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All Adult Animation Is "South Park"

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"There's something that's called 'adult animation' and it usually means it appeals to adolescent, teenage boys and that's not really adult in my view."
George Griffin, independent animator

Good news! The mainstream American audience has finally stopped believing that all animation is inherently made for kids, and has accepted that some animation is made for adults!

Bad news! Instead, the mainstream American audience now believes that all animation that is made for adults is inherently full of Black Comedy, graphic violence, copious amounts of swearing, Vulgar Humor, Toilet Humour, deliberately offensive stereotypes, and, to a lesser extent, surrealistic Mind Screws! If your animated show or movie doesn't have any of those things in it, then sorry, but everyone still thinks it's for kids only.


In The Dark Age of Animation, when the Animation Age Ghetto was the norm, people like Ralph Bakshi made vulgar cartoons out of a desire to make animation that wasn't "just for kids" by making something that couldn't possibly be shown to kids. They thus avoided the statement "It can be enjoyed by the whole family" (with the implication that it's meant for children), and a Cult Classic or two emerged during that era.

During The Renaissance Age of Animation, thanks to the popularity of The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-Head, and (to a milder degree) The Ren & Stimpy Show, the idea that animation could be expanded beyond the family market began to take off again. With the establishment of the TV ratings system, it also became easier to make it clear to audiences that a show wasn't for children. As the Renaissance Age began to shade into The Millennium Age of Animation, King of the Hill note  became a quiet success for Fox, and Cartoon Network — starting with the success of the spoof Space Ghost Coast to Coast — began to create its own adult-oriented shows, eventually launching the [adult swim] lineup. But the biggest shake-up to the ghetto came in 1997 when Comedy Central debuted the TV-MA-rated South Park, a vulgar but often uproarious comedy that immediately became a smash hit.


Unfortunately, because of this, most of the adult-oriented shows that followed in South Park's wake were similarly vulgar, envelope-pushing fare — the most successful being Fox's Family Guy. Thanks to creators following the example of these shows, people now believe that any western animation that isn't just kids' shows are either sitcoms and/or raunchy cartoons, which is far from the truth. Thus, it's very hard for aspiring animators/creators to pitch animated shows without Vulgar Humour and Comedic Sociopathy in mind, which leads to people creating more South Park-esque shows; lather, rinse, repeat.note  Many such shows have animation that is extremely ugly, extremely cheap, or both, in order to resemble Family Guy's or South Park's own animation-style.


This mentality can also work in the opposite direction, where adult viewers understand that not all cartoons are for children but think that anything not in lockstep with South Park's particular brand of Crosses the Line Twice humor is immature garbage—ignoring the many critically acclaimed animated series and films that are suitable for all audiences (such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek, or Zootopia). Who cares how well-written it is if there's no blood or swearing?

Overall, this thinking is just an evolution of Animation Age Ghetto: animation may not be seen as exclusively for children anymore, but it is still seen as exclusively immature. To some extent, however, this mindset has begun to die down in The New '10s, largely thanks to the rise of streaming services and that allow animation creators more creative freedom than TV networks and regular networks also taking suit. Series such as BoJack Horseman, Undone, and Primal have all shown that adult animation outside of the traditional South Park-esque vulgar comedy mold can be successful, though there is still a long way to go yet. On traditional television and in theaters, however, this trope is still very much in play.

And bear in mind, Tropes Are Tools. For as many misbegotten South Park and Family Guy clones as there's been over the years, there's been plenty of critically-acclaimed, respected shows - such as The Venture Bros., Rick and Morty and Archer - that rely on almost all of the tropes mentioned in this description. Usually, this is by demonstrating some level of restraint and featuring actual Character Development. This does, however, require the writers to be very careful with how they approach the show—and as many of the examples below will attest to, many aren’t. (Writing shock humor is easy; writing compelling characters and story isn’t.)

See Gross-Out Show for more general (and kid-friendlier) examples. Compare with All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles and Rated M for Money. Contrast with All (Kid-Oriented) Animation is Disney.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • The Pokémon Squad is a rare example of a fanfic series that fits. Almost the entire cast consists of characters from Western Animation, Video Games and Anime & Manga, and the humor has gotten increasingly reliant on sexual innuendo. Lampshaded on the 200th Episode's Q-A session.
    RM: As the staff has grown older, our senses of humor have changed as well. And largely that's caused the sense of humor of the series to become more like, eh...
    MM: South Park?
    PlatinumMage: South Park, yeah.
    RM: Definitely.

    Films — Animation 
  • Eight Crazy Nights is one of the few feature film examples of this trope played straight.
  • Averted completely by Isle of Dogs. Despite its PG-13 rating, it isn't a raunchy South Park-style comedy, and has been praised by many critics not just as an animated film but as a film overall.
  • Zig-zagged with Sausage Party. There's plenty of Character Development and a solid plot, but it still sold itself on being the first 3D computer-animated feature to get an R-rating. Viewers are divided on its quality, with some feeling that it tried too hard to shove crude humor into every available place it could find.
  • This trope might as well have originally been called "All Adult Animation Is Ralph Bakshi" for two reasons: one, when he was still making films, it was, as nobody was making animation for adults as noteworthy as him (relatively speaking). Two, the only others who were only aped the gratuitous sex and nudity, which Bakshi only included in his films as a form of rebellion. His gritty violence and themes of corruption and racism, however, all came from personal experience and are never played for laughs. To be fair, the only reason he got away with this is because he worked independently, a big part of the reason Cool World, produced by Paramount, plays this trope straight.
  • It'd be easier to count the examples that qualify in Western European animated films, since the overwhelming majority of adult-oriented animation, while sometimes having adult humor, never reaches the extent South Park does.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Although it's actually a puppet show, Mongrels was clearly trying to copy this. Word of God even stated that he wanted to "do for puppetry what American shows like The Simpsons have done for animation".

    Print Media 
  • In a review in Metro (free newspaper on public transport) of Goro Miyazaki's Tales from Earthsea, the reviewer made a remark along the lines of, "but its main problem is that it's not very funny; it's a cartoon, so what's the point if it's not funny?"

    Video Games 

  • The reason why Bad Day L.A. was universally panned is, beside the gameplay not being that good to begin with, is that the game tried to be a video-game equivalent of South Park, yet the game's Vulgar Humor is way too childish and sophomoric and it attempts at satire mostly boiled to racial stereotypes.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day is one of the few non-animation examples of this trope, with sex jokes and grossout gags galore. This was a deliberate choice in response to critics who felt that earlier builds were too similar to Rare's other cartoonish mascot platformers.

    Web Animation 

    Web Videos 
  • The later seasons of SuperMarioLogan resort to this kind of humor, being one of the few non-animated examples of this trope

    Western Animation 
  • South Park, the Trope Namer, is almost single-handedly responsible for creating the audacious, line-crossing brand of humor that has become so prevalent in adult animation. Hard as it is to imagine these days, in 1997 the sight of cartoon characters telling each other to "suck balls" was totally wild and crazy (the closest The Simpsons had ever come to that was, of course, "Eat my shorts!"), and the show drew huge viewership numbers purely from the novelty factor. Like all popular things, it was quickly aped and imitated, and soon it became standard practice for adult cartoons to take a page out of Parker and Stone's book. Unlike many of its derided imitators, though, South Park's humor relies heavily on satire and mockery of weekly news Ripped from the Headlines; while Toilet Humor and crude sexual jokes feature frequently, they're not the sole source of comedy in the show, or even the primary one.
  • Animals starts more or less with dudebro humor about drugs and wanting to get laid. As the show progresses, though, it basically becomes South Park's Spiritual Antithesis, mocking society but generally having likable characters and happy endings, little toilet humor, and abundant, positive LGBT representation.
  • Home Movies, one of the inaugural [adult swim] shows, largely averts this. It has some Toilet Humour and profanity, but by and large prioritizes strong, witty dialogue-based humor over shock comedy.
  • Despite the trope name, Family Guy may actually be just as responsible for encouraging this trope. Its particular style of pop culture-centric humor and cutaway gags proved a big hit with audiences (especially following its uncancellation), and made it arguably just as influential as its brethren, for better or worse.
    • American Dad!, the Quietly Performing Sister Show to Family Guy, fits the trope just as well. That said, the humor tends to be more character and plot-driven, and as a result is generally more critically respected than its older brother.
  • The Venture Bros. is one of the biggest aversions of this trope. Despite being a Sadist Show with tons of Black Comedy, graphic violence, substance abuse, female fanservice, and nudity, this very continuity-heavy show prioritizes long-running plot-lines with tons of character development, lots of Call-Back's to prior episodes, humor that derived from cleverly-written shout-outs and deconstructions to Jonny Quest and Marvel Comics instead of just mindless shock value and mean spirited take-that's, there's almost no Toilet Humor, and higher-quality animation and art direction than other shows of it kind.
  • Part of the reason for The Simpsons Seasonal Rot was pressure to become more "edgy" and "adult" in order to compete with shows like Family Guy and South Park. This resulted in an increase in mean-spirited humor and gross-out gags that aren't particularly funny and don't fit the show's milder, more laid-back tone. It all culminated in the panda rape scene in "Homer vs. Dignity."
  • The DreamWorks Animation show Father of the Pride attempted to be the first adult All-CGI Cartoon. It flopped and was canned after one season due to its expensive CG-animation, Hype Aversion, and a campaign against it by the Parents Television Council, who feared advertising it as "From the creators of Shrek" would lead kids to watch it.
  • The main criticism of Brickleberry is that tries to be the next Family Guy (next to it's art-style being a blatant rip-off of it) by cramming as many vulgar, offensive and tasteless jokes as humanly possible at the cost of any well-developed or likable characters or interesting storylines.
  • Castlevania halfway fits. Although mostly a drama that focuses on storyline and Character Development more than laughs, it is nonetheless an animated series full of gorn, heavy cursing—bordering on Obligatory Swearing, considering most Castlevania games don't go beyond "damn"—overt sexual references, and a drunkard in a pub rambling in gruesome detail about the time he caught some stranger raping his goats. (Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs, perhaps.)
  • Possibly one of most well-known shows that play this trope straight is Drawn Together, which is 90% Cringe Comedy and Vulgar Humor. You can count the amount of jokes that are not shock value, bodily function-related or at the expense of any kind of social/racial minority on one hand. Unlike other shows of it's kind, though, it has at least good art-direction and frequently mocks the lack of artistic merit this show has.
  • While Aqua Teen Hunger Force definitely qualifies as this in its later seasons (earlier episodes were much tamer, while episodes from season 4 onwards are filled with Vulgar Humor and Gorn), the extremely short-lived Spin-Off Soul Quest Overdrive takes this Up to Eleven, featuring a non-stop barrage of crude sex jokes, random gratuitous violence, drug references, and Comedic Sociopathy crammed into every 5-minute episode.
  • The Netflix show Big Mouth, which is about kids going through puberty and features a lot of sexual bodily function humor as a result, garnered massive controversy after only one trailer was released. In addition to the overtly crude humor, including depictions of preteens masturbating, having their periods and talking to their genitalia, it also has ugly designs reminiscent of cartoons from the 1990s and early 2000s that screamed "we're trying to be as edgy and gross as possible", not to mention proudly advertising that the head writer used to work on Family Guy. It doesn't help that Netflix was toting this as their "edgy" cartoon alongside the critical darling Bojack Horseman, a show that deliberately avoids edginess for the sake of it, making Big Mouth feel like a giant step backwards in terms of furthering the medium. Thankfully, it died down a little once the show actually came out and got positive word-of-mouth.
  • This is why Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" was canceled after only six episodes. As it turns out, a show that already thrived on vulgar humor doesn't automatically become more "adult" when you show outright what the original cartoon could only imply—if anything, that makes it less funny. There's some debate over whether this was Spike TV trying to appeal to the post-South Park crowd or just what happens when you don't rein in John Kricfalusi.
  • The main reason Allen Gregory lasted as briefly as it did (aside from being a "filler" show inbetween seasons of Family Guy) was that it was so sophomoric and the characters were so needlessly cruel and unlikable that nobody found it appealing or funny.
  • Bill Plympton is a noteworthy subversion as, while his films DO feature completely unfiltered vulgarity and violence, they're strictly Author Appeal and not intended to appease some kind of demographic. At one point, he was dealing with criticism that he could only do over-the-top sex and violence with no emotional substance, and challenged those critics with the somber, personal Cheatin.
  • Tripping the Rift is a rare CG example (the only other one being Father of the Pride) of this being played straight, with gross outs and sex jokes galore.
  • The short-lived British series Full English was roundly panned for being a very blatant Family Guy rip-off, right down to the cutaway gags. The series featured much more graphic content than Family Guy, however, with constant swearing, nudity, sex, and shock humor in every episode.
  • The MTV Short Runner Good Vibes, which was originally intended to air alongside Seth MacFarlane's series but ended up airing with the revival of Beavis and Butt-head, had some Hidden Depths and the main characters avert being ComedicSociopaths, but was otherwise this trope.
  • Hell and Back is another rare feature film example as well as one of the few stop-motion examples besides Robot Chicken, with tons of sex and rape jokes.
  • Most of Animation Domination High-Definition, especially High School U.S.A., plays this straight.
  • The Boondocks averts this trope. While it's a comedy that does have a lot of sexual humor, swearing, and some bloody violence, it seldom resorts to Toilet Humor outside the episode where R. Kelly is on trial for a sex tape of him urinating on a 14-year old girl. It has been compared to the trope namer, but only in regards to its biting social commentary, not its style of humor.
  • The Filipino-American creators of The Nutshack say that their series is the very first Asian adult cartoon. Anime aside, most of the humor is very low-brow and crude, with sex, violence, and drug use throughout.
  • Legends of Chamberlain Heights is another example, not only having loads of stereotypes and sexual humor, but even using the same two-frame animation style as South Park. It doesn't help that Comedy Central is using South Park as a lead-in in it's first season.
  • Final Space averts this trope via not resorting to shock humor and having the characters utter expletives every half-minute, instead defining itself as mature by its emotional, gripping story arcs and complex, multilayered characters, irrespective of the moderate language and (stylized) violence here and there, but thankfully none of the swear words are more vulgar than "crap."
  • Squidbillies is a pretty faithful adherent of this trope. All of the humor is either sexual, violent, offensive, or just plain gross, and is also drawn in a deliberately sloppy, ugly art-style.
  • One major complaint about Mr. Pickles is that the show tries to cram as many sex jokes and as much violent, disturbing and disgusting content as humanly possible into 11 minutes. King Star King and Superjail! fall under this formula as well, although the latter is considered as many as this trope done right. That said, there are hints of a consistent plot, and notably for this type of show it rarely delves into politics. Season 3 tries other types of humor besides just gross-out, like genre parodies, though it still thrives in gore.
  • Archer contains loads of sex, violence and shocking subject matter, particularly jokes involving Krieger, the Nightmare Fetishist. It does have a highly detailed and realistic art style, however, compared to the usual crude and simplistic looks of shows of this type, and mixes in long-running plotlines, a surprising amount of Character Development and a love for obscure Genius Bonus jokes.
  • The Animated Adaptation of Baby Blues on The WB was a failure mainly due to this trope, taking what was a genial, family-friendly comic strip about the everyday hassles of parents raising two young children, and filling it with sexual innuendo and adult-oriented plots, driving away fans of the comic strip while failing to bring in people who weren't.
  • Bojack Horseman both deconstructs and totally defies this trope. There are no designated heroes, no Snap Back, very little grossout humor and all of the socio-political messages are well-informed (if a little heavy-handed). Instead, the show analyzes why a crude, selfish, destructive person would be the way they would. The result is a story about how love is earned and that nobody is going to like you if they have a perfectly good reason not to. While the series has some Early Installment Weirdness in the first few episodes, where it does lean more towards the South Park/Family Guy style of animated comedy, it quickly settles on character-driven Black Comedy, and mostly uses the gags of its earlier episodes for deconstruction.
  • Rick and Morty is often seen as an example of this trope "done right". A lot of the humor is extremely sophomoric, with phallic imagery, burp/fart jokes, pop culture references and violence galore; however, much like Bojack Horseman, it plays the consequences of a lot of these jokes completely straight for the sake of furthering the story and developing the characters, who even at their flattest are much more fleshed out and three-dimensional than a good deal of the show's contemporaries. The most notable of this is the writers' conscious decision to make the occasional verbal rape joke while playing every instance of the act itself completely for horror, illustrating the difference between making jokes about rape and thinking rape is funny.
  • Deconstructed in the third season of Moral Orel. While the show is a biting criticism of Christianity and plays most of the tropes straight, when the Cerebus Syndrome hit, it starts exploring how psychologically damaging the violence and obscenity can turn out to be.
  • Bob's Burgers played this trope straight in Season 1 (the first episode alone cracked jokes about pedophilia, autism and cannibalism). As of Season 2, the show grew out of it and was made into a Denser and Wackier version of King of the Hill (which is perhaps the ultimate aversion of this trope).
  • Beavis and Butt-Head is an early (pre-South Park) example, deriving several jokes from Toilet Humour and the title characters love to point out innuendoes. Its spinoff, Daria, largely averts this trope. While it was controversial in its time, later shows such as South Park and Family Guy have taken their vulgar humor to much greater lengths, to the point that Beavis and Butt-Head can look tame in comparison. This may be one of the reasons why the 2011 revival was so short-lived.
  • Genndy Tartakovsky now gives us Primal (2019), which plays some aspects of this trope straight but averts others. On the one hand, it is gratuitously violent, with a ludicrous amount of blood being shed in every episode. On the other hand, it is not a comedy, has absolutely gorgeous animation, and even lacks dialogue, making it a surprisingly moody, serious, and grim piece of work.
  • Netflix's Paradise PD is a glaring example of this trope in action, released almost a full decade after edgy animated sitcoms had fallen out of favor with viewers. Every episode is a nonstop barrage of stereotypes, graphic violence, drug jokes, grossout jokes, Toilet Humour, and Comedic Sociopathy so unrelenting it almost borders on parody, and the characters aren't nearly three-dimensional enough to make up for it.
  • Despite its superhero comic origins, Harley Quinn (2019) fits nicely in this category. It delights in how crude and raunchy it can get, with gratuitous violence, profanity, and jokes about all manner of off-color topics fill every episode.
  • JJ Villard's Fairy Tales is full of Gorn, Vulgar Humor, and has Limited Animation to the point where the character animation is just like South Park's.
  • Hoops is another Netflix cartoon that plays this trope straight. The art-style is crude and unappealing, the main character is a completely unlikable Jerkass, and the humor is very crass and crude, with lots of dick jokes and extreme amounts of F-bombs from it's ''very'' foul-mouthed protagonist.

  • In his 2015 autobiography, Ed Sheeran says that he wasn't allowed to watch The Simpsons as a child because his mother thought it was on the same level as South Park. Strangely, he quit church choir so he could watch The Simpsons, which is mentioned in his 2017 song "Eraser."


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