The universe of a children’s cartoon is a malleable place where logic and reasoning can be thrown out the window and no one will really care either way. It is only ever on a cartoon where weird things can be taken as an everyday normal event like how Mr. Crabs and his daughter are biologically related, why Charlie Brown has no hair despite being a young kid, and why the world in which Courage the Cowardly Dog takes place is so incredibly messed up.
But thanks to some creative thinking, some cartoon-loving fans with too much time on their hands have managed to connect the dots and come up with a number of crazy (and incredibly dark) theories in an attempt to explain these weird leaps in logic. Even crazier still, these fan theories can actually fit into a cartoon’s established universe and are incredibly convincing as to why things are the way they are.
Here are 10 of the most creative, convincing, and messed up theories that fans have come up with for some of your favorite childhood cartoons.
10. Pinky And The Brain – Pinky Is The Genius And Brain Is Clinically Insane
Pinky and the Brain tells the story of Brain, a super-smart lab mouse who has his eyes set on world domination, and Pinky, Brain’s dim-witted friend who likes the simple things in life and is somehow always accidentally ruining Brain’s world-ruling plans.
But are Pinky’s actions really ‘accidental’?
A fan theory suggests that despite their respective demeanor and physical appearance, Pinky is actually the smart one whilst Brain is the crazy lunatic of the pair. The reason why Pinky always ruins Brain’s plans is that he likes life the way it is (and the fact that he’s not a lunatic) and Brain taking over the world would take away Pinky’s happiness. The way an episode unfolds reinforces this theory: Brain comes up with a plan, Pinky makes a stupid but relevant comment on the plan (which Brain ignores), Brain’s plan fails due to some sort of interference from Pinky – rinse and repeat.
Of course, they both could also just be complete idiots and there was no chance of either of them ever taking over the world, but where’s the fun in that theory?
9. Peanuts – Charlie Brown Has Cancer
For a colourful children’s show that features a number of cute characters and animals, Peanuts leans more into the bittersweet optimism side of things rather than the usual 100 per cent happy ending. Well, a fan theory manages to swing that pendulum from bittersweet optimism and all the way down to downright depressing.
The reason Charlie Brown is always bald despite being a seemingly healthy kid is because he actually has cancer. As he is on his deathbed in a sickly haze, Charlie’s imagination takes over and everything that happens on the show is all in his head. It’s quite a sad, but plausible explanation. Charlie never seems to have anything go his way, he is never able to kick that football, and even Snoopy gets annoyed with him sometimes.
Charlie’s bad fortune can be explained away by him giving up on life already and channeling all his sadness into his dreams and thoughts as he slowly dies. Damn, not even an image of Snoopy doing his cute little dance can wipe this theory cleanly away.
8. Spongebob Squarepants – Every Character Is Result Of Nuclear Testing
When you have a show that’s centered on a sponge that somehow lives under the sea, his best friends are a snail, a squirrel, a squid, and a starfish, and his house is a pineapple, you don’t even bother trying to figure out how everything makes sense.
Well, thankfully, a Redditor did all the thinking already.
The theory states that Bikini Bottom is named after Bikini Atoll, the site of all those nuclear arms tests in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Due to these nuclear tests and all the radiation emitted, the area and the entire cast of characters have been mutated as a result. This actually explains a lot of questions such as how each character is able to talk, why Spongebob is a sentient being, and why his pineapple can grow underwater. Furthermore, Sandy’s ‘spacesuit’ is actually a hazmat suit that was left behind, whilst cooking burgers underwater is possible due to leftover radioactive material.
What’s more, this theory also provides a decent and credible explanation as to why Mr. Crabs is a lobster and yet his biological daughter is somehow a whale.
7. Inspector Gadget – Dr. Claw Is The Real Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget is like a weird children’s blend of Robocop, Six Million Dollar Man, and Get Smart. A man gets cybernetic enhancements and goes to fight crime against his never-seen nemesis, Dr. Claw, with a pair of incredibly capable sidekicks, one of whom is a dog.
But what if the reason why Dr. Claw is never seen is because he is the original Inspector Gadget?
A convincing theory suggests that the Inspector Gadget that you watch every week is actually a robot duplicate of the man Dr. Claw once was. After being horrifically injured and presumed dead, Claw’s bosses decided to create a robot copy of him and upload all of his memories into it. Driven to insanity over a robot living out his life, Claw vows vengeance on everyone involved.
This theory does explain how a bumbling buffoon managed to get cybernetic parts and be a detective in the first place. Furthermore, no harm ever seems to come to Penny despite getting into trouble constantly. That’s because Claw’s weakness is his beloved niece and thus Penny always manages to (unintentionally) exploit this and ruin Claw’s plans all the time.
6. Dexter’s Laboratory – Dexter Has Asperger’s Syndrome
Despite having a show that’s dedicated to his intelligence and his experiences of being a boy genius, being incredibly smart isn’t all that’s cracked up to be for Dexter.
A popular fan theory states that Dexter actually suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. The insane thing is that it does explain a lot of things about our pint-sized protagonist.
Dexter has trouble interacting and empathising with people in normal social situations, he has certain repetitive ticks (he is always tightening a nut on something), and if he had a choice, he would stay holed up in his lab forever. Dexter’s condition and inability to understand people also explains why his family seems to be so crazy. He sees his Dee-Dee as a dimwit (because he doesn’t get girls), his mom has crazy mood swings (because again, girls), and his dad seems like an idiot (because he is so much smarter or maybe he just thinks his dad is an idiot).
5. Ed, Edd, and Eddy – Everyone Is Dead And Floating Around Purgatory
Ed, Edd, and Eddy was one of those original Cartoon Network originals that managed to blend animation, surrealism, and pure wackiness into an entertaining and wholesome show about three kids going about their day trying to catch that forever elusive jaw-breaker.
A popular fan theory torpedoes Ed, Edd, and Eddy’s premise by stating that all the children on the show are dead and the neighbourhood they live in is actually purgatory.
The theory actually goes a long way in explaining why some kids have disproportionate body shapes and just generally look so freaking weird. The purgatory premise also explains why the show’s setting is so comically anachronistic such as each kid looking like they all came from a different decade in the 1900’s. But most importantly, adults are only ever mentioned but never ever seen and the only semi-regular people on the show happen to have normally colored tongues. Coincidence? You decide.
4. Courage The Cowardly Dog – Everything Crazy Is Just The World From A Dog’s POV
Courage the Cowardly Dog is about a misnamed purple dog who is easily frightened and is always having to rescue his elderly owners, Eustace and Muriel, from a world that has (for some reason) mummies, pirates, zombies, and talking animals despite literally living out in the middle of nowhere.
A Redditor proposed that the reason why Courage’s universe is so wacky and why he is always so highly sprung is because the world is actually just a normal place but everything is warped due to Courage’s dog senses.
Eustace, Muriel, and Courage actually live on a normal farm, but due to the limitations of his elderly owners, Courage doesn’t get his daily walks and thus doesn’t know anything about the outside world. As for the monsters and terrible dangers? In reality, Eustace and Muriel are perfectly fine and Courage is simply losing his mind over anything he lays his eyes on because he’s, well, a dumb dog.
3. Winnie The Pooh – Every Character Is A Mental Disorder Personified
Some long-time fans of Winnie the Pooh have noticed that Eeyore seems to be depressed all the time and that all the characters seem to have some sort of mental illness due to how they all act. As it turns out, this isn’t just some well-thought out fan theory. An actual journal paper from the Canadian Medical Association makes a very convincing case on how each character represents a specific mental disorder.
Winnie suffers from ADHD, OCD, and impulsivity to obsessive fixations; Piglet has generalised anxiety disorder; Owl is dyslexic; Tigger has ADHD; Kanga has social anxiety disorder; Roo has autism spectrum disorder; Rabbit has OCD; Eeyore has depression (unsurprisingly); and Christopher Robin, the only human character, has schizophrenia as all the animals are just manifestations of his imagination.
Thankfully, this show is for kids and whenever Rabbit goes nuts over something (again) or when Tigger goes bouncing around all over the place, all this stuff about mental illnesses will go right over their heads.
2. Hey Arnold! – The Show Is Actually About Helga
Hey Arnold! is about Arnold, a kid who has a head shaped like a football and lives with his grandparents, and the various experiences that he and his friends get up to every day.
But a prevailing fan theory states that Arnold isn’t actually the main character of the show. That honor goes to Helga G. Pataki, a girl with serious anger issues and a disturbing crush on Arnold (she has a shrine dedicated to him for God’s sake).
Everything that goes on in the show is actually told from Helga’s point of view and she is recounting it to the viewers. During the show’s intro, Helga is the one who shouts ‘hey Arnold!’ repeatedly; her life is dramatically more messed up and interesting than Arnold’s (she is barely acknowledged, her dad is neglectful, her mopey mother most certainly has depression, and her older sister is better than her in every single possible way); and she has a major crush on Arnold but can’t express it (she’s only 10 after all) so she bullies him and pretty much everyone as a response.
So contrary to the title, Hey Arnold! is not about some kid with a big head but about a troubled girl who is obsessed with the big-headed kid and how her crush on him is the only good thing in her horrid life.
1. Rugrats – The Babies Are A Figment Of Angelica’s Traumatised Imagination
Rugrats is about the day to day lives of a group of toddlers that is comprised of Tommy (the leader), Chuckie (the token cowardly guy), twins Phil and Lil (the comedic duo), and Angelica (the crazy older one). The premise was simple, fun, and cute, so what could possibly ruin this show for all of its older fans?
How about the insane theory that all the babies are actually dead and they’re all just figments of Angelica’s imagination?
Chuckie and his mother died in an accident, which is why Chaz is always a nervous wreck. Tommy was a stillborn, which is why Stu is always constantly in the basement making toys for his deceased son. Phil and Lil’s parents were originally pregnant with one baby but had an abortion or miscarriage. Not knowing the baby’s gender, Angelica decided to create twins, one twin for each gender. As for Angelica herself, she had no friends to play with and her parents were always far too busy working to pay any attention to her (which is alluded to in the show). Due to her lonely life, Angelica conjured up the Rugrats as a coping mechanism.
After this depressing theory (and every theory on this list), your childhood is probably forever ruined and you probably won’t be able to watch a children’s cartoon ever again.