Children's cartoons usually present idyllic worlds full of innocence and wonder. Even when there's some darkness, strife or conflict within them, the universes themselves are quirky, adventurous and just generally a hell of a lot more fun than this shitball we all spin around on. Except that's not always the whole story: If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that some kids' shows are actually taking place in dystopian hell dimensions that make our world look like Candyland.
6Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: Life in a Shattered Economy
Scooby-Doo cartoons, in their many incarnations, are about four teenage friends and their dog who all travel around solving mysteries. The gang always ends up in some kind of spooky location where a seemingly supernatural monster is terrorizing the local population, but eventually, our heroes solve the mystery and reveal the monster to be a disguised criminal. So even when it seems terrifying, it all works out for the best.
It's not like the real world's justice system makes much more sense.
So, What's the Problem?
The criminals are all super-geniuses, and not one of them can make an honest living.
Almost every locale in the Scooby-Doo universe looks like the economy has just taken a nosedive. Even their nice "vacation" spots look like bad neighborhoods in Detroit.
"Gee, Scoob, it sure is spooOOOooky how many out of work mechanics this scene implies."
In the 25 episodes of the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? cartoon, our gang comes across four deserted mansions, two abandoned castles and an empty ski resort, amusement park, ghost town, mine, Hawaiian village, airfield and mill. And of the 27 villains the gang encounters, 23 are motivated by monetary gain via theft, smuggling or land speculation. The Mystery Machine crew isn't running into domestic disputes or drug-related crimes. They are dealing exclusively with people who need money so badly that they voluntarily squat in the basements of abandoned houses for the off-chance of landing a paycheck. And if the villains don't need money, they need work. The remaining four motives? Winning a dog show, getting an acting gig, revenge for getting fired and a hatred of robots. Those who don't need money or work are acting out of a hatred for robots, the quintessential job stealer.
"Beep bop boop. No, I'm not union, why do you ask? Bop boop beep."
And Scooby-Doo villains are not run-of-the-mill criminals: They all have the uncanny ability to manufacture realistic monster costumes, project full-scale holograms and carve out high-tech hideouts in abandoned mineshafts. Many of them already had impressive vocational skills prior to their criminal lives -- three of the villains were PhDs, two were lawyers, one had the ability to produce near-identical forged paintings, one could repair boats, one was a magician, one was a stuntman and one could hypnotize people.
See that? That's the educational system, art world, maritime engineering and entertainment industries -- all in the toilet. Each of these villains showed creativity, intelligence, diligence and ambition. In our world, they would easily be employed, maybe even famous. But, in the universe of Scooby-Doo, it simply wasn't enough. The Scooby gang ran into a new, desperate genius every single week for decades. Either brilliance is simply run-of-the-mill in their universe, or else the entire economy has collapsed, and what we're witnessing is the death throes of society itself. Although there are signs that the sandwich ingredient and dog marijuana industries are booming, so it's probably the former.
With all the ghost pirates and ghost ships around, shipping must be in a bit of a slump.
5The Jetsons: They Burned the Sky
The Jetsons takes place in the futuristic utopia of Orbit City where George, the man of the house, is employed full time at Spacely's Sprockets for a total of nine hours a week. Robots and computers handle nearly all of the grunt work, leaving the bourgeois citizenry plenty of leisure time to shop for such frivolities as multi-dresses and ice cream for their space dogs.
There's apparently no space-fuel crunch.
The Jetsons live high above the clouds in their Skypad apartment. In fact, all of the important places in their lives are above the clouds, including George's workplace, the schools and the shopping centers. Wait, why is "in the sky" the safest, most cost-effective place for an elementary school?
So, What's the Problem?
The natural environment is gone.
Also, we have some troubling questions about the state of human/robot relations.
The surface of the Earth is never shown, and the Jetson family never visits it. They often venture off-world like it ain't no thing, but never down to their own planet. We only have a few stray clues that point to the state of the Earth's surface: In Jetsons: The Movie, Rosie pushes a button to have the Jetsons' apartment rise above the planetary smog.
We too adhere to the "standing up real high" school of environmentalism.
And in The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones movie, when George visits the past, he makes an offhand comment that grass is something he "remembers from ancient history."
When something as ubiquitous and hardy as grass -- something that grows in freezing tundra and burning desert alike -- is "ancient history," the only logical conclusion is that nothing grows on the surface of the planet. It is so polluted, irradiated or burned that no life exists there. The fact that George Jetson hints at the fate of the Earth in a Flintstones crossover actually has even more worrying implications:
In the Flintstones universe, primitive man enjoys roughly the same quality of life as modern man, but only by virtue of animal exploitation. A camera, for example, is just a box with a bird that pecks the image into a stone tablet, a vacuum cleaner is a woolly mammoth trunk, and so on. The main problem is that these aren't just animals. They're intelligent: They think, speak and joke. They turn to the camera and say things like "It's a living" or some other glib line before dejectedly resuming their "jobs." Jobs that entail extreme suffering and humiliation: The steam whistle at Fred's job, for instance, is a bird. It's activated by yanking its tail until it screams in pain.
Fred's alarm clock is also a bird: The snooze function is activated by punching its tiny skull in. Just for doing its fucking job and sounding the alarm that Fred himself set.
If the Flintstones and Jetsons exist in the same universe, just in different eras, and there are no dinosaurs in the Jetsons cartoon, then somehow the dinosaurs from The Flintstones, like ours, have gone extinct. But our dinosaurs were just dumb beasts, and they went extinct long before humans had evolved. In the Flintstones universe, humans and dinosaurs still coexist. They're actually dependent on one another. One is not going extinct without affecting the other. So in the span of time between The Flintstones and The Jetsons, some cataclysmic event occurs that kills off just the creatures, but not the humans. And the Jetsons universe, with its scorched, unusable Earth, hints at what that event might have been: The dinosaurs, like every other creature on Earth not brought into the sky to dance and amuse future man, were either killed off through massive environmental negligence once we finally learned how to replace them with technology, or else, like in The Matrix, we simply burned the sky in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to stop the great dino uprising.
Their corpses were fuel, and we needed our sport utility oblongs.