They might be made for young demographics as a way to entertain and educate, but children's TV shows aren’t always appropriate for their target audience. We associate these shows with innocence. Later we discover that they were corrupting our impressionable minds all along - and we love them all the more for it. At the end of the day, it’s great when a show offers something for all age groups and taste buds.
One prominent adult topic that’s found its way into kids’ shows throughout the years, is substance abuse. On paper, substance abuse is a pretty dark subject matter. Yet creators have found ways to make nods to it entertaining and silly nonetheless. Most of the time, the references just goes over people’s heads.
That said, sometimes topics like this are deliberate to make youngsters aware of the dangers of substance use. Other times, it’s simple entertainment to amuse parents and even the creators themselves. Whatever the reason is, the history of children’s television is littered with references to getting baked; subtle or otherwise.
Therefore, without further ado, here are 15 Times Kids’ Shows Were Secretly About Getting Buzzed.
15 BUGS BUNNY FLOATING AWAY
Bugs Bunny is no stranger to controversy. We’ve documented his racist history in the past, but did you know he liked to get high as well?
In the Loony Tunes episode, “Water, Water Every Hare” Bugs finds himself the prisoner of an evil scientist with sadistic plans. This leads to both of them inhaling a substance known as “ether” which results in some woozy happiness, slow motion movement, and Bugs floating towards freedom and falling asleep in a river.
If anything, this should serve as a warning: don't fall asleep in the wilderness while you're high. You never know where you might end up.
Suffice to say, this is just one of many moments in the Loony Tunes canon that can be deemed inappropriate. That said, would we have Bugs and co. any other way?
14 THE HALLUCINOGENIC TRIP IN JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
It’s no secret that some of the best music in history was made under the influence of naughty substances. From Black Sabbath to Snoop Lion, getting buzzed does light a creative spark in some talented folks. But we should always be wary of the dangers of popping something illegal before picking up an instrument. At the end of the day, drugs are dangerous. Jem and the Holograms, however, got that message across quite effectively.
In the episode “Alone Again,’’ a girl named Laura, coping with the death of her parents, is invited to play at Jem’s next concert. However, feeling not too confident in her abilities, she takes a pill to help inspire some confidence. Needless to say, it doesn’t go too well.
This is a strong anti-drug episode that doesn’t shy away from its subject matter by any means. Other entries on this list at least disguise their drug metaphors somewhat, but this was as subtle as a hammer to the skull. But that was the point. Still, maybe if the creator' of the live-action movie took a little something it might not have turned out so bad.
13 THE “GAK” ON DOUBLE DARE
Better yet, Double Dare’s own host Marc Summers - a role model to many young people - was fully aware of what “gak” meant. Spilling the beans to Geeking Out, he said: “We had some interesting people on our team. Do you know what 'gak' on the street means?” When the host whispered her response in shock, he laughed.
Such a revelation is enough to destroy anyone’s childhood. And following the news earlier this year that the show could be returning, Nickelodeon’s jokes will continue to go over children's heads, quite possibly for years to come.
12 PUNKY BREWSTER SAYS NO TO DRUGS
Growing up, there were times most of us wanted to be part of the cool clique. Other times, peer pressure made us do things that got us in trouble. In the case of the titular character from the ‘80s sitcom Punky Brewster, it turned out being part of the in-crowd wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
In the episode “Just Say No”, Punky and her pal Cherie start hanging out with the cool kids only to discover that their new pals want them to do drugs. This leaves the girls with two choices: go along with it for the sake of popularity, or do the right thing and just say no. They made the right choice in the end and America was proud of them.
This episode is a prime example of how Nancy Reagan’s “War On Drugs” campaign seeped into American pop culture at the time. Whatever you want to say about the Reagan administration, but most of us can at least agree that discouraging children from indulging in narcotics was a good idea.
11 COOKIE MONSTER CLEARLY HAS THE MUNCHIES
Cookie Monster is an addict and he has it bad. His constant demand for biscuits (“Me want cookie”), googly eyes, and erratic behavior are proof of his unhealthy habit. Furthermore, his endless appetite is obviously a case of the munchies. He doesn’t just limit his food intake to cookies either; this puppet will consume anything edible. He’d fit right in at dorm parties.
There’s a funny Family Guy skit where we see the poor guy sitting on the toilet with a lit spoon full of cookie dough. Maybe Seth MacFarlane and co. took it too far, but even the innocent nature of Sesame Street can’t hide the fact that their lovable, voracious monster is seemingly baked out of his mind 24/7.
We could also make a strong case for The Count being stoned as well. Heck, Sesame Street might not be such an innocent place after all.
10 BETTY BOOP’S LAUGHING GAS
During her original run, Betty Boop was no stranger to controversy. For a start, she’s widely regarded as an early sex symbol among people who find cartoon characters attractive. However, she’s also considered a symbol of female sexual empowerment and that made her resonate with adult audiences. As such, grown-up content wasn’t uncommon in cartoons featuring Betty Boop.
But this was the 1930s. Drugs were still frowned upon for the most part. The idea of legalized marijuana in the future would have been shaken off with an angry fist. When the episode featuring Betty getting high on laughing gas at the dentist’s office was aired, censorship raised its hammer and came crashing down with furious anger.
Maybe the drug connotations were unintentional (bear in mind, nitrous gas can do funny things to people), but you can see why people made that connection. Especially back then.
9 BUSTER, PLUCKY, AND HAMTON GETTING HAMMERED
The friendship between Buster, Plucky and Hamton is one of the highlights of Tiny Toon Adventures. These rascals are always getting up to mischief and worrying about the consequences later. However, the time they got blitzed is up there with their naughtiest deeds.
In “Elephant Issues’,’ the trio find a bottle of beer and decide to keep it for themselves. At first, they’re hesitant to try the beverage, but it doesn’t take long before they’re inebriated worse than Charlie Sheen during his partying prime. They even steal a car.
The episode was supposed to be a warning against the dangers of alcohol, ending with a message encouraging kids not to cave into peer pressure. What the creators didn’t understand, however, was that the episode was extremely funny and any moral message might have gotten lost in the laughter. Maybe that's why it got banned.
8 MARIJUANA IN DEXTER'S LABORATORY
Dexter’s Laboratory is full of inappropriate jokes that went over our heads when we were young and innocent. From sexual innuendos to accusations of homophobia and more, the show just couldn’t resist pushing the boundaries of good taste from time to time. Naturally, pot came up.
In an episode titled “Mountain Mandark”, marijuana isn’t just humorously alluded to. We actually catch a glimpse of the planet as well. The story sees the titular Mandark on a nature hike with his free-spirited parents, who you just know are no strangers to experiencing the highs the wilderness has to offer in their own right. We only see the plant briefly, but it’s there.
That wasn’t the only time drugs were referenced in the show, either. In another episode, “100% pure” is mentioned in regards to flour being chopped up in a seedy back alley warehouse.
7 HEY ARNOLD'S GRANDPA LOSING HIS BRAIN CELLS
While Hey Arnold! didn't show Grandpa Phil blazing a fat one, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to put 2+2 together and figure out what he meant when he mentioned losing brain cells at Woodstock. Looking back at the show now, this reference also explains why Phil is quite ditzy and simple.
In the said episode, Arnold is trying to encourage the old man to go back to school because he didn’t graduate. However, Grandpa Phil doesn’t have the confidence in his brain to process and retain knowledge, given how much waste he laid to it while partying during his "free love" days.
Are you spotting a trend yet? Here we have another example of a Nickelodeon show slipping in an adult reference. It must have been awesome being part of their creative team during the ‘90!
6 REN EATING SOAP IN THE TUB
Yep, it’s another Nickelodeon show -- and perhaps the most inappropriate one of them all. Ren and Stimpy was transgressive, weird, offensive, and no stranger to controversy back in the day. Naturally, it didn’t sit too well with a lot of parents, either. Hence why it found its core audience among college students.
Even though the show was chock full of inappropriate humor, the episode where Ren is in the tub eating soap and going all-out insane is particularly noteworthy. Especially when you recall the bath salt zombie craze from a few years ago that was all over the news.
Perhaps Ren and Stimpy was being prescient and highlighting the dangers of eating washing products? But most probably, it was likely just being outlandish and gross for our amusement. Maybe it's a good thing for the sake of moral decency to leave them out of the upcoming Nicktoons movie.
5 UNDERDOG'S SUPER ENERGY PILL
Whenever Underdog was low on power and needed to replenish, he would sometimes turn to drugs to give him that big boost. “The secret compartment of my ring I fill, with an Underdog super energy pill,” he would cite before popping the capsule and springing back into action with full might.
A pill that gives you more energy? That’s not all that different from the effects of the drug they call "speed." If you saw someone recite those lines at a Calvin Harris concert before dancing and sweating the rest of the night away, it wouldn’t seem out of place.
For the release of the Ultimate Collection on DVD, the word “pill” was replaced with “vitamin” to avoid any comparisons to drugs or medication. Vitamins do give us energy and make us more powerful, so at least that’s a serviceable way to cover their tracks.
4 POPEYE'S SPINACH IS WEED?
In the old days, spinach wasn’t just a name given to a healthy vegetable that tastes like boiled death. It was also a street name for the ganja before it was more commonly known by simpler slang like the dope, wacky tobacky, and green.
Popeye, the man, represented admirable values. He worked hard, ate good food, grew big muscles, and stood up for what’s right. We can overlook his chain-smoking because no one is perfect. What we cannot overlook, however, is the fact that spinach, in this case, is clearly a reference to nature’s most addictive plant.
Maybe if he just ate it, we could rule it off as a man eating a common type of food. However, given that he literally put the spinach in his pipe and smoked it, it's not crazy to assume that the sailor was secretly getting buzzed.
3 PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON IN GENERAL
Based on the song of the same name, Puff the Magic Dragon was originally an innocent affair. According to Leonard Lipton, who co-wrote and performed the song, the song isn’t about puffing on any magic dragon. It’s about the hardships and coming to terms with growing old.
Yet it’s difficult not to associate the song and, by extension, the cartoon with getting high. They’ve both become so synonymous with smoking ganja that they've basically inherited that meaning. Sorry guys, but you didn’t do yourselves any favors here.
In the cartoon, Puff the Dragon has magical smoke rings which make people reveal their inner secrets. The story also revolves around a fire-breathing creature taking a young boy on a magical journey to find his confidence and hone his creativity.
Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but everything is peppered with stoner sensibilities. Go tell someone a magic dragon named Puff took you on an adventure - they probably won’t assume you overcame hardship.
2 MIGHTY MOUSE'S MAGIC POWDER
Mighty Mouse was short-lived, but had a pioneering influence. Originally airing between 1987-1988, the show has since developed a cult audience and appreciation as a precursor to some of the wacky, outlandish animation that followed in its wake. Created by Ralph Bakshi (Wizards) and John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy), it was always going to push boundaries, and those boundaries included sneaking in references to cocaine.
The titular superhero rodent was prone to sniffing a white powder that looked an awful lot like nose candy, which caused outrage among concerned parents who felt the show would turn their youth into dirty, dope fiends. Most probably turned out fine.
Controversy eventually led to the show being canceled mid-way through the second season, but its legacy as a trendsetter for absurd, edgy kids' entertainment has stood the test of time.
1 SHAGGY AND SCOOBY ARE OBVIOUSLY STONERS
Are Shaggy and Scooby stoners? It's a fair assumption, but the question has been a cornerstone of pop culture since the show’s inception. All the signs point to the fact that this pair of rascals were clearly baked.
Let’s look at the evidence. They constantly have the munchies and drive around in a van which represents flower power. Shaggy, meanwhile, speaks with the type of “far out, maaaan” tone we associate with connoisseurs of weed. Furthermore, it’s a well-known fact that stoners are scared of ghosts.
According to Scooby Doo lore, the stoner characteristics of Shaggy and the titular dog was a deliberate in-joke by the animators that flew over the heads of the network executives at the time. While it’s not exactly a subtle joke, this is one debate that will rage on for years to come.
What do you think? Are there any cartoons we missed out that are clearly about getting buzzed. Let us know in the comments below.