I’ll never forget my very first experience with Gravity Falls. It came about two years back, one Saturday afternoon when my two young nieces were over at my house. At some point, I heard my older brother yell for me to come into the living room to take a gander at this show that they were watching on Disney X.D.
My nieces—and my brother, included—were sitting there grinning from ear to ear. I was about to ask my brother why he seemed to be even more amused by this quirky, colorful kids show than our two nieces were, but then the show quickly told me why.
I took a look at the television, and I saw two teenagers spray-painting a ramshackle hut that belonged to an old man who looked exactly like the crazy old miner from a wild west story (I’d later go on to recognize him as Fiddleford McGucket, one of my favorite Gravity Falls’ characters).
What was spray-painted on the hut? The phrase “Mc Suck It!”
My jaw darn-near fell to my waist. How could that kind of joke be on a kids cartoon!? What age was this show supposed to be aimed toward?
As I went on to watch more episodes, and eventually become a Gravity Falls fanatic, I got my answer.
This show was aiming to entertain anyone who sat down to enjoy it’s imaginative setting and hysterical characters.
I say “was” very begrudgingly, because for those unaware, the show concluded recently at its 40th episode. It wasn’t for a lack of ratings or fan support—Gravity Falls was positively acclaimed during its run. Rather, creator Alex Hirsch explicitly explained that he set out to write a 40-episode story, and he fulfilled his vision down to the very last animation cel.
I’ve had some time now to digest that our main characters, young Dipper and Mabel, have left the quaint, mystery-laden town of Gravity Falls following their summer vacation there that was loaded with adventures, including a dramatic final encounter with the villainous, other-worldly entity known as Bill Cipher.
Now, I grin from ear to ear whenever I think of the show or watch reruns.
I have no doubt that Gravity Falls entertained countless children like my nieces, but the people it really seemed to captivate were young men and women who were unashamed to love a colorful cartoon that, on the surface, seemed to be geared toward a young audience.
That young audience had every reason to love its vibrant animations and bright personalities that filled up the cast, but they weren’t going to laugh for the same reasons as someone my age when we see Grunkle Stan boast about the “Sascrotch”—an attraction in the tourist trap he runs (called the Mystery Shack) that’s nothing more than a stuffed Bigfoot wearing men’s briefs. Those young kids also probably didn’t catch the implication behind when Soos’s grandmother blithely remarked that his deceased grandfather isn’t residing in Heaven.
Gravity Falls never crossed the boundary into being vulgar, profane, or lewd, however; this wasn’t Family Guy or Rick and Morty. Gravity Falls tossed a lot of jokes over little kids’ heads, but they were never jokes that you would feel were inappropriate to explain to your eight or nine-year-old.
Well, okay, there may have been one—that outrageous moment when Grunkle Stan told Dipper that the pituitary gland “May be little…but he has BIG plans” while having a chat about puberty.
Another ample part of the humor came from how often the show referenced pop culture, particularly that of the 80s and 90s. Nods to classic video games were positively abound throughout the 40 episode-run, ranging from Street Fighter, to Donkey Kong, to my personal favorite, The Legend of Zelda, among many more.
You had an episode dedicated to the ridiculousness of Japanese dating sims, complete with the bright-eyed, saccharine school-girl. You had an episode where a Dungeons and Dragons ripoff soon became far too real for the gang. You even had former NSYNC member Lance Bass voice several of the members behind a boy band in an episode that was all about parodying 90s boy bands!
Gravity Falls found countless ways to take me back to my childhood, and even when it used it as the fuel behind its humor, it never mocked its geeky source material. Rather, Gravity Falls made it abundantly clear that growing up doesn’t mean you have to dismiss the entertainment you loved in your younger days.
I’m one of those people who suppressed a lot of interests while I transitioned from being a tween to a young adult. In high school, I was terrified of the thought behind being ridiculed for the comics I read or the anime I watched; back then, I would never admit that I watched a cartoon like Gravity Falls. Heck, I may not have even given it a chance.
What a shame it would have been if Gravity Falls was released years back, and I skipped out on it because it wasn’t “cool” for a high school boy to be watching something on Disney X.D. I would have missed out on 40 episodes of memorable adventures where Dipper, Mabel, and all their friends slowly unraveled the mysteries and lore behind the town of Gravity Falls; this may have been a cartoon, but Gravity Falls featured world-building that J.R.R. Tolkien would give his nod of approval to.
I would have missed out on countless laughs. I would have missed out on an opportunity to enjoy a show that was appreciated by someone in his late 20s, like my older brother, as well as two little girls age seven and nine (my aforementioned nieces).
I would have missed out on a show that sports a very important message, especially for young men and women—no matter your age, you’re never too old to enjoy whatever it is that you love.
I’m positive that I’m not the only Gravity Falls fan who plans to hold onto that message for many years to come.
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