5 Cartoon Moments That Would Traumatize The Characters
Cartoons take place in magical universes in which someone can get smashed in the face with a giant hammer and not require months of expensive reconstructive surgery. What is easy to miss, though, is the way psychological trauma gets written off just as easily. Take these five situations, which by all rights should have resulted in years of therapy.
SpongeBob SquarePants: Stealing Your Mother's Panties
SpongeBob SquarePants should be familiar to most of us, seeing how it has become one of the most consistent sources of dank internet memes. In the 2003 episode "Mid-Life Crustacean," Mr. Krabs is having a bad day because everything reminds him that he's getting old. He's forced to eat bran for breakfast and told that his slang is outdated -- which we cannot even begin to relate to, seeing as how our breakfast steaks were fleek AF. To get his groove back, he goes to SpongeBob and Patrick for a night on the town. After a few lame activities, Mr. Krabs wants to bail out. Then this exchange ensues:
Patrick: I guess you're gonna miss the panty raid!
Krabs: The what?
Patrick: I said, "I guess you're gonna miss the panty raid!"
Krabs: Panty raid? You're talking about girls, right? Girl-girls?
Krabs: And you're talking about raiding their dressers for their underpants, right?
Patrick: Oh yeah.
Already you have cartoon characters plotting a sex crime, so you'd expect the wacky twist to be that Patrick doesn't know what a panty raid is. Like, maybe he means "pantry," or something equally wholesome. What you don't expect is that the writers are about to take us down a dark psychosexual journey into Hell. The trio gets a ladder and sets off to a house for the raid. They go in, find the "jackpot," and start celebrating.
But they're loud, and the owner of the house comes into the room and finds them. It's Krabs' mother. Krabs (or as mother dearest calls him, Eugene) turns to his comrades to ask why they didn't tell him it was her house. To which the terrifying response is "Why didn't you ask?"
There are many layers here, each worse than the last. When they're breaking in, Patrick states that they're "panty professionals," which SpongeBob complements with "We score here all the time." To recap, Krabs has been talked by his friends into stealing his own mother's frilly panties (an action which you really don't need anyone to tell you is 100% sexual), and he now has the knowledge that these same friends routinely steal his mother's panties, and think it's perfectly fine for people to steal their own mother's panties.
This is the kind of thing that would make Sigmund Freud point at the screen with a trembling finger, his mouth frozen in a silent scream, blood streaming from his ears. A movie would include a scene like this only as a serial killer's origin story.
The Fairly OddParents: Everyone Would Be Happier If You Were Never Born
If you can't tell from the title, the Fairly OddParents episode "It's A Wishful Life" riffs on the plot of It's A Wonderful Life. It takes the story of a man dealing with suicidal depression and applies it to an annoying child who keeps messing with people's stuff and gets mad when he doesn't receive applause. The child in question, Timmy Turner, throws a fit and wishes he was never born, just so he can see how miserable everyone would be without him.
But unlike in the classic film, it turns out everyone is in fact better off, or even better people, without Timmy. In the vision he's shown, his parents are rich, they have a successful daughter, his best friend is already in college because Timmy isn't around to hold him back, and both of his bullies are suddenly pleasant people. This child finds out that he was a cancer, and his removal was a life-saving cure. Because of this, Timmy ultimately decides to use magic to undo his own birth (another character stops him at the last moment).
The show even implies elsewhere that Timmy's parents didn't want him, and that his birth murdered their dreams, but this takes it to a whole other level. The episode tries to wrap up with a lesson about selflessness, but this child is still sent back to his reality knowing that everything would be better if he simply wasn't there. This is the kind of existential dread no ten-year old can fully grasp. Fortunately, Timmy has the rest of his life to let it sink in.
Cow And Chicken: Tricking Your Sibling Into Eating Your Bodily Fluids
Cow And Chicken is one hell of a show, and it wastes zero time letting you know not to expect a single solitary ounce of sense. Take a grand gander at this, friends:
This opening tells you that 1) the show stars a cow 2) whose sibling is a chicken, 3) both of whom were born to human parents, 4) who aren't bothered by this situation, and whose human status is a little wonky because 5) neither has a head or torso. Bonus: There is a number of anthropomorphized animal buttocks present that cannot be healthy.
The episode "Cow's Pie" has all six of those things. Cow bakes a pie using random items from around the house. Then she, uh, empties herself into the batter:
She bakes the pie and then inexplicably spends the day frantically trying to get Chicken to eat it. The whole episode is that. Cow tries all sorts of tricks to make her brother eat the pie, some of which include dressing up in the lower halves of outfits to impersonate their parents (see "no head/torso" above).
Toward the end of the day, when they return home from school, Cow runs into the house before Chicken gets there and hides all the food. Chicken hasn't eaten all day, so when he's offered the pie this time, he feels he has no choice but to take it. He likes the first bite, then follows up by practically inhaling the rest of it. Cow watches him eat, and after he leaves, she says to herself, "I just don't have the heart to tell him what the secret ingredient is."
So she knows what she just did is weird, and it was presumably the entire reason she was so desperate to get him to eat it. But why? What ritualistic significance did this hold in her deranged mind? Is getting someone to ingest your milk a sign of dominance in the cow world? At best it's a very gross prank, and at worst it's some kind of bizarre power play, a nightmarish truth she can spring on Chicken any time she wants to make him terrified to ever eat anything again.
Dexter's Laboratory: You May Have Murdered Innocents In A Fugue State
Dexter's Laboratory features the usual socially inept child prodigy premise that's seen in a lot of children's shows, but the spin here is that the main character is an American boy with an unexplained Austrian accent. In the episode "The Laughing," a clown has been hired to "entertain" children at a birthday party, but Dexter, like any rational human being, doesn't get the appeal. At one point the clown trips and lands on the ground chin-first. His crooked yellow dentures get dislodged, fly across the yard, and bite down on Dexter's arm.
Later, Dexter begins to transform all werewolf-like, but into a clown. A were-clown, if you will. He goes to a park, where he finds a couple on a bench. He tells them a joke, and then attacks them (with a balloon and pie, but still). He then terrifies them with a fake gun and a tube full of snakes before unicycling away, leaving them both on the ground, frozen stiff with their eyes wide open. They absolutely look dead as hell.
The same thing happens the following night. This time, Clown-Dexter ups the ante by dressing up as a traffic controller at an intersection and intentionally causing dozens of horrific accidents.
Optimistically, several people are disabled for life. Worst-case scenario, dozens are dead. Dexter, of course, has no memory of what he does as the were-clown, but he's brought up to speed by his sister. She eventually finds a way to cure him (while the police are chasing him through the city), and everything returns to the status quo, as is the way of cartoons. Dexter is presumably too young to be prosecuted, or to even fully comprehend the devastation he caused. So there are two possibilities going forward: Either the guilt will crush him once he is older and learns empathy, or it will turn out he's just a sociopath.
The Powerpuff Girls: Your Sister Died Because You Were Lazy
The Powerpuff Girls stars three kindergarten-aged girls who have superpowers. They live in a city that's under constant threat from something or other, and they are its first line of defense. Understandably, these small children become exhausted by a daily routine of fighting giant monsters on top of having to do household chores.
In the episode "Twisted Sister," the girls' solution to this problem is to create a fourth Powerpuff. (They were all created in a lab by a lone scientist, which is how this cartoon chooses to explain single dads.) Now, playing god would be a bit of a challenge for anyone, let alone five-year-olds with no apparent fingers to speak of. As expected, they screw it up. The resulting creation is, let's say, less than perfect.
Nevertheless, the girls are determined to have their time off, so they send the new girl, Bunny, out into the world by herself on her first day alive. Bunny, being fundamentally broken, mistakenly frees felons from prison and throws police officers in jail. The Powerpuffs hear about it on the news and fly out to handle business like they should have been doing all along. They scold Bunny for doing things wrong, and she gets upset and flies away crying.
Then a swarm of criminals attack and beat these three small children until they're unconscious. Bunny hears their cries and comes back to save them. But right before they can regain consciousness, Bunny explodes. Like, literally explodes. And dies. All because she wasn't created according to the proper formula. In one of the girls' own words, "I guess she was unstable, and the blast broke her down into her original ingredients." Which is a fancy way of saying that she's dead because they threw a live lizard into the mix and then punched it.
What's worse is that they never have a chance to make amends. They were unconscious when Bunny came back, after they had yelled at her and told her she wasn't Powerpuff Girl material.
They created a flawed lifeform, then their creation failed at everything it tried, was abused by its creators, and died before they could apologize. But don't worry, girls, you'll be seeing Bunny again -- every time you close your eyes, for the rest of your lives.
KJ Makena is your friendly neighborhood person who agrees with you 100% when you say that he should be in more places doing more things. Send him your love and other things through kjmakena at gmail dot com.
For more, check out The 4 Worst Lessons Disney Movies Taught Us As Kids - After Hours:
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