Adventure Time started off as a cult hit but then grew into a generational phenomenon. It’s premise is incredibly simple and almost cliche in the way that it is similar to many other children’s programs. For such an aesthetically childish program it manages to confront, or at least allude to, many adult and important topics. The recent two part conclusion to season 5 included such themes as guilt, responsibility, greed, and most complexly the relation between hope and totalitarian governments.
The 2013 episode “Wizards Only, Fools” is about a character, made of candy, regaining his health. Princess Bubblegum, being the scientist she is, comes up with a remedy that will heal the candy man’s failing health but there’s a problem in that he only believes in healing via magic (or religion). The Princess then tries to forcefully inject the candy man with the remedy but is berated by a nurse who calls her immoral. Her skepticism further gets in the way and after a long journey she realizes that she cannot force upon others her own beliefs, whether they be right or wrong, and accepts that Starchy the candy man can make his own choices in life.
It’s watched by both children and adults and I think the way it contributes is to family or friend groups. I’ve had discussions with friends about the particulars of certain episodes and I believe the same would take place in family groups.
Adventure Time’s contribution to the public sphere is similar in many ways to that of The Simpsons. It allows for the development of critical thinking and dealing with the real world without being other powering. Adventure Time is quirky, witty, topical, magical and supremely educational. It’s contribution is somewhat less sensational but more important than other popular cultural artifacts in that it’s messages aren’t cliched and reused.