Top 10 Cartoon Heroes With a Philosophical Message

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Philosophy is "the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life". On the other hand, the same source defines a cartoon as "a series of drawings that tell a story". Thus, there is no wonder why we tend to give philosophy some sort of solemnity while we consider cartoons frivolous and associate it with children entertainment and shallowness.

However, we miss to understand that the very foundation of philosophy is based on simplicity and innocence and Friedrich Nietzsche pointed it out best in his famous statement - "a man's maturity: that is to have rediscovered the seriousness he possessed as a child at play".

Let’s see below a list of 10 cartoon heroes who carry a great philosophical message.
The Top Ten
1 Son Goku - Dragon Ball

Our no. 1 is the Japanese anime and manga character, Son Goku (a.K.A. Goku or Kakarot), a legendary saiyan super-hero, savior of the Universe and arguably the strongest super-hero ever. And when we say strong, we mean destroying Galaxies in the heat of battle type of strength…But Son Goku is much more than that. He is kind hearted and humble, highly intelligent and naïve in an unprecedented mix.

However, what makes Goku unique and a true philosophy messenger as well as our top pick, is not his extraordinary strength, nor his compassion or kindness (as all these are attributes of many other heroes). His greatest strength is, in fact, his high level of self-knowledge and insight (the spring of his outer strength). His message is basically (in our words): have no regrets, live a simple life and enjoy whatever it throws at you.

Goku is content with simple joys, his possessions are just a stick, a robe and the Flying Nimbus (a magic cloud that carries only the righteous) and…he is almost always smiling.

Lao Tzu once said "to the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders" and Son Goku is most definitely the personification of this.

2 Homer Simpson - The Simpsons Homer Jay Simpson is the main protagonist of the American animated television series The Simpsons as the patriarch of the eponymous family.

"The Simpson and Philosophy, The D'oh of Homer " is in fact a famous book so our hero's philosophical side is well known. And, as we all know, he always has something hilarious to say and all his sayings reveal a deep level of insight. But we will not talk here about his lines but his generic message.

Homer is the embodiment of mediocrity. He is a middle class, plainly stupid, fat man with loads of problems in his family life. Sound like a recipe for disaster or, at least a very miserable life. But it is not…despite his short bursts of anger, Homer is always happy at the end of the day. No matter how many problems he created, he does not mind kicking back with a cold beer.

So you don't need to have everything to be happy. Happiness does not come from the outside but from within. And if you picture your life as a happy one, it will be because, after all, as Immanuel Kant said "happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination".

3 Wolverine - X-Men

Suffering, distress, pain, agony - all defining Wolverine; a lifetime of suffering. But is that really as bad as it sounds?

Friedrich Nietzsche wished to all those who were of any concern to him "suffering, desolation, sickness, ill treatment, indignities, profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, and the wretchedness of the vanquished" and he did so not because of envy or hate but because of love and compassion. Sounds weird, we know, but how else can one grow if not by being exposed to constant stress? Muscle grow only if we stress them out and it's no different for our character (it just takes a different type of stress).

Although he is hit, injured, crushed or heart broken, Wolverine emerges victorious after each experience, victorious and stronger than before.

We might never fight mutants, save the world or fall in love with a beautiful mind controller psychic mutant but we should learn from Wolverine. We should never get despaired of life, even if it's throwing us in the darkest corners of Hell because that experience will only make us stronger in the long run.

4 Popeye - Popeye the Sailor

"I am what I am and that's all I am" - Popeye the Sailor; "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection" Buddha.

It seems like Popeye and Buddha have the same reflection on the importance of self-acceptance. They both understood that in order to live happily, one must fully accept who he is and care about oneself…but not in a selfish way.

Like Buddha, Popeye is very generous and unselfish but that does not mean that he does not care about himself. Popeye enjoys his spinach and he never hesitates to eat it whenever danger arises.

We should all learn from Popeye that we must not give up completely on our hedonistic ways in order to attain a deep sense of altruism but we should rather canalize our pleasures towards helping others, and if we enjoy the ride, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

5 Capt. John Smith - Pocahontas

First of all, few know that the film is based on a true story but that's not really the point here. And the wonderful Native American philosophy and spirituality of nature isn't either.

We should rather concentrate on Capt. John Smith, a young adventurer who came to the New World to claim its riches and was transformed by love. And he was transformed to the extent that he gave up his quest for glory and material possessions for his love.

Barbara de Angelis said that "Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible - it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could" and we're sure Capt. Smith would agree.

6 Ariel - The Little Mermaid

Even though most of our heroes originate in a classic tale, Andersen's little mermaid is probably the one that captured people's imagination to the deepest level. Thus, there is no wonder why the little mermaid (or Ariel - name given by Disney) was honored with a statue that soon became the symbol of Copenhagen. But what is her most important message to us? Let's briefly remember the cartoon storyline (a bit different from the original tale).

A little mermaid, princess in the underwater kingdom, saves a young prince from drowning then falls in love with him and, in order to be with him, she trades her soul, status, wealth, and even voice for a pair of legs. In the end, she gets married to him and they live happily ever after…ah, and the most important is that all she traded is returned to her. A beautiful story of sacrifice and love.

Ariel is obviously teaching us about the power of love and the meaningless of a life without it. But more important, she is showing us that one never loses by surrendering to love and following the heart (even though it might feel that way at first).

7 Snow White - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Let's move to another famous story revolving around physical looks.

Snow white is actually a classic fairy tale by the Grimm brothers, transposed on the screen by Disney and guessing we all know the famous storyline, let's move to the message.

As beautiful as the Evil Queen is (or fair, to be exact), she is no match for Snow White. But why is that, one may ask…they are both extremely beautiful and arguably, based solely on physical characteristics, the Evil Queen might be even more attractive. Just that she was wicked and hated everyone and everything.

Meanwhile, Snow White was innocent and loving she loved all the animals in the forest, the dwarfs (even Grumpy) and the forest itself. She had only love to give and asked nothing in return. And that made her beautiful. As Saint Augustine said "Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul".

The message? As cliché as it may sound, it never gets obsolete: be kind and compassionate to others, stop hating and start loving and the world will love you back.

8 Rocko - Rocko's Modern Life Rocko is the eponymous fictional character of the cartoon Rocko's Modern Life and the comic book series of the same name. He is an Australian anthropomorphic wallaby who immigrated to the United States. He works at a comic book store, lives next to annoying neighbors, and is friends with the gluttonous... read more

Philosophical message according to both the show's intro and the show itself: "Life sucks."

9 Pinocchio - Pinocchio
10 Bloom - Winx Club
The Contenders
11 Aang - Avatar: The Last Airbender Avatar Aang is a fictional character and the protagonist of Nickelodeon's animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen. Aang is the last surviving Airbender, a monk of the Air Nomads' Southern Air Temple.
12 Goku - Dragon Ball Z Son Goku (Kakarrot) is the main protagonist in Dragon Ball franchise created by Akira Toriyama in 1984. He has many abilities like, super strength, utilization of ki, flight, teleportation, super speed, enhanced reflexes, and Super Saiyan transformation that increase strength, speed, and durability... read more
13 Beast - Beauty and the Beast
14 Courage - Courage The Cowardly Dog
15 Zaheer - Avatar: The Last Airbender
16 Katara - Avatar: The Last Airbender Katara is a fictional character in Nickelodeon's animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, voiced by Mae Whitman.
17 Bart Simpson - The Simpsons Bartholomew JoJo "Bart" Simpson is the oldest child, and the only son, in the 1987 show The Simpsons. He was created by Matt Groening. His hobbies are pranking people including Lisa Simpson and Homer Simpson.
18 Astro Boy - Astro Boy
19 Lincoln Loud - The Loud House
20 Stewie Griffin - Family Guy Stewart Gilligan "Stewie" Griffin is a main character from the animated television series Family Guy. Obsessed with violence and matricide, Stewie is the youngest child of Peter and Lois Griffin, and the brother of Meg and Chris Griffin.
21 Bender - Futurama Bender Bending Rodríguez is a fictional character who is one of the main characters in the animated television series Futurama. He was created by series creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen and is voiced by John DiMaggio.
22 Lola Loud - The Loud House Lola Loud is a fictional character from The Loud House and the third youngest child of the Loud Family and Lana's younger twin sister, Lola is arrogant, smart mouthed, spoiled, and is a tattle-tale, like Lori despite her selfish behavior deep down she's compassionate, she shares a room with her twin... read more
23 Chris Griffin - Family Guy Christopher Cross "Chris" Griffin is a fictional character from the American animated television series Family Guy.
24 Twilight Sparkle - My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Twilight Sparkle is the primary main character of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. She is a female unicorn pony who transforms into an Alicorn and becomes a princess in Magical Mystery Cure.
25 Lisa Simpson - The Simpsons Lisa Marie Simpson is a fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. She is the middle child and most intelligent of the Simpson family.
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