5 Grossly Inappropriate Jokes Hidden in Children's Cartoons
Cartoon writers have the unenviable task of creating something a toddler will love, without it making mom or the babysitter want to blow their own brains out. So, the way they do this is by throwing in little racy jokes they know will go over the kids' heads.
But, as we've mentioned before, some of the stuff they slip past censors is pretty shocking ...
Yosemite Sam Braces for Prison Rape
Warner Bros. has been making Looney Tunes cartoons since 1934, back when they played before movies in the theater instead of on Saturday mornings on television and were routinely seen by way more adults than children (and because it was the 1930s, the cartoons contained way more Nazis). So it's pretty much always been standard practice for the writers and animators to throw in jokes aimed specifically at the grown-ups in the audience.
The transition from movie theaters to children's television didn't compel Warner Bros. to stop sprinkling risque humor into the otherwise G-rated antics of Bugs Bunny, and we're not even talking about all the times that Bugs tricked Elmer Fudd into belching ruinous shotgun blasts into Daffy Duck's face.
For example, in the 1995 episode "Carrotblanca," Bugs manages to trick Yosemite Sam into locking himself in prison. As soon as Sam realizes his mistake, he turns around to discover that he is trapped in a cell with a Island of Dr. Moreau-era Marlon Brando lookalike wearing pink bunny slippers and a "nobody can hear you" grin.
Yosemite Sam's cellmate is a bulbous commercial fisherman with an exposed midriff, a pink shower kit, and a singular desire to remind Yosemite Sam that there is but one bed in their shared dungeon. The scene lasts only for a second, but it isn't exactly bursting with subtlety -- Bugs Bunny has just sentenced Sam to be prison-raped by an impossibly beefy bunkmate for all eternity.
There is no other way that gag could possibly be interpreted, although it does manage to provide some context for Sam's general antagonism towards Bugs Bunny. This is something of a running gag in the world of cartoons, by the way. There's another prison rape reference in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. He shows his pet snail two bars of soap and with a wink warns him not to drop them.
It sounds like a nonsense warning (who cares if you drop a bar of soap?) unless you know it's a joke phrase used to warn people about getting raped in a prison shower. As in, "Don't drop the soap, because when you bend over to get it another inmate will shove his cock into your ass."
And speaking of cartoon references to anal penetration ...
Arthur Almost Gets an Anal Probe
Arthur is a long-running educational cartoon series on PBS starring some kind of rat/aardvark creature and his equally difficult to classify animal friends, who teach young children important lessons about school, bed-wetting, and not making fun of kids with asthma. It's basically exactly as tame as you'd imagine a cartoon whose highest aspiration is to teach little kids not to be assholes would be.
Then there's the bizarre episode "The Contest," which parodies the animation styles of several other popular cartoon series, including fellow kid-friendly shows like Dexter's Laboratory and tap-dancingly adult programs like Beavis and Butthead; Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist; and South Park. Because what preschooler doesn't delight in the occasional Dr. Katz reference?
The point when things really get out of hand occurs during the South Park homage. It's baffling enough that Arthur would reference a show in which the main characters throw the word "fuck" around like rice at a wedding, but the specific episode of South Park being referenced is the accurately titled "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe," wherein Cartman gets a hunk of sentient metal embedded deep within his asshole by marauding extraterrestrials.
In the Arthur episode, Arthur (depicted in South Park's trademark cardboard cut-out style) is kidnapped by aliens and taken aboard their spaceship. Arthur is put on a table:
And hit with a beam that makes his clothes fly off:
Arthur says, "You're not going to eat me!" because he, unlike the writers, doesn't know what source material is being referenced. Specifically, this:
But just exactly at the moment when the adult viewers are saying, "Oh holy fuck they're going to show Arthur getting his anus smashed by an alien probe oh god why," the aliens abruptly change their minds and eject him from the ship. It's a clever little "See what almost happened there?" wink from the writers, where what "almost happened" was the main character getting anally violated. Which at this point we're convinced is some kind of standard in-joke among cartoonists.
Spider-Man Makes a Semen Joke
The Spectacular Spider-Man, oft-referred to as the greatest Spider-Man cartoon ever made, was praised for its sharp dialogue and its ability to freshly portray the innumerable characters in the Spider-Man universe while still remaining loyal to the source material. The slavish adherence to character accuracy held true even for characters that would normally be disqualified from children's programming, such as Black Cat:
Black Cat is a thief/occasional vigilante who routinely tries to thwart Spider-Man by dealing out massive, incapacitating boners that are impossible to conceal in a skin-tight unitard and thus neutralize his ability to pursue her without breaking several public decency laws. She does this with the cunning use of sexual innuendo, a character trait that The Spectacular Spider-Man decided must be included, despite the fact that its target audience was around 10 years old.
For example, in one episode, Spider-Man is attempting to apprehend Black Cat by chasing her around a warehouse, spraying his web all over the place like Jackson Pollock. After some of it lands on her hand, Black Cat teasingly warns, "You better not get your goop in my hair."
For you innocent-minded types who may not know: There is a long-running joke in the franchise that Peter Parker's webs are an analogy for puberty and semen. And by "joke" we mean we're pretty sure that's what the original writers intended, too -- he hits high school and suddenly starts squirting the white stuff all over his bedroom. Just to drive the point home, Spider-Man replies to Black Cat with, "Don't worry, it comes off with ice or peanut butter." We can safely say that this scene makes The Spectacular Spider-Man the first children's cartoon to give helpful tips about getting cum out of your hair.
Quick Porn Jokes in Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants
In the early '90s, Nickelodeon aired a show called Rugrats alongside the more grown-up Ren & Stimpy Show, presumably because they thought the goofball sweetness of the former would cancel out the coarse insanity of the latter like rubber boots in an electrical storm. Parents loved Rugrats because it was a violence-free, family-friendly show about childhood naivety. Children loved Rugrats in spite of all that.
But Rugrats still managed to deviously slip some things in under the radar. In one episode, Grandpa Lou rents some movies for the titular infants to watch. In addition to two age-appropriate films starring the kid's favorite atomic dinosaur, Reptar, he also whips out a copy of his "personal favorite" movie, Lonely Space Vixens, to which he adds, "That's for after you go to bed."
And now you're wondering what that NickToons logo is made of.
We can safely assume that most of the kids watching this episode didn't pick up on the connotation here, because until you reach puberty, Lonely Space Vixens just sounds like a movie about intergalactic fox hunting. But the gag strikes every adult viewer square in the forehead with the disquieting mental image of a loopy septuagenarian sitting on the couch with the lights off, pummeling his aging, rickety erection while a gang of babies are sleeping in the next room. Further adding to the discomfort is the knowledge that this is Grandpa Lou's favorite film, which means the Rugrats' parents have entrusted their care to an elderly pornography hound.
And then we have SpongeBob SquarePants, which makes its second appearance on this list. In one episode, SpongeBob is intently watching live-action footage of a sea anemone wriggling back and forth. When his pet snail enters the room, SpongeBob quickly hits the remote and stammers, "I was just looking for the sports channel!" like his boss walked up to his cubicle and he's desperately trying to close Snapchat.
Why would SpongeBob be so ashamed at being caught watching a nature documentary? Well, for anyone older than 12, it's pretty clear that SpongeBob was watching the sea-dwelling invertebrate's version of pornography. Look at his goddamned face -- the only thing that could make his arousal clearer would be if the crotch of his square pants suddenly sprouted a boxy Minecraft tower.
Barney Makes a Dick Joke on The Flintstones
Sure, The Flintstones were known to peddle cigarettes on occasion, but that can't really be held against them considering everyone in the 1960s smoked like an elderly divorcee by the time they were in second grade. The jokes on The Flintstones rarely got more sophisticated than blatant chauvinism and using woodpeckers as typewriters. That is, except for the time they quietly slipped a thunderous dick joke into an episode right under everyone's nose.
In the episode, Fred and Barney take a trip to the costume store, as cavemen are wont to do. Fred asks Barney what kind of costume he's going to get. Barney replies that he'll buy something that makes him look tall, so Fred suggests he buy another head. Barney retorts, "What do I need three of them for?" (The second head, of course, being his penis.) They then break into hysterical fits of laughter, because 95 percent of this show was Fred and Barney cracking themselves up.
That's right -- the guys are sharing a yarn about Barney's throbbing, bulbous cock helmet in a puzzling example of getting a pretty explicit gag past the infamously hard-nosed censors of the 1960s. The show's producers even had the balls to follow it up with the laugh track, just to make sure everyone watching caught the joke.
The truly baffling thing is, there is absolutely no other way to interpret what Barney said. That means some Standards and Practices guru watched the episode and either A) got the joke and put it on the air anyway because they thought it was too funny to pass up, or B) didn't understand the joke at all and thought Barney was just spitting gibberish all over Bedrock in a way that amused both Fred and the prerecorded studio audience. But at least they resisted the temptation to throw in an anal rape joke.
Matt Pass is a comedian in New Jersey, and you can follow him on Twitter. Cole Norton can be found in your dreams and on Twitter, as can Dennis Fulton. Jeetesh comes from the mystical lands of India, and you can send him a friend request on Facebook. Carolyn can be found on her blog or on Twitter.
For more grossly inappropriate content in children's media, check out 17 R-Rated Easter Eggs You Never Noticed in Disney Movies.
Related Reading: Our cartoons still aren't nearly as hardcore as France's children's cartoons. They feature cannibalism like it ain't no thing. And if that's not crazy enough for you, let this North Korean cartoon explain how geometry can help you defeat America. Since we've already taken things to a depressing place, check out the dark origins of these lovable children's characters.