There’s a special place in our hearts for our favorite childhood shows. Looking back, many of us have fond memories of sitting on the couch, maybe with a bowl of cereal, and watching Saturday morning cartoons — or on Friday nights, or simply weekdays after school, as networks began to fully embrace the power of kid’s programming and create channels exclusively for the younger generation. We argue about whether Disney or Nickelodeon shows were better, and ponder why cartoons featuring anthropomorphic creatures were so captivating. And we’re delighted that the power of the Internet now allows us to nostalgically discuss and commemorate the programs we grew up with.
But the web also brings out the weird and dark in people. If you spend a lot of time thinking about almost any kid’s show, you’re bound to draw some bizarre conclusions when trying to relate them to the real world. There are theories floating around out there about every child’s program you can think of (especially on Reddit), and some of them really make you think. Could there have been a deeper, more sinister meaning behind these beloved hits?
Take a look at 15 Crazy Fan Theories About Classic Kids’ Shows (That Might Be True).
15. The Simpsons Are Trapped in a Time-Loop
The longest-running prime time television show, The Simpsons, has made a huge mark on popular culture over its 28 (and counting) seasons. In addition to crossover episodes with the likes of Family Guy, Futurama, and even live action shows like The X-Files, the cartoon has (allegedly) predicted the future on more than one occasion– while the characters remain frozen in time.
Though it’s not common practice for animated shows to age up their cast (as they are fortunate to be able to not do so), fans have speculated that Bart, Homer, and everyone else in Springfield are actually the only ones in their planet Earth who haven’t changed with time. Known as the “Tesseract Theory,” the idea is that Springfield exists on a plane that is able to shift throughout the rest of the world, be in more than one place at once, and grow and shrink in size. The theory also explains that people are unable to age in Springfield, but when characters move elsewhere, this changes. This proposed phenomenon is explained more fully here, but there is much more speculation out there, if you go looking for it.
14. The Count on Sesame Street is Feeding on the Kids
While most of the shows on this list are cartoons, Sesame Street, as arguably the most formative children’s program on television, certainly deserves a place here. Airing on PBS for 46 years, the live-action puppets and their human friends made their way over to HBO earlier this year. Throughout its extensive run, there have been plenty of changes to reflect the time, and characters have been added and altered. One such Muppet is Count von Count, who likely has some form of OCD, due to his inability to do anything without counting everything around him.
Though there are quite a few “monster” Muppets, the Count is the only one who really gives off a creeper vibe. So some fans have concocted a theory: perhaps the Count, a vampire in the likeness of Count Dracula, hangs around Sesame Street so he can feed off the blood of the many children who frequent it– and that’s why most of them don’t last more than a few episodes. But what say you about all of the adults who live there? That’s addressed, too: they’re under his spell. So how about it, former child actors: Can you tell me how to get off Sesame Street… alive?
13. Scooby-Doo Was Part of a Soviet Government Experiment
Another show that began in 1969, Scooby-Doo: Where Are You! was the first incarnation of the beloved cartoon dog and his human pals. The gang loved to solve crimes, but what if there was a mystery beyond the mysteries? After all, while Velma, Fred, and Daphne were logical thinkers (Shaggy, not so much), they never did have a response when someone would ask, “How do you have a talking dog?”
One Redditor has the answer: Scooby-Doo was part of Soviet experimentation during the Cold War, in order to prepare him to be sent into space. This actually happened: dogs were used in the ’50s during the Space Race in order to spare human lives. The theory goes on to say that the scientists were trying to create a hyper-intelligent dog– perhaps one that could even communicate what he was seeing. But a kind researcher took pity on the pup, and fled with Scooby to the U.S. There’s a lot more to this one, but consider this: why was the government always foiling the gang’s plans? Maybe because they had a valuable commodity on their hands, in the form of a pooch who might know some USSR secret intelligence.
12. The Magic School Bus Kids Grew Up to Be the Planeteers
This theory is unique in that it involves not one, but two popular 1990s kid’s shows. In fact, the programs have a few similarities. Both were educational in nature, with Captain Planet and the Planeteers focusing on environmental issues, while The Magic School Bus ran the gambit from health to history. Each is set to be brought back in some fashion during this era of ’90s reboots. And both featured a multicultural group of kids learning from their adventures. In fact, maybe these characters were a bit too similar…
Proposed by someone on Facebook several years ago, The Mary Sue once attempted to elaborate on this possibility: maybe Miss Frizzle was actually Gaia, and she brainwashed the children with a desire to help save the planet, then wiped their memories, and used them in her mission once they were older. Other details to this theory include the “missing kids” (Ralphie, Janet, and Phoebe are all accounted for, but Keesha is MIA), but there are still elements to be disputed– for one thing, The Magic School Bus ran from 1994-1997, while Captain Planet began years earlier, in 1990. Oh, and Wikipedia states (without citation) that Carlos is Mexican-American, while his Planeteer counterpart, Ma-Ti, is Brazilian.
11. Pokemon’s Ash is in a Coma and Dreaming Everything
One would have to be completely off the grid to not know at least a little bit about Pokémon. After all, the sweeping craze that was Pokémon Go this summer was just the latest addition to the franchise that includes playing cards, video games, and multiple films and TV series, and that celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Beginning with the Pokémon anime series in 1997, fans have followed the adventures of Ash Ketchum (along with his friends and trainers) as he attempts to become a Pokémon Master by catching all of the creatures.
A very, very extensive theory (which can be read in its entirety on the dark fan theory Wikipedia, Creepypasta) speculates that when Ash was struck by lightning in an early episode of the original show, he fell into a coma, and the entirety of the series has taken place inside his head. There are many aspects to this: different characters represent various parts of his psyche, or ailments that his body his battling. And if Ash were to realize his state, he would suffer brain damage– but he can survive and come out of his coma is he “defeats” all obstacles that come his way. Seems like a lot of trouble for a simple, animated world, but maybe the creators had more in mind than meets the eye.
10. The Care Bears are Voodoo Gods
As far as childhood series go, Care Bears should be relatively controversy-free. A bunch of teddy bears that want to spread love and help out the people of Earth? These creatures adorably crept their way into the TV and toy worlds in the 1980s, mostly disappeared in the ’90s, and made a comeback in the early ’00s– because who doesn’t want to cuddle with a bright plush animal?
But some guy named Dave had to go and destroy the memory of this perfectly innocent franchise. According to his 2005 blog post, the Care Bears are actually Voodoo symbolism. He reasons that “Care Bears” sounds a lot Carefours, a Port-au-Prince, Haiti district known for Voodoo. Symbolism is big in Voodoo culture, and Dave draws connections between various bears and particular spirits or goddesses. He also argues that because the bears like to dress up and wear “disguises” at times, this emulates the behavior of the lwa (spirits) that guard the dead. This might be the most far-fetched theory on this list, but it just goes to show that if you look really hard, there are connections everywhere.
9. Inspector Gadget is Actually Dr. Claw
Another fun 80s cartoon that’s been rebooted, Inspector Gadget followed a dimwitted, trench coat-wearing cop of the same name as he miraculously completed top-secret missions with the help of the technology built into his robot body. Also along for the ride were his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain. The show followed a standard crime-solving and lesson-teaching formula, and the hero somehow always managed to defeat agents of M.A.D.– specifically the leader, Dr. Claw.
As with most animated kid’s series, a lot is left unexplained. For instance, how does one become a robo-cop? Where is the rest of this guy’s family? And why do we never see Dr. Claw’s face? Aside from the obvious allusions to various private eye shows and films, Cracked has solved the puzzle: the evil Dr. Claw is actually Inspector Gadget. He was the crime-fighter, but after an accident, his niece was left to rebuild him– literally. This didn’t vibe well with the now-disfigured original man, so he took revenge. As far as theories go, it’s not as extravagant as some of the others on this list, and certainly not outside the realm of possibility.
8. The Smurfs Are Little Cartoon Bigots
Sensing a pattern here? A lot of ’80s cartoons have made their way onto this list. The Smurfs franchise began as a Belgian comic in the 1950s, later to be adapted into French animated films and spawn a U.S. TV series. Now, like many of the other franchises mentioned here, it’s been rebooted for the computer-animation generation. The little blue guys with the white hats mostly just have adventures and learn lessons from Papa Smurf, while trying to avoid the evil Gargamel.
But look a little deeper, and the connection is kind of eerie here. The costumes are the most obvious parallel– the hats bear a resemblance to those of the Ku Klax Klan, and their leader dons a red one, as the famed white supremacists do. Their nemesis fits a few notable Jewish stereotypes, and his cat is named Azreal, who was the Hebrew Angel of Death. It gets worse: one episode includes a Smurf attempting to make Smurfette his slave, and another is based on an original comic, Les Schtroumpfs noirs (“The Black Smurfs”). One could argue the creator was just a product of his time and country, but that doesn’t excuse the American producers who followed the storylines, does it?
7. Charlie Brown is Dying of Cancer
Speaking of comics, this one might not exactly qualify, as Peanuts was never an actual television series, but the theory is interesting nonetheless. Charlie Brown is the main character of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved strip, which ran for almost 50 years, and spawned numerous TV movie specials. Along with his dog Snoopy, sister Sally, and pals Linus, Lucy, and many more, Charlie Brown became famous to generations of children as he complained and fretted over almost everything.
Leave it to Reddit to once again make things even darker. One commenter shared their own personal theory: Charlie Brown is imagining all of these bad things happening to him. In fact, he seems to be doing it as a way to cope with the fact that he’s actually lying in a hospital bed. Perhaps he feels that even if he’s being treated poorly by other kids in his imagination, at least he gets to interact with them. How sad is that?
6. The Winnie the Pooh Characters Represent Forms of Mental Illness
A.A. Milne first created the now-beloved Hundred Acre Wood gang in a series of poems. He famously named the only human, Christopher Robin, after his own son, and the inspiration for the animals came from the stuffed toys he played with as a child. What began as an imaginary literary world soon came to life on screen when Disney purchased the rights to the now-immense TV and movie Winnie the Pooh franchise that has spanned generations.
Each of the characters has their own very unique personality, with specific issues that they need help from the others to solve. Though many scholars dissect popular culture, this theory comes from a surprising place: a medical journal. According to a paper from the Canadian Medical Association, Pooh is a veritable mess: He has OCD, ADHD, and likely an eating disorder. His friends have their own ailments, most profound of which is Christopher Robin himself — he’s thought to have some form of schizophrenia or another identity disorder, possibly due to lack of parental guidance, as he’s talking to his toys. But we sort of doubt that Milne intended to paint himself as an absentee parent…
5. Curious George is God
Hold onto your (big yellow) hat for this one. This little monkey, who has been made popular through children’s books, on television, and on film, is a special one. Dating back to the 1940s, the Curious George franchise tells the story of a primate who gets into trouble everywhere he goes, yet somehow always makes it back into the arms of his nameless owner unscathed, having saved the day in some way.
How can one monkey have so much impact on a town, and how are the residents okay with this? Once again, a Redditor proposed a theory: Curious George is something of a god to these people, and they’re aware of his many powers. After all, he’s able to protect local businesses from a rough economic climate, eliminate pollution altogether, and just generally prevent any crime or misconduct that might otherwise occur. This theory seems a bit too general to hold much weight, but it at least solves the mystery of how everyone simply knows what the rascal is up to at all times.
4. The Flintstones Actually Live in the (Post-Apocalyptic) Future
During the Golden Age of Saturday morning cartoons, two Hanna-Barbera shows aired simultaneously. Both featuring ordinary families (after whom the programs were named), much like those oft-depicted in the 20th century, but with a unique twist. Many comparisons can be drawn between The Flintstones and The Jetsons, but what if that’s an indication of something else? What if the both series took place in the future?
This theory holds some weight: The Flintstones are living in a world where technology like telephones, record players, and motorized vehicles once existed but, due to a devastating nuclear explosion, they’re now forced to rebuild with stone age materials. What’s more, those who were wealthy enough to leave Earth (like the Jetsons) are living a charmed, high-tech life in space. This doesn’t explain how Dino came to be, or why everything in the world is now named after rocks and minerals, but hey, no theory is perfect.
3. Spongebob And His Friends Are the Seven Deadly Sins
The long-running Nickelodeon hit SpongeBob SquarePants is pretty strange in its own right. Following the adventures of the titular sponge and his many friends– including a starfish, a crab, and his pet snail– as they explore Bikini Bottoms, the series has actually won numerous awards, and spawned a franchise comprised of feature films, theme park rides, and even a short film competition.
As far as the sins theory goes, it’s fairly straightforward. From left to right, we have: Mr. Krabs, the greedy business owner; Squidward, the wrathful next door neighbor; SpongeBob, who lusts for life and loves all of those around him a bit too much; Gary, the gluttonous “cat”; Patrick, the sloth-like dope; Plankton, who is envious of Mr. Krabs and his success; and Sandy, the prideful squirrel from Texas. These certainly aren’t exact: Squidward is more grumpy and annoyed than full of hate, and Gary is, like most pets, simply interested in fulfilling basic needs like eating. But the theory might still hold water.
2. The Fairies in The Fairly OddParents are Timmy’s Anti-Depressants
Another long-running Nickelodeon cartoon, The Fairly OddParents depicts an ordinary boy, Timmy, who has an actual pair of fairy godparents, husband and wife duo Cosmo and Wanda. They grant him wishes, give him advice, and help him get out of the trouble that’s caused by his wishes. There are lots of rules to the fairy godparent arrangement, of which secrecy is an important part, and Timmy is often almost discovered by his evil babysitter, Vicky, or his equally awful teacher, Mr. Crocker.
Timmy’s parents are pretty clueless, and usually far too busy to know what’s going on with their son. This is likely the starting point for this theory, which proposes that Timmy is depressed, and Cosmo and Wanda represent Zoloft and Prozac, respectively. They “appear” when he starts struggling to deal with the problems in his life, and while they don’t make them go away completely, they do make them easier for Timmy to handle.
1. Rugrats Takes Place in Angelica’s Head
For Millennials, the epitome of childhood entertainment was Rugrats. It appealed to both boys and girls, and drew in viewers as young as toddlers and as old as preteens. Even parents seemed to get a kick out of the adult characters. We hung out with Tommy and the gang for nine seasons, a few films, and a spin-off show, and to this day, fan art continues to pop up all across the Internet, as 20 and 30-somethings yearn for their favorite show from simpler times.
Amongst that web noise came a dark, twisted proposition: Angelica, Tommy’s cousin and the oldest of the crew, was the foil of the show. But what if she was actually the victim in her own story? The theory states that all of the other babies were imaginary, and made up from the remnants of tragedies such as Tommy being a stillborn and Chuckie dying at birth along with his mom. Even the later series, All Grown Up!, is accounted for: Angelica turned to drugs as a teenager, and her “creations” came back to her. This theory has been circling the Internet for some time now, and remains very popular. But it will likely have to amended when the inevitable Rugrats reboot takes off.
Did we ruin your childhoods? Sound off in the comments!