Humankind has been utterly intrigued by conspiracy theories for as long as there have been things to question. With the advent of the Internet and global sharing, conspiracy theorists flooded the web with everything from farfetched beliefs to highly researched observations. And as such, perhaps to attempt to ruin the childhood of every kid growing up in the nineties, almost every innocent cartoon and movie has had their turn at the conspiracy wheel.
You will see these theories everywhere on the web, and many of them are completely unfounded and ridiculous, while others are downright disturbing (and equally ridiculous). Some of the theories, however, are explained in great detail, and might make you raise your eyebrows and say, “Hm, I could see that.”
This is a compilation of 10 of the most unfounded and farfetched, disturbing and awful, interesting and mind-blowing conspiracy theories about your favorite childhood cartoons.
10 Courage the Cowardly Dog Nowhere Theory
Like many kids growing up in the nineties, Cartoon Network’s Courage the Cowardly Dog scared the devil out of us. It was creepy, atmospheric, with eerie music and messed up characters like Freaky “Naughty” Fred. As you grow older and your cognition and perception become more advanced, well, the show remains creepy.
Despite living in “The Middle of Nowhere,” with his elderly owners Eustace and Muriel, their farm regularly attracts undesirables such as pirates, mutants, and mimes. Courage is tasked with defending his owners. A theory from Reddit, however, gives us a much more grounded approach to the show.
The theory is that Courage is a normal dog, living on a normal farm, who thinks he’s in the middle of nowhere because his owners are too old to walk him, so he knows nothing outside of his immediate farmland. This would explain why his owners always feel unthreatened and nonchalant: they’re simply watching their dog running around being terrified at everything he doesn’t understand.
For instance, in one episode, Muriel is kidnapped by a giant vulture, only for the reveal to show that Muriel was watching over the vulture’s children while the mother was away. The conclusion is that Muriel was simply babysitting, but Courage thought she was snatched by some giant bird.
9 Hey Arnold! Main Character and Existential Crisis Theory
There are plenty of theories floating around about Hey Arnold!, but not all of them focus on the kid with the football-shaped head. In fact, one theory claims that the show’s main character isn’t Arnold at all, but rather the bully girl with the unibrow (who secretly loves Arnold), Helga.
It makes sense. Helga is the only character who ever gives monologues at the end of an episode, or has self-reflective moments about growing up and maturing. In the opening scene, she is the only one who recites the show’s name, “Hey Arnold!” three times.
Another theory claims that Arnold’s grandparents are actually his biological parents. This was debunked, due to their being flashes of pictures of Arnold’s parents, but listen to this The theory goes that Arnold’s grandparents told him his real parents died in a plane crash. And because Gertie and Phil were old when Arnold was born, he came with a few conditions, one of which being the reason his head is shaped oddly. Arnold suffers from hydrocephalus, also known as Arnold Chiari syndrome.
The final theory says that Arnold’s friends are figments of his imagination, due to him being bullied about his deformity. He escapes into an imaginary world with friends who have equally wierdly shaped heads, so that he can feel normal.
8 Dexter’s Laboratory Vivid Imagination Theory
Dexter’s Laboratory was the pride of every geeky kid growing up who wanted to be a scientist, robot-builder, or boy-genius. He had a huge lab under his house, and unlimited resources to mess with. That is until a sad theory surfaced stating that Dexter has Asperger’s syndrome. And the coincidences are uncanny.
Dexter would never leave his lab if he didn’t have to; he’s socially awkward, and has OCD-like patterns; he has a strange, indiscernible accent. It’s said that many people with Asperger’s sound foreign because they learn to pronounce words as they first heard them, oftentimes from TV. When we view the show through Dexter’s eyes, some things become clear.
First, he has trouble empathizing with others - he thinks his sister is a huge idiot, his mom is constantly moody, and his dad is a buffoon. His rivalry with Mandark is due to the fact that Mandark is similarly smart, has similar social issues, and Dexter wants to prove that he is the smarter of the two.
7 Garfield Hallucination Theory
This theory seems like it’s straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe tale. It goes something like this: Garfield’s constant hunger and loneliness force him to create hallucinations, namely imagining his dead owner Jon and his canine companion Odie. That’s right, Garfield sees dead people, and the dopey Odie and foolhardy Jon are products of Garfield’s starvation.
The creepy rumor becomes somewhat plausible, however, after the 1989 Halloween release of Jim Davis’ comic strip. Of course Jim Davis denied any such conspiracy theories, but the eerie strip shows some disturbing things: it starts with Garfield awaking in a chill, and Odie and Jon are nowhere to be found. He is alone, and the house he lives in is rickety and for sale.
He has a hallucinatory moment where Jon and Odie return, much to his relief, only for them to disappear again. As the last panel of the humorless comic states, “An imagination is a power tool. It can tint memories of the past, shade perceptions of the present, or paint a future so vivid that it can entice.” The whole strip is an eerie jab at two things all people fear: loneliness, and the inevitability of time and death.
6 Scooby-Doo Drugged Reality and Post-Depression Theories
Everyone has heard about the less-than-subtle, drug-induced reality of Scooby-Doo. Basically, Shaggy is a dropout stoner who gets high in the Mystery Machine with his dog Scooby “Dooby” Doo, who he thinks can talk, because he’s always so high. Shaggy eats so much because of the munchies, and there is possibly cannabis in the Scooby Snacks. There’s always smoke wafting from the van when the two are present. Shaggy eventually falls in love with a girl named Mary Jane. The hints aren’t meant to be too veiled, but rather comedic.
Another theory, however, is far more ominous, more farfetched, but equally as interesting. The theory is that the original Scooby-Doo takes place during a horrible economic depression. That’s the reason why all of the houses and structures are shabby, worn down, and vacant. The depression is also why these usually-respected individuals of society - such as professors, celebrities, and scholars - have turned to a life of crime. They’ve fallen on hard times, like everyone else, and they disguise themselves as monsters to hide their shame, and so they can pass the blame of their crimes onto others.
5 Captain Planet and The Magic School Bus Theory
The Magic School Bus was an educational PBS children’s show that elementary school teachers would show in the classroom if they were too hungover to teach that morning. It aired in the mid-nineties, and imagined fantastical places and longlasting life lessons. Captain Planet was an environmentalist cartoon featuring a group of teens and a green superhero who battled enemies hellbent on destroying the planet. So what could they possibly have in common?
For starters, how about featuring the same characters?! The multiracial features of the two casts of characters are uncanny. The theory, then, is that the kids from The Magic School Bus grow up to be the Planeteers in Captain Planet.
The theory goes a step further, however. Basically, Miss Frizzle kidnapped and brainwashed a bunch of kids and brought them to an island, where she indoctrinated them into becoming pollution fighters by implanting them at an early age with a love of ecology and science. Years later, when they were needed, Frizzle gave the kids their power rings, and sent them off to destroy the enemies of the environment.
4 SpongeBob SquarePants Nuclear Testing and Drug Theories
The premise of SpongeBob SquarePants is already trippy enough: a talking sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea, interacts and works with a bizarre blend of sea creatures. According to a theory on Reddit, however, this innocent cartoon is actually about the hazards of nuclear testing.
Here’s why the theory makes sense. In 1946, the U.S. government tested an atomic bomb at a real place, underwater, called the Bikini Atoll. SpongeBob and his friends live in a place called Bikini Bottom, which an official Nickolodeon synopsis has stated is set underneath the Bikini Atoll. The resulting radiation of the bomb genetically mutated the normal sea creatures into sentient beings, with human emotions.
Another theory states that the characters on the show represent drugs. SpongeBob is on meth: he’s always really happy and energetic, and occasionally paranoid. He goes from really happy, to really sad or angry (a result of the crash, we suppose), and there’s no middle ground. Patrick star is a stoner, who laughs at stupid things and is always eating. Squidward is on heroin - always down and out, and angry at SpongeBob for being so energetic. Mr. Krab is a coke head who’s always uppity and concerned about money (coke is expensive, after all). And Sandy Cheeks is an alcoholic, who’s always drinking and ruining everything.
3 The Powerpuff Girls Perversion Theory
If all of the other theories are bizarre and troublesome, this one is downright disturbing and awful. According to an article on Useful Information About Nothing, Professor Utonium, who created the Powerpuff Girls, did so with diabolical intentions. First off, Utonium has had no luck with women: his first love (Sedusa) was a criminal, and his next love had cats, and Utonium hates cats. He is also a terrible cook.
And so to quench his frustrations, the perverted professor created children with whom he could have sex with. He knew people would be suspicious if he created an adult woman to live with him in his house, but they’d never suspect if he created “daughters,” and said they were dropped at his front door.
Another theory states that Mojo Jojo, who was created by the Professor and then accidentally mutated, is therefore the Powerpuff Girls’ elder half-brother - and is sexually obsessed with the girls and thus always trying to capture and torture them.
2 The Smurfs Are Racist, Misogynist Fascists
There are dark undertones that have always surrounded the cute blue Smurfs, and many theories abound as to the show’s meaning. The most common theory is that the Smurfs represent a common hate-group in American history. Let’s see if you can guess what group that is. All of the Smurfs are the same color, there is only one female, and they all wear white hoods, barring the exception of their leader - the grandmaster Papa Smurf - who wears a red hood.
Another racist aside: In the first comic strip, titled The Black Smurfs, the Smurfs become sick. And when they do, they turn black, become raving madmen with no sense of intelligence, and can no longer speak, relying on the phrase “Gnap, gnap, gnap,” over and over again. That strip from 1958 France would undoubtedly not fly today.
Another theory sprouts directly from the Smurfs’ website, which explains that there were originally 100 Smurfs, and no females. Smurfette was then created by an evil wizard to destroy the Smurfs, and she was first described as having "stringy hair and ugly eyelashes." Then Papa Smurf gave her a successful operation of "plastic Smurfery" (no joke), and turned her into the bombshell that all the Smurfs loved.
Finally, just look at the Smurfs’ chant above: “All for Smurf and Smurf for All!” This fascist comment is of course followed by a very Nazi-esque salute.
1 The Rugrats Everybody’s Dead Theory
Perhaps the most unsettling, childhood-ruining theory on this list (and the one that’s been floating around for the longest) comes from the most innocent cartoon of them all, The Rugrats. The theory that takes the cake goes like this: all of the babies on the Rugrats are actually figments of Angelica’s imagination, and are all dead. Before turning off your laptop or tablet forever, hear out the details.
Chuckie died a long time ago, along with his mother, which is why Chaz is always so anxious and neurotic. Tommy was a stillborn, which is why Stu often goes to the basement - to make toys for a child he never had. The DeVilles had an abortion, and Angelica couldn’t tell if it would be a boy or a girl, so he created the twins Phil and Lil. If the babies were all part of Angelica’s imagination, that would explain why she’s the only one who can talk to both babies and adults.
One last observation that is less of a theory than a snickering observation for parental viewers to enjoy, is that the show is full of adult humor. In one episode, Grandpa Lou rents some movies for the boys, including (as he says while raising his eyebrows), “My personal favorite, Lonely Space Vixens. That’s for after you go to bed.” Another, in the Rugrats Movie, when a newborn complains that “they cut my cord,” another infant looks down into his diaper and says, “Consider yourself lucky.” Later on, another infant looks down his diaper and says, “So that’s what this thing looks like.”