Gravity Falls. Rick and Morty. Adventure Time. Do these names sound familiar to you? If so, then you may be, as we say in Korean, an “inssa” which is short for “insider”, a person who is socially well-connected and familiar with the newest trends. These names are the titles of the most popular, well-known cartoons. When asked about cartoons, people often think of political cartoons in the newspaper or comic books. However, cartoons nowadays also refer to animated television series and short animated films, usually featuring intriguing characters and captivating images. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the world, watching cartoons can serve not only as a great source of entertainment and education but also as a safe and smart way to keep up with the latest trends while adhering to social-distancing guidelines.
Cartoons have become the main source of entertainment for teenagers these days. For example, Soobin Park, a 16-year-old high school student in Seoul, said “Watching Adventure Time every weekend is my favorite activity I look forward to it all week!” Park added, “I practically grew up watching Disney cartoons. I started with SpongeBob when I was young, and I still watch cartoons today!” As most of the cartoons she watches are in English, she insists that cartoons helped her learn English, especially her listening and comprehension skills. Now, many of her friends share her enthusiasm for cartoons, and they watch them together and even collect cartoon-related merchandise together.
|[Photo of popular items based on Adventure Time on sale at Bandi & Luni’s bookstore.
Photo taken by Debbie Kim]
Despite the great popularity of cartoons, people still have many preconceived notions about them. One common example is the misunderstanding that cartoons are only for young children, which could not be farther from the truth. In fact, many cartoons target adult audiences. For instance, Rick and Morty, another very popular animated television series, was produced by Adult Swim, a cartoon company that specifically targets adult viewers. There are a large number of adult cartoon fans in Korea, too. Hyungjun Kim, CEO of a construction company in Korea, recently jumped on the cartoon bandwagon at the age of 51. Kim admitted “I never expected to find cartoons so entertaining. I thought they were only for children. Was I ever wrong! For example, I often watch The Simpsons and Futurama, which contain a lot of black comedy and social satire.” Kim explained that he really enjoys watching one episode of a cartoon every day after work, because it helps him “de-stress and relax.” Moreover, he said that watching cartoons without subtitles has helped him “learn English in a fun and stress-free way.”
Indeed, the prevalent notion that cartoons are bad for education seems to be no longer valid. On the contrary, cartoons can be a great tool for education, especially for learning the English language. Now, many streaming services such as Netflix provide English subtitles. So, children can watch cartoons and learn English expressions that people use in real life in a very natural way without any pressure. In my case, I grew up watching cartoons. When I was attending Gyeseong Elementary School in Seoul, every Friday, the students took a unique class called “Media Class.” Media Class is a class where students watch and write reports on American cartoons, exposing themselves to English in the process. Having learned English in Korea, I found that watching cartoons was a great way to learn colloquial English expressions and words that are frequently used in real life but not taught school.
Last but not least, watching cartoons can be a surprisingly engaging experience. Indeed, the success of Gravity Falls, an Emmy Award-winning cartoon with a large fan base that includes both children and adults, is precisely attributed to audience engagement. In each episode of the show, there are hidden puzzles or codes for viewers to find, containing fun facts or clues about what happens in the next episode. The process of deciphering the codes engages the audience and provides them with an intellectually stimulating experience.
|[Photo of the author deciphering a code from Gravity Falls. Photo credit: Debbie Kim]|
With the COVID-19 outbreak, our daily routines have changed drastically, and “staycation” has become a new social trend. We are spending more and more time at home and online, often watching television series and movies. If you haven’t watched any cartoons yet, it’s about time to break any stereotype you may have about them and give it a try. Not only will you become an “inssa” by enjoying trendy cartoons with your friends, but relieving stress and improving your English skills will be unexpected bonuses!
Freshman (Grade 9)
Saint Paul Preparatory Seoul
Debbie Kim firstname.lastname@example.org