Look in any Internet forum and you’ll find no shortage of people yearning for the days of yore when music, movies, or television was so much better than the crap they have on today. Typically, I dismiss this mindset because the things we tend to remember also happen to be the best things that particular era had to offer. They stood the test of time because they were THAT good. Ask someone who grew up in the 1990s to name a cartoon, and the response you’ll get is probably one of quality like Gargoyles or Batman: The Animated Series. Significantly less likely is the possibility of The Smoggies or Mega Babies, since those shows were just not worth remembering (or in the case of Mega Babies, simply god-awful). In addition, as we get older, we get additional responsibilities, and tend not to actively pursue new media. According to Sturgeon’s Law, it takes some digging to get past all the dross and find anything of quality in just about any media. When we don’t have the time to dig, typically we start drowning in the muck instead.
However, at least in the case of animated series, something has changed. Though groundbreaking series that both kids and adults can enjoy like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Adventure Time still exist, these are no longer the majority. Compare this to the 90s, where there is no shortage of ballsy, mature, complex cartoons aimed at kids that still hold up. ReBoot, Beast Wars, Gargoyles, Disney’s Recess and The Weekenders, Sonic: Underground, The Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures… the list goes on and on. But to keep myself from undercutting my previous point,I don’t think that this change is necessarily due to a drop in quality, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, what has happened is a polarization of audiences, specifically based on age.