Across the weekend, Netflix dropped Disenchantment, the latest cartoon creation from industry veteran Matt Groening, whose name no doubt sounds familiar, as the creator of both The Simpsons and Futurama.
Set in a fantasy medieval land called Dreamland, the series follows the misadventures of rule-breaking teenager, Bean. She fights against her father, King Zog, who is trying to marry her off to secure the fortunes of a neighbouring kingdom.
Like every good protagonist living in a fantasy realm, Bean needs her sidekicks. In the first episode, we see her befriended by an optimistic and naive Elf. Aptly named Elfo, he meets Bean after leaving the Elf Kingdom, when he wants more than the joy and candy that was his daily life. Bean also meets the demon Luci, who is mysteriously gifted to her on the eve of her arranged marriage. The three of them bumble through their high stakes adventures, just managing to scrape through, and always indulging in copious amounts of beer at the local tavern.
But like creator Groening says – things are not what they seem… This is evident throughout the series, in clever but mostly confusing ways. For every step that Bean takes, she is monitored and manipulated by two unknown people, who haven’t been properly explained, at least not yet.
Keeping with Groening’s animation roots, Disenchantment isn’t a cartoon for Saturday mornings. It earns its mature status with its liberal drug use, sexual themes, and violence in every episode. There are a lot of double-bladed axes to the head, death, and gore. It’s not one to watch with the kids.
Groening is reported to have taken ten years on this project, when the idea sparked after he read some fantasy novels. Watching the series, you can almost tick off the list of ‘typical’ fantasy tropes. The only difference is the Futurama-esque witty, and at times dry, humour littered through the script. The story is filled with the standard-fare of mythical creatures, who receive the same comedic treatment. For Futurama fans, and fans of high fantasy in general, the humorous twists on these well-known characters and genre conventions should elicit a laugh.
While Disenchantment is built around a strong female protagonist who casts aside the social norms of the kingdom to take her destiny into her own hands, the writer and director line up sadly doesn’t reflect this aspect of the show. Only one episode is co-written with a woman – the rest of the writers and directors are all men. Would more female representation in the writer’s room have changed some of the storylines, maybe challenged the stereotypes women characters are forced into, especially in the male-dominated fantasy genre? – Perhaps.
Either way, after the revelations of the final two episodes, we can’t wait to see what Bean gets up to next!