Cartoons are – and always have been – a wonderful way for audiences of all ages (not just kids!) to lose themselves in a fantasy world and let their imaginations run wild. They often have crazy and bizarre concepts and are set in worlds where anything is possible, where weird and wonderful things can and do frequently happen, and where colourful and eccentric characters reside and interact with each other.
The 1990s saw the emergence of some of the most popular cartoons to have ever made it to screen, some of which are still being produced and/or are still extremely popular to this day. The dawn and subsequent prominence of the internet has enabled fans of said cartoons to share their opinions and ideas about them more easily than ever before.
With that in mind, there have been some very interesting theories conceptualised by fans of said cartoons. Some of these theories depict the shows in question in a completely different light – often one that is much darker and more disturbing – than people otherwise see them but, in all cases, they’re very fun to read about. This article is going to take a look at some of the more interesting examples that people have come up with.
Here are ten awesome fan theories about your favourite ’90s cartoons, with the criteria being that each cartoon must have first been aired at some point in the 1990s. You may never look at these shows in the same way again.
10. Dexter’s Laboratory Is Imaginary (Dexter’s Laboratory)
Dexter’s Laboratory was a cartoon that originally ran from 1996 to 2003. It was about a young boy – the titular Dexter – who was a scientific genius and had built a high-tech laboratory behind his bookcase. Or had he?
A fan theory states that it was all in Dexter’s imagination. How, for example, could his parents possibly have not noticed the sky-high electricity bills his experiments and projects would have accumulated? How did his laboratory fit within the dimensions of his modest-sized house? Why wasn’t Dexter arrested for the destruction his giant robots, for example, often caused? And why didn’t anybody notice his weird mad-scientist accent? The only possible explanation – in some fans’ eyes at least – is that his adventures were entirely imagined to make up for his lack of a real social life.
Another similar theory claims that Dexter may have had Asperger’s syndrome and, as such, simply saw the world and the people around him very differently to how others perceived them (for example he sees his sister as an idiot, but maybe he just didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to girls).
9. The Girls Are All One Person (The Powerpuff Girls)
The Powerpuff Girls – which ran from 1998 until 2005 (and is set to be rebooted next year, incidentally) – was a unique take on the superhero genre in that its heroic characters were three little girls, who had been created by their “father”, Professor Utonium, out of sugar, spice and all things nice.
Aside from a number of theories about why a grown man would make little girls in his basement (really, isn’t that incredibly weird?!), fans have also theorised that the three little girls in question were actually just the split personalities of one girl with dissociative personality disorder.
The theory is based on the belief that the girl was bullied by her brother when she was younger and, as a result, manifested the three personalities due to the psychological damage he caused her and as a means of making herself feel safe. Each girl represented a different aspect of her personality (Bubbles is the cute side, Blossom is the smart side and Buttercup is the tough side). Her brother, seen through her eyes, is actually the girls’ arch-enemy Mojo Jojo.
8. Doug Is Racist (Doug)
Doug, like most cartoons, was generally fun and light-hearted – but, according to some theorist fans at least, it actually held a very dark secret in that the lead character was nothing more than a delusional racist.
The show, which ran from 1991 to 1999 (albeit with a near three year gap between the start of 1994 and the end of 1996), featured a titular character who went to school with hundreds of girls of varying skin colours, but who only had eyes for Patti Mayonnaise – literally the only girl of the bunch who is meant to be a white Caucasian (look at the blonde hair and the surname “Mayonnaise” for proof of that).
Moreover, it is theorised that the reason there are so many odd skin colours on the show (blue, green, lilac etc) is because his delusion means he sees different races as bizarre colours.
Way to ruin the green sweater vest-wearing guy for all of us, theorists!
7. The Characters Are Nuclear Mutants (SpongeBob SquarePants)
SpongeBob SquarePants is a hugely popular cartoon that first aired in 1999 and is still going strong today. In fact, a second theatrical movie was only just released in February of this year and performed well at the box office – almost quadrupling its budget so far.
The show follows the exploits of a number of colourful characters in their lives under the sea, including a sea sponge (the titular star), a starfish, a crab, an octopus and, bizarrely, a squirrel.
A theory claims that the show is about nuclear testing – and it’s based on some pretty convincing evidence. It’s set in Bikini Bottom – a fictional undersea location that is confirmed as being below a real place called Bikini Atoll. Back in 1946, the U.S. government detonated a couple of atomic bombs in Bikini Atoll, one of which was set off underwater. The explosion created a mushroom cloud that the show recreates whenever a character does so much as drop something.
The characters in the show were normal sea creatures until this explosion took place and mutated them. The explosion also altered the landscape – explaining how a pineapple can grow underwater – and kind of gives a weird explanation as to why a Mr. Krabs (a crab, rather unsurprisingly) was able to father a whale.
6. Courage Is Actually Completely Normal (Courage The Cowardly Dog)
Courage the Cowardly Dog ran from 1999 to 2002 and focused on the adventures of the titular canine and his life as the pet of two elderly farmers called Muriel and Eustace Bagge.
The show often depicted Courage encountering frightening and supernatural beings and depicted the trio as living seemingly in the middle of nowhere – but according to some theorists, neither of those things are actually the case.
It has been theorised that everything that happened in the show is simply a very normal world perceived through the eyes of a very normal dog. Courage sees his house as being in the middle of nowhere because his elderly owners don’t take him for walks and, as a result, he doesn’t know what is beyond the borders of his own property.
Courage sees normal people as being frightening monsters – simply because they are so much larger than him – and this theory explains why, even though he often tries to protect his owners from them, they are always completely nonchalant and unaffected by the things their pet sees as being evil and dangerous.
5. Edd Is Hiding A Scalp Deformity (Ed, Edd ‘N’ Eddy)
Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy ran for ten years from 1999 to 2009. It followed the adventures of the three titular characters – a trio of adolescents who share the same name (albeit with differing colloquial variations) but have very different personalities.
There is a very simple theory amongst fans that suggest Edd – also known as “Double D” – has some kind of scalp deformity.
The theory stems from the fact that Edd never takes off his hat. On the rare occasions that his hat inadvertently comes off, Edd is always off screen and other characters tend to react in rather extreme ways to what they see. For instance, Ed accidentally removed Edd’s hat and Eddy responded by saying “MY EYES! They’re burning!” and Ed then asks “Does it hurt, Double D?”
An incident is often referred to (called “the dodgeball incident”) that has resulted in Edd fearing and avoiding gym class. It is theorised that this incident may have involved an injury which caused the possible deformity.
4. Arnold’s Grandparents Are Actually His Parents (Hey Arnold!)
Hey Arnold! ran from 1996 to 2004 and focuses on the life of a fourth grade student named Arnold who, having been orphaned as a baby, lives with his grandparents in their boarding house in a fictional city very reminiscent of New York.
Arnold is particularly notable for his football-shaped head and other characters in the show – namely his fellow students at school – often point this out, sometimes even cruelly referring to him as “football head”.
A fan theory suggests that his grandparents are actually his real parents, but they only tell Arnold they’re his grandparents in order to disassociate themselves from the fact that their advanced age when he was conceived is to blame for what is actually a physical deformity (his aforementioned football-shaped head).
Arnold’s condition is very much like the real condition known as hydrocephalus – one variation of which is, interestingly, known as Arnold Chiari syndrome (theorists have claimed that this explains the titular character’s name).
3. Every Baby Is Dead/Imaginary Except Angelica (Rugrats)
Between 1991 and 2004, Rugrats followed the adventures of a group of toddlers as they went about their day to day lives, experiencing things in exaggerated ways thanks to their young imaginations. The series spawned a trio of movies and a spin-off series called All Grown Up! which, as you might expect, depicted the main characters several years later.
A rather creepy fan theory suggests that Rugrats wasn’t quite what it seemed, however. Some people believe that Angelica was the only living member of the toddler cast and that the others had died and were figments of her imagination.
The theory suggests that Chuckie died, along with his mother, and that’s why his father Chas is always a nervous wreck. It suggests that Tommy was a stillborn and that’s why his father Stu spends so much time making toys in his basement – for his son who never had a chance to live. It also suggests the DeVilles had an abortion and, without knowing what gender the baby would be, Angelica created one of each in her mind with Phil and Lil.
It also explains why Angelica is so resentful and it is suggested that in All Grown Up! she had become addicted to narcotics, which made her hallucinations/schizophrenia worse.
2. Ash Is In A Coma (Pokemon)
In a nutshell, Pokemon is one of the most popular entertainment franchises of modern times. The animated show is ongoing, having started back in 1997, and the franchise has spawned countless video games, card games, toys, movies and comic books.
It follows the adventures of Ash Ketchum – a young boy who sets out to become a Pokemon master, travelling around the world with a small group of friends pitting his creatures against those of other (often more evil) characters.
A fan theory suggests life isn’t quite as amazing for Ash as it would seem, however. It is suggested that he is actually in a coma and is simply fantasising about the life depicted in the series.
It is based on several things – not the least the fact that Ash doesn’t age – and suggests that the other characters in the show are aspects of his being that he must overcome before he wakes up (such as Team Rocket being the parts of himself he doesn’t like, Pikachu being his humanity etc). It also suggests that Mewtwo is actually an electrical impulse treatment being used by doctors to try and wake him up.
1. Pinky Is The Genius (Pinky & The Brain)
“They’re Pinky and the Brain, they’re Pinky and the Brain. One is a genius, the other’s insane!” But which is which?? It might not be as obvious as you think.
Pinky and the Brain first appeared as a recurring segment on the Warner Brothers show Animaniacs in 1993, but they got their own series in 1995 which lasted until 1998. The show followed the adventures of the titular mice, as the supposed “genius” Brain attempted to take over the world every night (pretty crazy in itself, right?), seemingly being held back by his “insane” accomplice Pinky.
But a fan theory advises us to take a closer look at every single episode of the show; Brain comes up with a plan, Brain ignores a very relevant observation Pinky makes, Brain fails and proves Pinky’s theory right. It is Pinky who is the genius.
Other occurrences point towards the same thing; Pinky can read and Brain can barely write his own name, Pinky answered a Jeopardy question that Brain failed to answer which would have won him the show, Brain built a machine to make Pinky smarter but it didn’t actually change his personality at all and, of course, Pinky doesn’t attempt to take over the world every single night. Pretty conclusive, right?
Did you enjoy this article? Do you agree with any of the theories on this list? Do you have any theories of your own about ’90s cartoons? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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