Cartoons of the 90’s were the heart and soul of… well… the 90’s. The number of iconic and classic shows that aired were some of the most memorable productions to ever hit the small screen. The 90’s were also the birth of many networks’ and cartoonists’ rise to fame. Everybody wanted to get up on Saturday mornings to watch the next episode of Batman: The Animated Series just so they could delve into another world for an hour.
Despite their legendary legacy, 90’s cartoons weren’t always that well-received. Many definitely pushed the boundaries on what was considered appropriate for kids’ television. Some even went so far as to nearly ignore that entirely, opting for more adult-related content and references. Somehow they still managed to stay on the air.
Some of these famous (or rather infamous) cartoons even went so far as to cross a line for many people- parents and children alike (but mostly the parents). The result was outrage among those who had viewed the show, causing a backlash of anger against that cartoon. These days that isn’t really the case anymore. Many stay away from cartoons because they’re all full of crude and vulgar humor. People also know what they’re getting into with modern cartoons so they either watch it or they don’t.
But the controversy all had to start somewhere, and these are the twelve 90’s cartoons that really got people fired up.
Disney’s take at some dramatic and dark storytelling really paid off, as Gargoyles is heralded as one of their best and most critically acclaimed shows to date. However, that didn’t stop some in the religious community from being set off a little bit by the premise of the show. The gargoyles had a devilish appearance, which definitely angered and turned away many potential viewers, not to mention its dark tone which was already a risk in and of itself.
There is something a bit magical about the show Recess. It gave a realistic interpretation on what goes on in kids’ minds on the school playground. There’s a misunderstood amount of brilliance there, but that didn’t stop some from being angered by it. You see, the entire show portrayed the kids as ruling and the teachers as being either dumb or really strict. It was a bold move that angered those who remembered the good old shows where adults were actually respected. But, hey, to each his own.
Animaniacs was incredibly popular, a well-made love child between the minds behind Looney Tunes and Steven Spielberg. It had one of the catchiest theme songs in cartoon history, and the show echoed it in almost every aspect. What made some audiences angry though was its reliance on slapstick comedy to get kids laughing. It’s one thing to have it every now and again, because it is genuinely funny at times, but another when you make it your betting horse for 90% of your show.
9. Captain Planet and the Planeteers
Superheroes weren’t as popular in the 90’s as they are today. However, shows like Captain Planet and the Planeteers wanted to change that trend. It had a lot of scope and ambition as far as what the writers hoped to achieve with it. That being said, it made a lot of people involved in politics quite angry. Because Captain Planet was dedicated to the survival and preservation of the Earth, he never shied away from teaching audiences how important it was to take care of it. That definitely angered some viewers because they believed that the show was portraying a very environmentalist message.
8. The Angry Beavers
How on earth would it be possible to have a list about shows that angered audiences and not include The Angry Beavers? This cartoon, starring two beavers with really weird colored noses, often satirically poked at TV, film, and pop culture. Like any good satire, it was met with a lot of criticism, because no matter what the writers did, somebody was bound to be offended. That’s not even how angry those little animals were all the time, which definitely had a lasting effect on some viewers.
7. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Now this is a show I remember growing up with, spending late afternoons watching a few episodes with my older brother. That being said, I can definitely see why some were angered by it. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was not afraid to show audiences what it really was at face value- a weird and gross representation of what the life of monsters might look like. Some viewers were angered by its willingness to include such unsightly humor in its episodes. But, in its defense, it ended up making me not afraid of monsters under my bed!
6. Rocko’s Modern Life
This show took satire and amplified it to the max. Embracing some relatively adult themes and humor, Rocko’s Modern Life was a little trippy to say the least. It put a realistic spin on social interactions, dating, and adult life and general. For better or worse, it did not shy away from some inappropriate comments and some dark episodes. Like the one where Heffer went to Hell. Do I even need to explain why this show angered audiences? It was a little too brave- that’s why.
5. Ed, Edd, N’ Eddy
I’m stretching it a bit here. Technically, Ed, Edd, N’ Eddy debuted in 1999 and ran into the late 2000s. Because it originated in the 90s (albeit at the tail-end of the decade) I’ll include it here. A cul-de-sac full of teenagers with no money and the freedom to do as they please was perfect grounds for someone not to like, and boy, did they really stir up some dissension among viewers. The show was notorious for being full of various one-liners that hinted at something a little dirtier than what kids were catching on to. At the very least, parents who caught on were fuming.
4. The Powerpuff Girls
Wait, wait, wait. Don’t get me wrong here. I love The Powerpuff Girls. I think it is a prime example of what a kids’ cartoon should be. It featured some good action sequences while at the same time having really good lessons and morals to teach at the end of the day. Specifically what angered people about the show was the villain Him. Not only was he a representation of Satan or some demon, he also dressed, talked and moved like a woman. When I was a kid, I could never even tell whether Him was a man or a woman. Cross-dressing would definitely have set off some concerned parents.
3. Johnny Bravo
I was three or four when I first saw Johnny Bravo, and I could never understand why my uncles would watch and laugh at certain things that Johnny said. Then I got older. I was totally surprised at the number of innuendos that Mr. Bravo would make toward many of the women he tried to hit on (a premise sketchy enough as is). Johnny might have been a suave Elvis-impersonator but many of the things he said were enough to warrant outrage from older audiences who knew that the show was geared towards children.
2. The Ren and Stimpy Show
Whereas many cartoons in the 90s embraced some thoughtful themes and put some heart into their plot, The Ren and Stimpy Show did absolutely none of that. All gloves were off with this chaotic cartoon, as it never slowed down. Everything was one incredibly visual slapstick joke after another. Many adults, mostly parents of teenagers, were furious that such a show would have even been allowed on Nickelodeon for little kids to watch at their leisure. One thing is for sure: it definitely wouldn’t be allowed now.
1. Beavis and Butthead
Was there ever going to be a more polarizing 90’s cartoon than this one? Take everything I just said about The Ren and Stimpy Show, add in adult humor, and that’s exactly what we have here. While not as chaotic, Beavis and Butthead took more pride in its verbal comedy, which made it as popular as it was. However, anybody watching it from the outside was immediately offended by how notably vulgar and unintelligent it was. It definitely had more of a niche audience than most shows in the 90’s.