the spoilers tag. Every single time!

  18. Come along with me is the only thing I remember in the outro, I'm crying with tears of nostalgia. 🙂

  19. the line "adventure time teaches to not judge a book by it's cover" is hogwash. a lot of episodes are pretty blatant that there wasn't a lesson to be learned or that immoral behavior seen as right 'such as violence' solves all your problems . i refer you to the witch seen in this video at 0:16

  20. I'm of the camp that thinks it's super overrated. Why read so deeply into something that is soo topical and just meant to be entertaining.

  21. What about all the references to other famous popular topics with loose connections? Even the title has a reference: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".

  22. Mind during a part two on the George Elliot philosophy of Adventure Time. As the show is about a world after the end which itself is a new beginning even at the finale it was never the end for these characters at all as they kept living their lives and when the end of their world eventually happened another world remained

  23. There are so many paths to go down with Adventure Time, could you please revisit this? (Like, I would say time is the biggest idea that AT explores, but trauma is also a big one – all in a context of appealing to a younger audience)

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