If you’re like me, there’s a part of your soul that has a very soft spot for animated cartoons, regardless of how old you get. When executed properly, cartoons can end up being pieces of generation-spanning entertainment that parents can genuinely enjoy along with their kids, instead of just being shows that contain repetitive, grating songs that will absolutely never leave your head…ever.
So, there are good cartoons, great cartoons, and annoying cartoons…and then there’s are the subversive cartoons — the shows that are so clever they can entertain young and old, all while being subversively naughty in the process. These are the cartoons that taught us jokes and pop culture references that are usually outside of the age demographic the network thought the cartoon was aimed at. Now I’m not talking about cartoon series aimed specifically at adults – Family Guy or Aqua Teen Hunger Force, for example — I’m talking about the shows that would have shocked our parents had they actually payed attention to what their kids were absorbing.
Being something of a connoisseur of subversive and naughty cartoons, I was delighted when I found out this week that Genndy Tartakovsky finally released the lost episode of Dexter’s Laboratory. Dexter’s Laboratory, which featured a boy genius and his insufferable sister amongst other things, was always rumored to have a “lost” episode which featured the siblings swearing and doing other less-than-innocent things. Dexter’s Laboratory, to me, was always one of the “good” cartoons. Not naughty per se, but definitely a bit askew in a way that’s enjoyable to all ages.
Or so I thought. But now I may have to gleefully reassess (hehehe, “asses”) my feelings about the series. Here’s the episode, Rude Removal, and if you’ve got 7 minutes, it’s well worth it:
So now that Dexter’s Laboratory has finally lived up to its true naughtiness potential, it’s got me thinking about other great “naughty” and subversive cartoons. So, make sure your parents aren’t listening and your kids are out of the room, because here are the Top 5 Best Secretly Naughty Cartoons of All Time!
5. Adventure Time
Adventure Time has only been around for a few years, but dang if it isn’t becoming a bit of a personal obsession. The show follows Finn the human and his shape-shifting dog, Jake, and their adventures in a strange (and if you read-between-the-lines, post-nuclear holocaust) world. It’s a genuinely funny, weird, and sometimes heartfelt romp that definitely gets to the heart of what it’s like to be an adolescent boy, all while packing in the jokes most parents probably wouldn’t approve of.
And the songs are great too.
4. Spongebob Squarepants
He lives in a pineapple under the sea, and man does he occasionally get away with more than most parents realized. The titular Spongebob (hehehe, “tit”) is usually written off as being just an annoyingly-voiced, harmless character kids seem to enjoy, but there was always a lot of hidden naughty jokes like the one above. I think Spongbob Squarepants got away with most of it because Spongebob exists at a sonic frequency that forces all adults out of the room.
3. Rocko’s Modern Life
Rocko’s Modern Life is really an under-appreciated gem, and it was one the pioneers of the 90′s as far as secretly dirty cartoons went. I have fond memories of laughing constantly at this show and then marveling at what they just got away with.
Animaniacs was a brilliant show about cartoons and pop culture that I still love to this day. I can’t tell you how much I learned about pop culture references and lewd humor from the Warner siblings, Yakko, Wakko and Dot. The show was ridiculously heavy on stuff kids would never get (like references to Hearts of Darkness and the neuroses of Richard Lewis), as well as the naughty stuff they couldn’t get enough of (Wakko’s Potty Emergency being a personal favorite). Also, to this very day, Animaniacs is to blame for when I find my wife particularly sexy (which is often) I can’t help but shout “Hellloooooooo, Nurse!”
1. Ren & Stimpy
There is no better cartoon in the history of television, in my humble opinion, than Ren & Stimpy. Ren & Stimpy – which featured a neurotic, furious chihuahua and his idiot life partner cat — was, and remains, the epitome of naughty cartoons. Amazingly bizarre and off-beat, most parents couldn’t even figure out what was going on, let alone were they realizing what Ren & Stimpy were getting away with right under their noses. Rubber nipple salesmen, stay put socks, “Cling tenaciously to my buttocks!”, Shaven Yak’s Eve, suicidal ghosts, rotten nerve endings, and a Christmas Fart named “Stinky” are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing all that Ren & Stimpy warped young minds with.
So what about you, dear reader? Have any favorite moments from the shows above? Did we miss any cartoons that deserve to be on this list? And did these shows damage us irrevocably or are we better off because of them? What say you?