If you’ve noticed a pattern of seemingly unrelated videos hashtagged #adultswim popping up on your FYP, then you’re not alone. But what the heck is Adult Swim? And why has it suddenly spiked on TikTok?
Launched in 2001, Adult Swim is an American television channel that airs after Cartoon Network each day, running from 8pm to 6am. Marketed to an 18+ demographic, it broadcasts animations, sketches and shows such as Family Guy and Rick and Morty. To announce the channel transitioning from Cartoon Network to Adult Swim each night, the channel shows short segments called “bumps”. These bumps have became known for their quirky, creative, often completely absurd concepts, overlaid with text and always ending with the words “Adult Swim” on screen.
But how does this relate to TikTok?
Possibly restored to relevance thanks to a Gen Z fascination with Y2K culture, the Adult Swim trend kickstarted when music producer and TikTok user @supvano created a sample sound of BadBadNotGood’s “Time Moves Slow”. While he had used the sound on previous videos, the TikTok that gained the most traction was one of a Spiderman character actor walking through a New York City subway station as if he was avoiding paparazzi, the text [adult swim] appearing across the screen at the end. As the Los Angeles Times describes, “the result was an aesthetic that could be described as peak Adult Swim form”, the video igniting a boom in [adult swim] copycat content, recreating the iconic “bumps”.
Since kickstarting the trend at the end of May, the sound has been used for almost 500K videos (at the time of publication), including videos by the official Adult Swim TikTok account and public figures including influencer photographer Bryant, shooting Alexis Ren. Many have also attributed the continuation of the trend to the spike in the Adult Swim official account’s engagement— often commenting on trending videos noting that “He [or she] understood the assignment.” The hashtag #adultswim has been viewed 2.4 billion times.
While the trend may be fleeting, as most trends on TikTok are, many have commented that it feels like the first truly creative trend to land on TikTok. In moving away from dancing and lip syncing, this particular trend is encouraging more abstract thought, showcasing technical skills in animation, photography and videography, amongst others but not excluding any particular kind of content. From carving the letters A and S in breadcrumbs to stop motions showcasing vintage T-shirt and skateboard collections, this seems to rings true in observing the display of creativity and range exhibited by TikTok creators to participate.
If nothing else, the Adult Swim trend is leaning into a nostalgia we can all objectively enjoy and in the meantime, we can thank @supvano for the song that will be stuck in our heads for the next six months.