The success of Rugrats on Nickelodeon puts it in the conversation as arguably the greatest Nick Toon of all time. A unique show premise would see the series focus on the babies that spent time together interacting and talking to each other when parents weren’t around. The characters of Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, and Lil all tried to embark on their own journeys behind the backs of the adults that missed it all.
Angelica came into the picture as the older child that made things tougher for the babies. Quite a few stories in Rugrats would see the show ahead of its time. The progressive nature of some plots along with ideas that never came to television before made it unlike any other cartoon at the time. Fans still hold nostalgia for this iconic animated series today. Find out just what made it so special with ten plot lines from Rugrats that were ahead of its time.
10 The Story of twins struggling to form their own identity
The twin characters of Phil and Lil DeVille had a few episodes which go in-depth about their early struggles in the show. Rugrats was one of the first shows to showcase the plot of two twins struggling to develop their own identity when everyone links them together.
Phil and Lil specifically grow tired of people confusing them and attempt to develop their own identities. The reveal is that they remember they’ll always be a part of their own identities while still having their own interests. This was a new story for a kids show in the 90s, especially on Nickelodeon.
9 Parents taking advice from a child psychologist
Books, online articles and doctors are all common today when parents want to get another perspective or learn more about the parenting lifestyle. Didi Pickles was a huge proponent of reading articles and watching specials from child psychologist Werner Lipschitz.
The parents of Tommy meet Lipschitz and another psychologist in the series to get a better understanding of Tommy at different points. An older school line of thinking led to few television shows even contemplating something like this, but Rugrats was quite progressive in terms of parenting.
8 Dads often stayed at home to watch the kids
The gender roles of the parents in Rugrats were significantly ahead of their time in various episodes. Didi was considered the primary breadwinner of Tommy’s family as she had a teaching job. Stu was the freelancer that worked on inventions at home hoping to discover the next big thing.
Rugrats often had the male parents watching the kids in general while the mothers were working. Even the grandfather Lou would do all the daily tasks of taking care of the kids when both parents were busy. Rugrats erased gender norms in parenting for their series.
7 Chuckie and Phil struggling with gender stereotypes
One specific episode featured even more detail about how much Rugrats looked at gender stereotypes and broke them down. Chuckie and Phil grow jealous of Lil and the other female characters for getting to wear dresses that allow them more comfort.
The two boys experiment with wearing them as well, even though others at the playground make fun of them. Rugrats empowered both Chuckie and Phil to stand their ground as they just wanted to wear dresses. The style of men wearing dresses or skirts would become popular years later thanks to Kanye West and Jaden Smith.
6 The bond between Tommy and Spike
Rugrats used the plot of Tommy’s love for the family pet dog Spike in a few episodes throughout the series. The love between a child and the pet is common now, but episodes about that on kids’ television shows in the '90s were few and far between.
Tommy defends and supports Spike any time he is in any kind of trouble. Spike’s love of Tommy also provides an emotional tale as the dog often stands up to other animals and humans larger than him out of love for his closest human friend.
5 Chuckie being open about missing his mom
One of the most emotional episodes of Rugrats featured Chuckie discussing how much he missed his mother. The show went a while before explaining that Chuckie’s mother passed away at a young age leaving Chas to raise the son on his own.
Rugrats allowed the story to play out in the honest fashion of a child missing his mother. The Rugrats in Paris movie would see Chas fall in love and meet his future wife. Chuckie’s story of accepting a new mother figure in his life along with a stepsister added another story ahead of its time.
4 Angelina's mom as a powerful businesswoman
Most kids’ shows in the 90s would feature the father having an important job while the mother either had a smaller job or just raised the children at home. Rugrats went the opposite direction by having Angelica’s mom Charlotte as a powerful businesswoman.
The importance of Charlotte’s job often makes her too busy for family gatherings or connecting with the other parents. However, it was still cool to see a female character portrayed as such an important person at her place of employment, thanks to Rugrats.
3 It Showcased the popularity of Godzilla
One of the sillier elements of Rugrats having a plot ahead of its time featured the consistent presence of Reptar. The fictional dinosaur character in the series is based on Godzilla as all the kids in the movies and most of the adults are obsessed with it.
Rugrats somewhat predicted the future as three massive studios produced Godzilla movies were released in North America shortly after with more coming. The show was ahead of its time in showcasing that a Godzilla-like character could be a phenomenon in pop culture.
2 Tommy struggled with having a younger brother receiving more attention
The Rugrats Movie featured one of the more emotional stories ahead of its time. Tommy was excited to welcome a new baby brother into the family when Dil was born. However, the changes of having a new baby get more attention led to Tommy feeling neglected and in pain.
This is a situation many children struggle with when getting a younger sibling for the first time. Most television shows avoided getting that deep in the 90s, but Rugrats wanted to show the reality of the scenario. Tommy eventually bonds with Dil to realize the positives of being a big brother are worth it.
1 Holiday specials about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa
The Christmas special episodes of animated series in the 90s provided fun and easy ways to score big ratings. Viewers often tuned into the holiday season to enjoy the heartfelt episodes. Rugrats had a tremendous Christmas episode, but they didn’t want to keep going back to that well.
Future holiday seasons would see Rugrats dedicate episodes going into the history of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Kids of other religions and backgrounds were able to get their version of the Christmas special. Rugrats did an outstanding job representing the cultures well to provide representation at a time when it was hard to find.