6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

#3. The Smurfs: Grow Up Alone

The Smurfs live in a seemingly utopian village of singing and sharing. They live among nature, pursue science, magic and the arts and have spectacular adventures. Smurfs don't even have to worry about the horrors of dating or the awkwardness of gender relations, since they don't reproduce sexually. Wait, but what about Smurfette? Screw her, that's what!


Papa Smurf might as well have "Been there, done that" tattooed on his arm.

That bitch is a Yoko if we've ever seen one.

So, What's the Problem?

Childhood is a long and lonely time in the Smurf world.

With life spans that are 10 times longer than a human's, Smurfs do everything slower. In the episode Brainy's Smarty Party, we learn that a Smurf childhood lasts around 150 years. Wait, 150 years of games and Smurfball? That sounds fantastic!

Think again.


Smurfball is terrible.

Your childhood was fun because there were other kids around. You had pals to play kick the can and Rambo vs. Transformers with. The days when none of your friends were around were usually spent whining to your parents about how long it was taking for your friends to come back. Alas, in the Smurf world, you would probably grow up without any peers. Smurfs (in the cartoon) reproduce via a stork that comes "once in a blue moon" to drop off a newborn.

It's not too hard to figure out how often the storks come. There are roughly 100 Smurfs in the village. And in the episode Smurfquest, Papa Smurf specifically said Baby Smurf would live to be 1,000 years old. A millennial life span means the stork is coming roughly every 10 years to keep the Smurf population stable. If it came any more frequently, there would be way more Smurfs. Since there aren't, then either that stork comes once a decade, or else there are a lot of Smurfs routinely dying off-camera without a lot of fanfare.


"Summon the council and prepare the altar. We must make room for this new Smurf."

Poor Baby Smurf is going to be the only kid around his age for most of his childhood, a period lasting about a century and a half. Baby Smurf will be 10 before the next Smurf child is even born (storked?) and around 35 when the next Smurf child is making coherent sentences. And after that, he'll still be at a significantly more advanced developmental stage than the next child. As any child will tell you, hanging out with a much younger kid isn't fun; it's babysitting.

Wait, what about the Smurflings, you ask? Aren't they children growing up together? Well, shit, rhetorical device, you sure do know a lot about Smurfs. But that was a fluke, anyway: The males were actually regular Smurfs de-aged to be children, and Sassette was magically created out of clay by the others, presumably because they were tragically uninformed about the cooties epidemic.


Or because Smurfs have a thing for redheads.

Also remember that Baby Smurf doesn't have any modern distractions like TV, video games or action figures to mangle, like an ordinary only child would. No, the only thing Baby Smurf has is several decades alone to wander Smurf Village, trying to keep himself amused with a handful of sticks while the adults step around him to do their work.


Well that, and the teddy bear messiah.

#2. Popeye: Eternal War

Popeye cartoons feature Bluto and Popeye, both of whom possess superhuman strength. Though Bluto is normally slightly stronger than Popeye, the latter can always resort to his spinach, which grants him even greater powers (thus allowing him to secure the affections of his paramour, Olive Oyl, who apparently only gets wet when somebody's face is being bashed inside out).


Or from extreme nautical action.

So, What's the Problem?

It's not just Popeye who becomes strong from eating spinach. It's everyone. Several times in the cartoon, people like Bluto, Olive and even Swee' Pea ate a mouthful of spinach and experienced Popeye-like surges of physical prowess. Within the Popeye universe, spinach equals instant mutant freak brawn. And with that, society has just descended into a nigh-eternal and bloody global war.


It's like crystal meth meets the atom bomb.

Why? Well, remember in the X-Men movie when Senator Kelly quite reasonably questioned how society would function when hundreds of people with super powers were walking around? Expand that argument to every single person on Earth. What kind of chaos would cheap, ubiquitous super-juice have on society? How would police keep order? Would democracy give way to a Randian, might-makes-right free-for-all? The implications are too widespread. Let's reel in the scope for now and focus on one key part of the Popeye universe: the military.

The Popeye universe is set, for the most part, in World War II. In 1941, Popeye is enlisted into naval service to help fight the Axis. That's right: The military was apparently so desperate for warm bodies that even 40-year-old stroke victims were eligible for the draft. Anyway, it's important to note that before joining the military, Popeye was wearing normal civilian clothing. It was only during active duty that he started wearing the Navy uniform.


The toll of spinach abuse is clearly evident here.

In the episode "The Mighty Navy," we see Popeye's first day in the armed forces, during which he takes out eight enemy battleships and a carrier filled with fighter planes, solo. One would think that Popeye, high on spinach, could wrap up the war in a week. It's a Dr. Manhattan-like scenario: Who's going to defy the force with a demigod in their ranks? But strangely, the war doesn't end in that episode, or at all. It's left open-ended, a wellspring the writers frequently go back to throughout the series. How is this possible? What army can possibly stand against a man who drops an entire armada on his first day, by himself?


After D-Day, France was reduced to an island chain.

We're already given the answer: The only thing that has ever defeated Popeye was another fighter on spinach. In the episode "Hospitaliky," Bluto eats some and puts Popeye in the hospital. So for that war to continue, the Germans and Japanese would also have to possess spinach-powered supersoldiers, if only to counter the unrelenting, psychotic avatar of violence that is Popeye. That's not exactly a stretch to imagine: It's friggin' spinach. It grows out of the ground, and it doesn't even need processing.

Now, remember how we mentioned Popeye's uniform? The one he only started wearing after conscription? Yeah, he continued to wear it well after 1945, when our version of WWII came to an end. Popeye wouldn't change back to civilian clothes until 1978 in the All New Popeye Hour. WWII, in the Popeye universe, was continuously fueled by murderous supermen high on magical plant extract, and it lasted for 39 years.


That means Popeye killed a greater portion of Europe than the bubonic plague.

The approximate death toll for WWII was roughly 60 million souls, and it lasted for about six years. Extrapolating that number out means that Popeye's war -- the slapstick, wacky conflict full of swollen, anvil-shaped fists and punches to the moon -- cost the lives of roughly 390 million people.

It's no wonder they laugh at violence; it is all they have ever known.

Moody by Name
The spinach-fueled Japanazi hordes turned Western civilization into rubble.

#1. The Real Ghostbusters: Hell Comes to Every Man

The Real Ghostbusters follows the animated versions of the beloved movie characters -- not those two weirdos and their goddamn ape -- as they keep New York safe from the undead. With their proton packs and traps, the crew captures ghosts and deposits them in a containment unit located in the basement of their firehouse.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Janine was waaayyy more bangin' in the cartoon.

So, What's the Problem?

The containment unit essentially condemns human souls to hell (or at the very least a brutal, eternal ghost prison).


We've always felt the doorway to hell should be marked with black-and-yellow caution tape.

Although it seems obvious, we tend to forget that the ghosts in the Real Ghostbusters universe are the spirits of dead people. Some of the specters were demons and monsters, yes, but the bulk of them were just poor souls doomed to haunt the Earth for their afterlife. The Ghostbusters captured these spirits, and then, without a trial or even so much as a "the fuck, bro?" they dumped them into their containment unit, forever.

Try to destroy the world? An afterlife in the containment unit. Simply annoy the new tenant? Also an afterlife in the containment unit.

The Ghostbusters aren't a police force, remember; they work for pay. If you've got a ghost and five hundred dollars and don't so much want the ghost part anymore, they'll come by, grab it and toss it into the unit. Their proton packs don't discriminate: Once they actually captured the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and ruined Christmas.


Sadly, we never got a follow-up "Ghostbusters vs. the Holy Spirit" episode.

But why do we think the containment unit was such a bad thing? They never show it in the movies. Ah, but they do in the cartoon: In a few of the episodes, we actually get to see inside of the containment unit and confirm that, yes, it is basically a hellish dimension filled with every freakishly scary monster they have ever fought.


Pictured: A ghost being fucking terrified of something.

So, shit, you just died. That sucks. But hey, maybe you decide to stick around and haunt your apartment for a while, because you kicked off in the middle of a Firefly marathon and you really wanted to see how it ended. Then the new tenant moves in, and doesn't appreciate you moaning "Riiiiveeerrrr" every night in the hopes that he'll catch the hint and fire up the Netflix. So he hires the Ghostbusters. Half an hour later (minus commercial breaks), they've ensnared you with their agonizing nuclear lassos and then shoved you into a tiny steel cage. When they finally let you out, instead of a dark tunnel with a beautiful and forgiving light at the end, you find yourself in the basement of a run-down Manhattan firehouse with the furious spirits of murderers, madmen, rapists, demons and elder gods from the pain dimension. You will live there until the end of time.


Enjoy your eternity of winged puma rape.

It's like being convicted of jaywalking and getting dumped into Sing Sing with no trial and a sentence of eternity, and -- oh yeah -- all the other prisoners are giant blue cobras with a thousand screaming mouths.

For more WTF moments in cartoon history, check out The 6 Creepiest Things Ever Slipped Into Children's Cartoons and 5 Classic Cartoons They Don't Want You To See.

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