Pixar is famous for creating kids movies that adults can also love. The funniest jokes whoosh over children’s heads and leave parents chuckling into their sleeves.
But not everyone can be Pixar. The line between subtly mature and semi-vulgar is a fine one, and plenty of shows end up crossing it whether through tone-deafness, inappropriate gravity, or outright indecency.
Before you judge the shows’ writers, imagine being in a room of other reasonably funny adults, knocking out jokes for children season after season. How long before one of those hilarious can-you-imagine makes it into a script? You don’t know what the network will let you get away with until you try.
Astute readers may also notice that most of the entries are from the '90s or earlier. Whether Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network’s Golden Age just happened to coincide with their dirtiest writing is a topic for another time. The point is, there are a lot of things that would never have been approved today.
Here are the 15 Most Inappropriate Things Kids Shows Have Done
15 One Woman for an Entire Village (The Smurfs)
The Smurfs are really confusing creatures. They all seem to have one dad, Papa Smurf, and one love interest, Smurfette. The character of Smurfette is so notorious, she’s even had a term named after her. The Smurfette Principle applies when there is one female in an otherwise all-male cast who becomes the sole focus of romantic attention.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out Smurfette was actually created by the evil wizard Gargamel to sow jealousy and strife amongst the Smurfs. Now that’s some old-school, misogyny.
The eventual addition of a second female smurf named Sassette did little to ameliorate the show’s distorted gender dynamic. The recent movie revivals have done little to fix this issue as well.
14 Rocko Working at an Adult Hotline (Rocko's Modern Life)
Rocko’s Modern Life was about the day-to-day existence of an anthropomorphized wallaby, set in the fictional O-Town. The show was notorious for its neurotic characters, biting satire of American consumerism, and crude innuendos.
In episode eight of the sitcom’s first season, Rocko tries his hand working at an adult hotline after losing his job at the Kind of a Lot O’ Comics store.
If Rocko’s raunchy use of the phrase Oh Baby didn’t spell the situation out to young viewers, the sign next to him that read "Be hot, Be naughty, Be courteous" certainly would have. It gets even more awkward, as it turns out Rocko is speaking with his next door neighbor, the insatiable Mrs. Bighead.
This scene may have been the show’s most inappropriate joke, but it had a close competitor in pretty much every episode.
13 Delivering a PSA about AIDS (Captain Planet)
When eco-villain Verminous Skumm breaks into a doctor’s office and rummages through the files, he discovers a young basketball player Todd Andrews, voiced by a young Neil Patrick Harris, is HIV positive.
Skumm goes on to spread malicious rumors about Todd, and the disease of HIV-AIDS. For instance, that it can be contracted through casual contact. Todd is driven out of town by an angry mob before Captain Planet magically appears and hits the local teen populace with the truth.
Why the shows’ creators thought teens wanted sexual health advice from Captain Planet is baffling - although not as baffling as why Skumm thought ruining a teenage athlete’s reputation would further his plans for world domination.
12 SpongeBob's Naughty Anemone (SpongeBob SquarePants)
SpongeBob may be the most beloved kids’ show of its generation, but its writers were never afraid to tread dangerous waters.
In the episode "Your Shoe’s Untied" in the second season, Gary walks in on SpongeBob watching a naughty sea anemone flaunting its stuff on TV. SpongeBob then quickly switches to a football game, claiming he was looking for the sports channel, but not before the audience gets a glimpse of the sponge’s dirtier interests.
To be fair, the dancing anemone on screen is so divorced from anything actually racy that most young viewers wouldn’t understand the reference, only that SpongeBob was watching something he was embarrassed about. Unsurprisingly, that didn't stop multiple concerned parents from complaining.
11 Flash's Performance Issues (Justice League)
Jokes about The Flash having issues in the bedroom have been around for a while. They are mostly found on forums or YouTube comments between fans and these are jokes made by adults for adults.
It is far more shocking when animated show Justice League took a crack at its own speediest character in an exchange between The Flash and Hawk Girl.
After The Flash brags about being the fastest man alive, Hawk Girl quips “Which might explain why you can’t get a date.” There is no way of interpreting this joke other than as a dig at Barry Allen’s performance. Frankly, we don’t know how the gag got past the censors in 2002 as shows were already becoming increasingly more anodyne.
10 An Arabic Country Called ‘Carbombya’ (Transformers)
In what was surely the peak of their offensive heyday, the Transformers cartoon series set an entire plot-line in a place called the Socialist Democratic Federated Republic of Carbombya. The country was ruled by xenophobic tyrant Abdul Fakkadi.
As the sign outside Carbombya’s capital proudly stated, the city had a population of 4,000 people and 10,000 camels. The camel jokes didn't end there either, as the nation’s citizens used terms like "I swear on my mother’s camels."
The shows’ writers modeled their fictional state on Gaddafi’s Libya, down to its reservoir of fine oil and hatred of American imperialists. However, if there was any element of clever satire, it was drowned out by ham-fisted offensiveness, even prompting Lebanse-American voice actor Casey Kasem to quit the show.
9 Mojo Jojo in Prison (The Powerpuff Girls)
The Powerpuff Girls creator Craig McCraken originally pitched his show as Whoopass Stew!, based off a short film he had made while at CalTech. Cartoon Network forced McCraken to change his title for younger audiences, but many of the animator’s adult sensibilities broke through the network's censorship over the show’s six season run.
One particularly off-color joke involved Mojo Jojo stuck behind bars at the end of an episode called "Cootie Gras." As the curtain falls, another inmate starts cuddling up to the dismayed villain, while the narrator jokingly announces that love is in the air.
Some viewers have interpreted this as a rape joke and inappropriate not just for children’s TV, but television in general. To make matters worse, the show makes the same joke in different guises twice more in later seasons: once more in jail and again when Mojo Jojo winds up in a dog pound next to a particularly aggressive pitbull.
8 Grandpa Lou's Dirty Movie (Rugrats)
Everyone loved Grandpa Lou on Rugrats, but some may have missed, overlooked, or blotted out a scene that revealed the old man’s more exotic tastes. In one episode Grandpa is tasked with looking after Chuckie and Tommy. He naturally plops them in front of the TV with a couple of rented Reptar movies, but not before revealing another video that was only for after the kids went to bed.
Grandpa's choice ends up being something called "Lonely Space Vixens", which featured a buxom blue extraterrestrial on the cover. The fictional film has since become the stuff of internet legend, even boasting its own urban dictionary page and multiple YouTube videos.
Apart from being inappropriate, the throwaway joke is just plain odd. Alien themed porn is hardly a cultural touchstone for any generation.
7 The HotDog and Bun (The Ripping Friends)
The Ripping Friends: The World’s Most Manly Men was a Canadian animated television show that ran for one season between 2001 and 2002. Its creator, John Kricfalusi, was also responsible for The Ren & Stimpy Show, and brought a similar sensibility to both projects.
Each Ripping Friends episode was accompanied by a compilation of shorts, depicting the Manly Men solving their fans' problems. One such short featured a hot dog and bun arguing over why hot dogs came in packs of twelve, while buns came in packs of eight.
The argument ended with a pacified hot dog literally slipping inside his erstwhile enemy, in a genuinely disturbing reel. Turns out Sausage Party wasn’t as groundbreaking as all the critics claimed.
6 Dexter's Assistant (Dexter's Laboratory)
Boys who watched Dexter’s Lab on the brink of adolescence may well remember Dexter’s assistant Candi.Dexter hires Candi as a replacement sister after firing Dee Dee; but his new right-hand woman looks more like a seductive secretary. Candi checked almost every stereotype, complete with a short office skirt, revealing button-up top, and high-heel shoes.
The real adult humor comes in when Dexter asks Candi to dance like Dee Dee. Her immediate response saying that it will cost fifty dollars extra signals Candi is either a quick-witted opportunist, or a practiced call-girl with a fixed price-list. However, the question proves moot, as Candi quits after learning that Dexter’s Lab isn’t a reality TV show.
It's also just really weird that Dexter would ask her to dance like his sister in the first place, but we'll leave one alone for now.
5 A Dark Storyline (Tom and Jerry)
Tom & Jerry’s notorious "Blue Cat Blues" episode ends with Tom and Jerry sittig on a railway track, waiting for a train to put them out of their misery. An internet urban legend wrongly states this was the final Tom & Jerry episode, when in reality the show ended two years later in 1958.
"Blue Cat Blues" reads more like a cautionary drama in the vein of The Lost Weekend than a children’s television show. Told mostly in flashback, and narrated by Jerry himself, the episode reveals how Tom fell in love with a beautiful white feline.
Unfortunately, he has his heart broken after the faithless gold-digger leaves him for the rich tomcat Butch. Jerry feels sorry for Tom, but consoles himself with the thought of his own faithful gal, Toots. But then Toots conveniently drives past the pair with her new man, the mouse’s faith in humanity vanishes and he joins Tom on the tracks.
4 The Carpet Munching Episode (Cow and Chicken)
Cow & Chicken’s ‘Buffalo Gals’ episode was banned by Cartoon Network after a single airing. True to its name, the episode was about a gang of female bikers called the Buffalo Gals, who would randomly break into people’s homes and munch on their carpets. The gang, led by Munch Kelly, also frequently discussed softball, using a variety of thinly veiled slang, like pitching and catching.
The episode’s constant references to cunnilingus were so lazy they barely qualify as innuendo, and fall well beneath the standard of double entendre. It's obvious now that this episode was only interested in the shock value. While clever winks and nudges are one thing, ‘Buffalo Gals’ falls squarely in the lazy writing category.
3 The Chokey Chicken (Rocko’s Modern Life)
Rocko’s Modern Life makes a second appearance on the list for its outrageously named fried chicken franchise, the Chokey Chicken. The chain was eventually renamed to Chewy Chicken in the fourth season, although earlier episodes containing the explicit title continued to air.
While you could give the show the benefit of the doubt and assume that Chokey Chicken referred to the franchise’s low-quality meat. In fact, the episode "To Heck and Back’" depicts Heffer choking on a chicken rib-cage. But given the show’s long rap-sheet of innuendo, it seems likely Joe Murray was referencing choking the chicken, not being choked by one.
Chokey Chicken was one of the few businesses in O-Town without a separated O in the title, such as Ton-O-Noodles, House-O-Paint, and Lot O’ Comics.
2 Squidward's Depression (SpongeBob SquarePants)
SpongeBob SquarePants has made multiple suicide jokes over its eleven year history. Yet some of the most egregious occur in "Are You Happy Now", an episode in which SpongeBob discovers that Squidward doesn't have a happiest memory, so the friendly sponge tries to help create one for him.
The entire episode is about depression, but it peaks in offensiveness when Squidward loops a rope from the ceiling and declaring that he can't ever be happy - before slowly hoisting up a birdcage from off-screen. Another tasteless scene involves him putting his head in an oven, only to pull out a tray of freshly baked brownies.
Fan boards and comment sections are full of dismayed reactions to the episode, calling it out as the darkest episode in the series.
1 The Prince Joke (Animaniacs)
The catch-22 of kids show innuendo, is that the dirtier you make a joke the less likely a child is to catch it. However, if the child manages to pick up on what the joke is actually saying, the potential impact on their innocent minds increases. We sincerely hope no children caught the double meaning of this gag, made on the Animaniacs in 1993.
The joke is hard to summarize without getting explicit, but suffice to say that it involves a cheesy mix-up, two mice, and a disturbingly aroused Prince.
The worst part of the entire scene is perhaps Prince’s cheeky smile after the question is popped; we’re not sure what kind of sign-off the singer had to give on the scene, if any at all, but it was hardly great branding in retrospect.
Did we miss any inappropriate jokes you remember from kids shows?