With their bright colors, out-there storylines, and fantastical characters, cartoons feel like an obvious TV choice for a kid. Which is why these cartoons that had some very adult jokes are unsettling to re-watch as an adult. It's hard to believe that you missed all these funny moments, but, if you had parents who were even a little bit protective, a lot of the themes these animated shows slyly allude to would have sailed right above your head. And that is as it should be. Honestly, half of the fun of re-watching these shows as a fully grown person is the realization that you now know a hell of a lot more than you did at the age of eight.
Get ready to leave your own televisual Garden of Eden. Those cute, goofy little stories? Laden with references to porn, masturbation, euthanasia, and accidental pregnancies. And that's just for starters. So if you were wondering why your parents were so vehemently opposed to you ever watching a single episode of Rocko's Modern Life or SpongeBob SquarePants, this is your primer. Print it out, keep it in a drawer, and, when you have your own kids, you'll know what to stop them from watching.
1. 'SpongeBob SquarePants'
Don't let creator Stephen Hillenburg's claim that SpongeBob is "almost" asexual fool you. Clips like the above, showing the animated sponge watch some late night TV footage of the sea anemone before guiltily scrambling for the remote when Gary enters, beg to differ. And this wasn't the exception in terms of adult humor: we got a joke where we were led to believe Squidward was going to hang himself due to depression (before the rope he's tugging produces a bird cage with a singing shell inside it instead), an off-color rape joke where SpongeBob tells Gary not to drop the soap with a wink, and the time SpongeBob blows up what look like condoms, not balloons.
2. 'The Powerpuff Girls'
Again, it's easy to be suckered in by those gorgeous visuals. After all, as we know from the show's intro, the Powerpuff Girls are literally made of sugar and spice and everything nice (plus the mysterious Chemical X). But when you re=watch closely, you'll notice moments like the above accidental pregnancy reference, an oddly sexual moment between (a fake) Ms. Bellum and the Mayor, and the fact that Buttercup possibly slips the Professor some condoms before his date. And that's just for starters. The show even features the Mayor licking a pussy(cat).
It's about babies, so it can't have adult themes, right? Wrong, so wrong. There's references to porn, like the above, while the episode "Cradle Attraction" references Fatal Attraction and touches on S&M, with Chuckie and his new fling Megan discovering they like pushing each other over, teasing, and taunting each other. But that's not all: there's also jokes in Rugrats about masturbation and euthanasia (when Grandpa Boris jokingly phones Dr. Kevorkian, an champion of physician-assisted suicide, when listening to Stu talk at length about his trip to the Grand Canyon).
4. 'Dexter's Laboratory'
Again, on watching this you may have been fooled by Dexter's outfit; science was the series' main focus, surely? But clips like above drive home just how sexual the show was. Whether documenting "Daddy's special bathroom privacy time" or Dexter discovering the joy of whacking the weasel at Chubby Cheese, the real theme of the series was pure, unadulterated physical loving (whether of yourself or your wife).
5. 'Hey Arnold!'
Moments like the above, in which Helga suggests that Arnold makes not her body, but her, ahem, "girlhood" tremble were typical for the show. It touched upon the joy of touching female genitals in a moment where boarder Oskar Kokoshka wants to "pet the kitty" at a reading group, of Arnold getting some girl's number (fine, but he's 9-years-old, so this seems a little off), and then, of course, there's the substitute teacher Arnold develops a crush on, Miss Felter. Say it out loud: "felt-er." Just a coincidence?
6. 'Rocko's Modern Life'
Remember Filburt's song about becoming a chimney sweep? It starts sweetly enough, until we get to the line “I jump down your flue and spank it clean with my brush till I can’t spank it no more.” The cartoon seems compelled to add in adult content wherever possible, including the sign at Rocko's stint as a phone operator in the episode "Canned" telling employees to "BE NAUGHTY!" (just what sort of phone job was it?) as he repeats "Oh baby" into the phone, the gratuitous mention of Rocko's jock strap, and a very weird moment when Rocko goes to pick berries.
Sex jokes are to Animaniacs what carrots are to Bugs Bunny; they're literally everywhere. There's that joke about fingerprints/Prince (see above), the time Yakko thought "conjugate" meant "consummate," and, of course, an incredible cartoon tribute to the iconic Mrs. Robinson stocking scene from The Graduate.
8. 'Ren & Stimpy'
OK, so this was clearly one of the more obvious adult-oriented cartoons on the list. But with Stimpy and Ren's cousin Sven stating that their moment in the closet is "private" before we can hear Stimpy stating "And I'm a sword swallower" pushing the boundaries, we can't not talk about this. Ren & Stimpy also covered masochism and even broached the tricky topic of someone being mentally differently abled with about the usual amount of grace and tact you might expect from the show.
Again, not so unexpected given the show's winky tone and insistence on making every moment of the plot appealing to both kids and adults alike. Probably its most infamous scene? Freakazoid asking Cosgrove why he never got married and him replying "I like meat too much." But, as our hero wisely points out, he could be married and still eat a lot of meat. Was this him advocating for a bisexual open marriage? Possibly.
10. 'Ed, Edd n Eddy'
Oh, man, how did a show making jokes about snowjobs get past censors? It's hard to say, but this series was riddled with sexual innuendo, from references being made to porno mags when Eddy finds a magazine hidden under a pillow titled Chicks Galore (which, to do the show justice, actually has pictures of tiny yellow chicks inside) to, of course, when Edd gets all excited about a sextant (an astrological instrument used to measure the angular distance between two visible objects).
11. 'Batman: The Animated Series'
Harley Quinn doing her best take on Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" is pretty... adult. It's hard to believe any kid would have quite gotten the reference. Which is consistent with much of the humor of the piece, which centers on serving obnoxious dudes not just subpoenas, but small subpoenas (as a disguised Harley Quinn states) and Quinn appearing in a skimpy red nightdress before crawling onto the Joker's desk and asking him "Don't you want to rev up your Harley?" Um.
So, just because something is targeted predominantly at kids doesn't mean it's necessarily 100 percent kid-friendly. In fact, the above seems to imply that the sunnier and cuter a show's aesthetic, the more intense and grown up the topics it covers are. If there was ever a better reason to watch old favorites with a whole new perspective, this has to be it.