The magical optimism of children’s television

There’s no age limit on enjoying content made for kids

Heroes Ladybug and Cat Noir.

There comes a time in our lives when we feel we’re supposed to leave children’s media behind.

We’ve all heard of, and maybe even been, the preteen who refuses to watch the newest Disney musical or read a book they used to love. The reasoning is always the same: “That’s for babies!”

But for some of us, turning back the clock doesn’t feel like such a bad thing. The pandemic has pulled us in all kinds of directions, and many people are turning to childhood obsessions to find comfort amidst the uncertainty.

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir is a French cartoon that first aired in 2015. Taking place in Paris, the show follows two teenagers and their double lives as superheroes. As Ladybug and Cat Noir, the teens fight supervillains and protect their city all while dealing with teenage struggles like crushes and homework. A popular piece of children’s media in Europe and Asia, the popularity of the cartoon has boomed in the United States since being picked up by Disney Channel in 2019. However, it’s not only kids who are becoming invested in the Parisian superheroes—it’s adults, too.

From TikTok to Twitter, social media has become filled with fans of Miraculous. Preteens and adults alike are making edits, writing fanfiction, and speculating about what might happen in the next episode. It’s a fandom just like any other, except most of its fans were never the show’s target audience.

Miraculous isn’t the first children’s show to gain a dedicated online following. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic quickly took over message boards all over the internet. The concept of the “Brony,” or adult man My Little Pony fan, began as a bit of an ironic joke—but people kept tuning into the show each week, spawning fan sites, conventions, and even a full-length documentary.

The reason these shows are so popular among older teens and adults is simple: they’re good. With solid plots, relatable characters, and some adult humour sprinkled in, it’s easy to find enjoyment in their content.

They also have something that most content aimed at adults doesn’t: a sense of optimism.

I discovered this for myself when working at a local library. As an early reader, I had been reading Young Adult and Adult fiction since I was eight or nine years old. However, on the shifts when there wasn’t much to do, I found myself looking for something I could pick up and flip through quickly.

I was drawn to the Middle Grade section, a collection of books aimed at eight to 13-year-old kids. I expected some mind-numbing entertainment I could use to distract myself. Instead, I was completely engrossed in some of the most heart-wrenching, humorous, and beautifully written books I had ever read.

The best part? Every single one was infused with optimism and joy. Even in the heartbreaking stories of loss and suffering, the pain was always resolved, and the message was always that we should be hopeful. It was a refreshing change from the constant pessimism that often plagues our most celebrated media. Even ‘family friendly’ content like Star Wars or Avengers can sometimes feel needlessly depressing.

If you need a little more optimism in your life, there’s no shame in picking up a book or turning on a television show made for an age group you’re not a part of. This content is designed to be hopeful, fun, and comforting, and we could all use a little bit of cheer in our lives right now. If you’re able to find that cheer in a French cartoon or a book you found in the kids section, you should still be able to celebrate that joy.

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