If you thought Nickelodeon shows were just for kids, then you’re probably not paying attention. You might be surprised to find out that most of your childhood favorites are actually laden with dirty jokes, innuendos, and what could seemingly be some very inappropriate hidden messages.
A look back on some of the most entertaining shows of our youth has turned up some interesting theories on what might have actually been going on there. In fact, some of these hidden messages come across as so blatantly obvious, you’d have to wonder how you ever missed them in the first place.
Maybe it was naivety, or the simple fact that we were kids, but either way, what was happening on our TV screens could easily be perceived by some to be highly unsuitable for young, persuadable minds. Whatever it was that was going on in the heads of the storytellers who came up with this stuff, the good news is that Nickelodeon shows definitely served an educational purpose. The bad news is that it just might not be the kind of “education” that our parents bargained for.
Here’s a deeper look at some hidden messages in Nickelodeon shows they didn’t think you’d notice.
15 SpongeBob SquarePants
In what is undoubtedly one of the most questionable Nickelodeon shows of all-time, SpongeBob Squarepants has loads of controversy surrounding it, and plenty of fan theories that still have people trying to figure out exactly what was going on there. While speculation has been tossed around about the characters representing the seven deadly sins, or each of them being on drugs (SpongeBob himself is said to be on methamphetamine) the truth is, there are enough dirty jokes slipped in there that you don’t really need to search for other monstrous motives.
In one episode, SpongeBob is straight up caught watching porn. Yep, porn. There are also plenty of hidden (or not so hidden) phallic jokes, and for some reason, Patrick just loves to get naked. Aside from the visuals, carefully crafted lewd dialogue is also placed for your enjoyment.
The adventures of Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and Angelica first premiered back in 1991. The show quickly garnered a large following which, in turn, produced a stream of movie adaptations. But if you thought it was safe to take your kids to the theater for this one, you probably weren’t paying close attention. Whether it was the fact that it was the ‘90s or the adult humor went unnoticed, Rugrats had more R-rated jokes than a Tarantino film.
While euphemisms had fans believing that the kids might actually be dead, the true buried treasure was in all of those inappropriately placed wisecracks. The jokes about circumcision and male bonding were hard to miss, but there were also “adult” relationships implied between the kids, and, of course, the obvious point that Grandpa was a dirty old man who liked to watch adult videos after the little ones went to bed. Nothing was off limits when it came to these toddlers.
13 The Fairly OddParents
Conspiracy theories on The Fairly OddParents range from the fairies (Cosmo and Wanda) symbolizing anti-depressants to the whole thing being a dream. However, once again, in the true spirit of Nickelodeon kid shows, the often-overlooked message is the usage of totally inappropriate sexual innuendos.
If you take another look, you’ll notice that it actually becomes a strong recurring theme throughout the series. Butt cracks, cleavage, and booty shaking are predominately featured in episodes, as are jokes about Timmy and/or his mom ending up with their clothes off. Timmy seems to take the brunt of things, with funny dialogue having to do with Uranus and remarks about being alone in his room with paper towels. There are even jokes about swinging couples and pedophiles. FOP is filled with hidden humor that makes it just as fun to watch for adults as it is for kids.
12 The Ren & Stimpy Show
When it comes to sick and disturbing cartoons, these two set the bar pretty high. The show’s dark sense of humor not only led to a disagreement with Standards and Practices, but one brutally violent episode in particular -- which depicted a character nearly getting beaten to death -- was actually so bad that the network refused to air it.
In retrospect, it’s a wonder how this kid’s show got away with any of the stuff they did. Aside from the overwhelming amount of violence, there was also plenty of nudity and simulated sex. There was also that one time when Ren & Stimpy ended up taking a bath with a strange couple. This show terrorized our TVs for a good part of the ‘90s, proving to kids across America that you can still have fun with violence and masochism. The (hopefully not hidden) message here: don’t do drugs, kids.
11 The Angry Beavers
Aside from the glaringly obvious title, this series left us many clues that although it might have been disguised as a kid’s show, there was nothing innocent about the subject matter. Really, it was case closed after you realized that The Angry Beavers storyline is centered on two bachelor brothers who leave home to go live out exciting lives in the forest. Norbert and Daggett Beaver would often partake in escapades that would reveal their less attractive sides, leading to things like a superhero alter-ego called, "Muscular Beaver." If that’s not enough, the shenanigans these two got into could be summed up in episode titles such as, "Born to Be Beavers" / "Up All Night, Mission to the Big Hot Thingy" / "I Dare You and Beaver Fever" / "Same Time Last Week".
All in all, the evidence is pretty damming.
10 Henry Danger
As a 13-year-old boy who fights crime and hides out in a place called the “Man Cave,” Kid Danger might be good at keeping a secret, but when it comes to hiding sexual innuendos, he's not so smooth. While there is a ton of non-kid-friendly behavior going on -- including everything from references to violence, to learning how to lie without getting caught, to Captain Man having a thing for a married woman (who happens to be Henry’s mom) -- the subtle hints at awkward pubescent sexual moments are really what stand out here.
Not only have there been running jokes about boobs and balls, but things even get weirder with off-the-cuff remarks about what happens between two men in prison. Honestly, this show might actually have less to do with people discovering Henry’s secret identity and more to do with Henry discovering his own sexuality.
9 The Wild Thornberrys
Up to snuff with most of the other Nicktoon shows, The Wild Thornberrys is a story about a family of filmmakers who travel the world in search of rare animals. Sure, it sounds innocent enough, but there are plenty of takeaways to be had here.
While it’s entirely possible that more than one member of the family was suffering from depression, insanity, and/or schizophrenia (Eliza’s ability to talk to animals could play as a PSA for mental illness), the one prominent hidden message here is that they’re all on drugs. Eliza’s “gift” was said to have started due to a spell cast by a shaman, which some believe is code for one wild acid trip. Those same people believe that each of the characters were either on crack, cocaine, and/or alcohol. Talk about putting the “fun” in dysfunctional.
8 The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Looking back, the 12-year-old boy genius who was bullied and teased for being short had all the warning signs of a terrorist in the making. Jimmy’s wild inventions, more often than not, could have easily been used as weapons of mass destruction. Along with an IQ of 210 and an incredible knowledge of science, at times, he was over-confident, arrogant. and irritable; leading him on occasion to be impatient and unsympathetic. Even though Jimmy always used his power for good, the writing was definitely on the wall that things could’ve turned bad at a moment’s notice.
His charm and his insecurity about being “normal” could read to some like the brewing of a perfect storm. Luckily for us, the show never took that dark of a turn. On the other hand, those episodes where they actually dressed him in black certainly left us all wondering.
7 Rocko's Modern Life
The mid-‘90s gave us this twisted animated sitcom about a wallaby named Rocko and his friends. Set in the fictional O-town, the show followed Rocko, an Australian immigrant, along with his pals Heffer, Filburt, and Spunky, who found themselves in precarious situations that seemed to have a lot to do with the kid-friendly subject of masturbation (insert sarcastic tone here).
Somehow, this series managed to slip in scenarios that involved Heffer making some suggestive hand gestures under the covers and even had him “playing with sausage” on TV. Not only was their favorite restaurant called “Chokey Chicken”, but Rocko’s No. 1 hobby was actually referred to as "Jacking." They also loved to play “Spank The Monkey.” So many jokes, it’s hard to know where to stop. However, showing an office door with the sign “Dr. Bendova” hanging on it really does beat them all. Hands down.
6 Hey Arnold!
Arnold was a 4th-grader who lived with his grandparents, Phil and Gertie, and was always helping his schoolmates solve problems. However, further examination reveals that it might have been Helga who you should’ve been paying more attention to all along.
Where most Nick shows were riddled with dirty jokes, Hey Arnold! was actually super depressing at times, tackling a fair amount of hard life lessons in its day. While Arnold was facing some major abandonment issues when it came to his parents (and sitting in front of not-so-subtle signs like the one glimpsed above), Helga was likely dealing with her mom being an alcoholic. All you have to do is go back and watch one clip to see her slurring her words. This led to Helga resenting her older sister, violent outbursts, her refusal to listen to authority, and her borderline crazy infatuation with Arnold. All of that is enough to land any kid in therapy for life.
If you haven’t seen the bizarre case of CatDog, just know that it bears an unpleasantly strong resemblance to The Human Centipede. That being said, there’s enough evidence to suggest that the Nicktoon (also not unlike the science-fiction/horror film) could be the result of some experiment gone terribly wrong.
There’s also a tailless blue mouse, a Rancid Rabbit, and a gang of resilient bullies known as the Greaser Dogs to help drive that message home. In a town full of other anthropomorphic animals and humanoids, one can only guess what had to have happened to CatDog that would have connected the two different personalities. Either way, whether it was Dog’s steroid use or Cat’s subtle racist remarks, no matter how you look at it, this show was not suitable for children, or animals for that matter.
Cartoons may have cornered the market for a while on what passed for easily overlooked, inappropriate messages, but it wasn’t the only genre Nickelodeon used for stuff like this. Victorious was a sitcom that aired from 2010-2013, and followed a teenager (Victoria Justice) as she attended a high school for the performing arts.
Since real-life high school includes an endless barrage of sexual innuendoes, Victorious did a good job at implying that truth, without overtly stating the obvious. The show also took the liberty of hinting at the idea that most teenagers, on some level, are emotionally disturbed. From a socially awkward ventriloquist who carries around his puppet as if it were real, to Cat displaying the behavior of a bipolar schizophrenic, it is entirely possible that this school was really a gateway to something much bigger – like grandiose delusions.
This sitcom about a girl who creates her own web show with her friends was initially geared toward children, preteens, and kids in their early teens, but eventually earned a large following among older teens and even adults. While there have been questions about the sexual undertones which could subjectively pass for hidden messages, it’s more likely that what actually escaped you had to do with the inconspicuous references to Drake & Josh.
There are wild theories about how iCarly, Drake & Josh, Victorious, and Zoey101 are all connected, and this show knew how to poke fun at that. Little reminders appear to be scattered throughout the entire series. In fact, in the world of executive producer Dan Schneider, each of his proceeding shows contained hidden correlating messages that only the keen observer and hardcore fan would pick up on. iCarly could easily be thought of as the Inception of all Nickelodeon shows.
2 You Can't Do That on Television
This show ruled Nickelodeon in the ‘80s, giving kids a look at sketch comedy in a Laugh-In-style manner that had never been done on television before. While some people might have misconstrued its purpose, the main idea behind YCDTOT was that it was deliberately meant to be anti-educational. Through gross adult humor, the show ended up teaching us all valuable life lessons that couldn’t have been learned from any school.
Somehow, seeing kids utter the words, “I don’t know,” followed by a bucket of green slime being poured over their heads, instilled a good sense of morality in all of us. At one point, the show was so controversial that it managed to get an episode banned here in the U.S. You oughta know that it also helped launch the career of Alanis Morissette, which oddly enough, turned out to be the biggest hidden message of all.
Parents may hate it, but if you ever sit a child down to watch this show, they instantly become mesmerized with what’s on the screen. The same is true for adults who prefer their Teletubbies with a side of THC. So, is the hidden message about drugs or social commentary?
Here’s what we do know: underneath the costumes, the actors were racially diverse. The performers stated that they each added their own culture when it came to playing their costumed character. Also, according to conservative pastor Jerry Falwell, one of the Teletubbies is likely gay. Somehow he gauged that because Tinky Winky had a handbag, was purple, and had an antennae shaped like a triangle (the gay pride symbol), that made Winky a homosexual. In the end, no matter what hidden message you believe, remember that the Teletubbies were inspired by Carl Jung. That means that whatever you think is happening, probably isn’t. Then again, maybe it is?
Are there any hidden messages in Nickelodeon shows that you noticed didn’t make the list? Leave us your answers in the comments!