I love cartoons - it's no big secret - and I have always been happy with the way that they have evolved throughout the years. On the whole, I like the things that have changed and I like the things that have stayed the same. Sometimes I would like to see a few more shows animated in a particular way; or I would like to see more shows make use of a rarely used style of storytelling. However, this is not often; very rarely do I feel this way. There is one thing however, which I have not seen change in cartoons. I know this will sound odd but bare with me, as it something which I profoundly hope will change in the near future... Cartoon Grandparents!
Many cartoons and animated shows have young protagonists - where kids or teenagers are the main characters or are at least part of the central cast. These characters will almost always have parents and then often also have at least one grandparent. Yet when I think of the cartoons I love, past and present, the grandpas are doddery men of age and the grandmas are frail, elderly women. These grandparent characters are usually quite forgetful (maybe even senile), kind of out of touch with the world, they are retired, they frequently live in care homes, they're a bit embarrassing to hang out with and basically... they're just depicted as really old in every sense of the word.
Immediately I think of Grandpa Abraham Simpson in The Simpsons (don't forget Marge's Mother too); Grandpa Lou, Grandpa Boris and Grandma Minka in The Rugrats (where the child characters are babies and toddlers); the Grandmother of SpongeBob SquarePants; Grandpa Leo in Lloyd in Space; Gran in The Croods; guest characters in shows like Pokémon and the guardians of Hey Arnold, his Grandparents Phil and Gertie. In Horrid Henry, the titular character's Great Aunt (one of his Grandparent's siblings) is depicted this way also. Even in the The Land Before Time movies, animated films with anthropomorphic dinosaur characters, Littlefoot's Grandparents are depicted as old in this sort of way too.
Yet when I think about people I know in the world today, that type of depiction of a grandparent seems kind of redundant now. I know a number of grandparents; I have friends that have children and I know their parents and my parents have a number of friends who are grandparents now. Modern day grandparents... are cool! They don't have grey hair, they are mentally sharp, physically fit and they are fun to be around. They don't seem old in any sense of the word, not even by number. A 60 year old these days is not the same as a 60 year old several decades ago. A lot of the grandparents I know I would not call old, at "worst" I would call them middle-aged.
I personally feel that cartoons and animated features haven't quite caught up to this trend yet. However, I am noticing more live shows and movies doing this. I have seen actors who were leading men and women, heartthrobs in the 80s and 90s... who are now playing grandparent characters. They are still fun, attractive, sound of mind and best of all - an accurate representation of today's grandparents.
I'm not saying that all cartoons fail to do this. One cartoon I've seen a few episodes of and would like to mention is Ben 10, where Max Tennyson has always seemed awesome to me. He comes across as more of an older father figure than a grandpa and I think that's what a granddad or grandpa needs to be these days, whilst a grandmother is more of an older mother type.
Is there still room for the doddery, kooky old men and women? Absolutely! They are great characters. But maybe instead of being the Grandfather or Grandmother, they could be the Great Grandpa or Great Grandma instead. Lots of kids get to know at least one of their Great Grandparents in their lifetime, so why not show it?
Even in wonderfully bizarre shows such as Adventure Time, cartoons appeal to people of all ages because we see reflections of ourselves and our own lives in them. Let's just hope that one day soon children will watch cartoons and see their own grandparents reflected right back at them.