Here’s Why Mysterious Gravity Falls Appeals to Kids and Adults

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The Disney Channel’s hit TV series Gravity Falls, created by Alex Hirsch and inspired by the community of Boring, Oregon, balances content for both child and adult viewers. Although the show aired as a story for pre-teens, Gravity Falls maintains a child-like mystery and wonder that people of all ages can appreciate. Packed with references to its sister supernatural series Twin Peaks, the show follows twins Dipper and Mabel Pines who are scheduled to spend summer with their uncle, Grunkle Stan, at his Mystery Shack in Gravity Falls, Oregon. At first glance, Gravity Falls is reminiscent of many small, quiet towns, but when Dipper discovers a cryptic journal in the woods his perspective of the region transforms. Dipper and Mabel quickly realize that their vacation will be anything but boring.

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According to Amelia Danver on its age-appropriateness, Gravity Falls “expertly skirts the edge of what constitutes as a ‘kid’s show’” and visits some “surprisingly adult themes.” Since its debut, the series has been censored by Disney+ and branches of Disney in Latin and South America. Disney+ specifically removed Grunkle Stan’s Fez symbol on his hat, potentially because of the connection to the Shriners. In a CBR interview, creator Alex Hirsch argued that the original symbol “had no meaning,” but Disney still required the hat to be more abstract. In addition, certain insults were removed on platforms in Latin and South America. Despite these edits, Gravity Falls still upholds its appeal to both kids and adults alike. As stated by Brian Lowry of the website Variety, the show maintains “a breezy quality that should play to kids, and tickle some twinges of nostalgia among their parents.” Here’s what makes Gravity Falls perfect for kids and adults alike.


Dipper’s Obsession with Growing Up


Mabel points a grappling hook and Dipper clutches a book in Gravity Falls
Disney

Reportedly, creator Alex Hirsch based Dipper and Mabel Pines on himself and his twin sister, Ariel Hirsch. In a Time interview, Hircsh admits that the adventures are based on him and his sisters “long, long summers in the woods at [his] great aunt’s cabin.” Throughout the series, Dipper maintains a steady desire to appear more mature and independent. Although he and his twin sister Mabel are both 12 years old, Dipper has a more serious, thoughtful demeanor than his spontaneous, boyfriend-obsessed sibling.

Related: Why She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Is Not the Average Kids Show

For example, Dipper plans ahead. When the twins go fishing and want to capture a picture of the lake monster, Dipper packs 17 disposable cameras, some of which Mabel and Soos carelessly throw away. He strongly dislikes being referred to as “adorable” or being treated like a child. At the same time, Dipper conserves a childish side for antics with his twin sister. In the same Time interview, Alex Hirsch reveals that he himself is a “man-child.” The show balances mature and immature content because Hirsch considers himself an “immature adult” and somewhere in-between a man and a child.


This attitude is relatable for all ages, kids and adults alike (something seen frequently in ‘man-child’ comedies like Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen movies). For younger viewers, they can empathize with the feeling of wanting to grow up since they haven’t achieved independence yet; adults might still be calling them immature. Adults, on the other hand, can relate in a nostalgic way, remembering a time when they weren’t completely independent and weighed down by responsibilities.

Everyone Loves A Mystery


Dipper looks behind him at a secret trap door by a fallen tree in Gravity Falls
Disney

No matter your age, every person can relate to the exciting appeal of the unknown. It’s fun to solve puzzles and secrets with their pieces scattered. Gravity Falls provides just that, featuring supernatural events, cryptograms at the end of each episode (and other multimedia puzzles), shapeshifters, mermen, and gnomes. With its episodic monster-of-the-week structure combined with a brilliant series-long arc, the show is practically an animated comedy version of The X-Files.


Related: These Are Some of the Best Animated Shows For Adults

Hirsch says he watched the long-running series The Simpsons growing up because he felt that the show was “smarter than [he] was.” He liked that there were references that he didn’t understand and wanted to produce a show with similar appeal. Hirsch not only inserts jokes that younger viewers might not understand but includes carefully hidden, mysterious codes. In the opening credits, secret letters can be heard if the song is played backward. This puzzling code is a reference to the Caesar Cipher, which decodes alphabetic messages. Gravity Falls also includes subtle nods to the other dark, mysterious series it takes after. The club in Gravity Falls closely resembles the red room in Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge.


The Characters Grow Over Time


Mabel pokes Dipper in the nose and he doesn't take it well in Gravity Falls
Disney

Unlike shows such as The Simpsons, the characters in Gravity Falls grow with their experiences and actually change. Instead of resetting every episode, the characters use the knowledge they have collected so far like normal human beings. Child or adult, we are always applying what we’ve learned in the past to their current circumstances. While everyone, from Soos to Grunkle Stan, experiences beautiful character development, the two characters who show the most change over the course of the series are, of course, Dipper and Mabel Pines. As such, it’s a wonderful coming-of-age story.

Dipper gradually overcomes his eagerness to grow up, which is represented mostly by his affections for teenage Wendy. After an immense build-up, Dipper admits his feelings for Wendy, and she lets him down. Even though Dipper fixates on Wendy for a long time, he values her friendship too much to react harshly and, in an act of maturity, accepts this reality. Mabel, on the other hand, is afraid of change and, perhaps, of growing up. To prevent the possibility of her relationship with her brother being fractured and leaving the town of Gravity Falls, Mabel makes a deal with the villain, Bill Cipher, to live in a world without change. Dipper comes to retrieve Mabel and after reconciling, they agree that they will stick together despite all of life’s unpredictable, scary changes.


Although Alex Hirsch’s Gravity Falls only ran for two intense seasons, the show is still well worth watching for kids and adults alike. It blends youth and adult content in a flexible way and creates a diverse audience for Alex Hirsch’s future projects. Hirsch’s new show, The Owl House, which he co-created with Dana Terrace, premiered in January 2020.


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