12 '90s Shows That Seemed Like They Were For Kids, But Really Weren't

You never forget the shows that tainted your childhood forever... or, maybe you sometimes do. As we grow older and can reconnect with our favorite ‘90s kids' shows on a variety of streaming services, our grown-up eyes sometimes have a hard time adjusting to the truth; that maybe you shouldn’t have been watching this as a child. The era is littered with shows like that, and today we celebrate those shows that were perhaps inappropriate picks at the time.

Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean they were all laden with sexual innuendos... necessarily. Rather, they’re shows that, on a surface level, could’ve been construed as a simple cartoon. But, when you look into it, it's too much of something. That could mean it was too frightening, too censored, to uncensored, too thick on social satire, too reliant on pop culture references foreign to youths, anything like that. It could also be “too adult” in a literal sense... as in the show was geared to adults in the first place.

So you get the picture. In any case, scroll down for a list of secretly adult '90s kids' shows. I have the highest hopes that you’ll be able to properly reconnect and appreciate them more soon.

1. The Ren & Stimpy Show


Let's start with the obvious: Ren & Stimpy was a show mired in controversy, constantly pushing the boundaries for what's acceptable in a "children's show." That's why, when they revived it on Spike in the early 2003s, it was a strictly adult venture... which, TBH, sort of took away its controversial appeal altogether.

2. Are You Afraid Of The Dark?


Man, some of those stories have provided me with decades-long nightmare fuel. That's a cruel thing to expose a kid to.

3. The Simpsons


Don't kid yourself. I was raised on the values of the dysfunctional sitcom family. However, all that nuanced satire goes over your head when you're, like, five.

4. Hey Arnold!


I mean, you can definitely watch Hey Arnold! as a kid without any troubles, but, like Football Head himself, the show was truly mature beyond its years. In certain ways, it's almost better to watch today.

5. Cow And Chicken


You know what, this is more about the fact that Pantsless Satan was a major part of the cast than anything else. Bu,t then again, feather boa-wearing Satan was on Powerpuff Girls, and I never had a problem with that. Might just be a personal thing.

6. Rocko's Modern Life


Yeah, I don't even have the emotional energy to get into this one.

7. South Park


Of course we know today not to saddle your kids up with South Park (although I probably would, and that's why it's good I'm not a parent yet). It was a weird monster in the '90s though, and, once you catch a stray episode at a sleepover, it forever warps your tiny little mind.

8. Animaniacs


"No, FINGERprints." The Warners were waaaay too horny for Saturday Morning.

9. Space Ghost Coast To Coast


This one was legitimately geared for adults, but it could also serve as a confusing thing to wake up to if you fell asleep watching Dexter's Laboratory. Like, what the hell, where's Jan and Jace, and why is Space Ghost talking to Fran Drescher?

10. Beavis And Butthead


If you were cool enough to tune into MTV in lieu of Nickelodeon, you might have stumbled upon this, but I'm not sure how lulz-inducing it would've been. The best audience for Beavis and Butthead remain stoned teenagers in 1996 and, like, me.

11. Sailor Moon


I'm actually re-watching Sailor Moon now and I just... even if this isn't the old '90s sanitized dub, I'm still amused by how the cleared out a lot of weirdness on that show. Like, I'm not even talking about the lesbians-masquerading-as-cousins thing. I feel like Sailor Moon R just veers into a weird incest-y direction real quick with the in-love siblings and Chibi-Usa (sorry, Rini's) fascination with her dad.

12. Courage The Cowardly Dog


Technically this barely counts as it debuted in November '99. At the same time... no. Loud no. That dog had a lot of reasons to be terrified. And so do children watching.

Of course, that's not to say that any of these are objectively bad shows. In fact, I prefer to think that they aged along with us, at least in the sense that we appreciate them more once we've aged. So there's that.

Images: Viacom Enterprises; Giphy (12)