There are cartoons for adults and cartoons for kids. Sure. But, the cartoons for kids are still written and animated by adults. That means, there are times when the adult cartoon makers seemingly just can’t resist the temptation to throw in some risqué dialogue, a name or word with a double entendre, or something else that adults will understand but leave the little ones mystified.
In a few rare cases, the whole cartoon premise is pretty off kilter. Go back just a decade or two, and some things that seemed okay at the time are now considered wildly inappropriate. Racism, Islamophobia — we’re not talking those Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 1930s or anything — we’re talking about those reruns you used to watch back in grade school.
We’ve collected 15 of the most egregiously inappropriate moments from superhero cartoons meant for children for your pleasure and perusal. How many did you see as a kid, never knowing what they really meant?
15 Batman Beyond – How About A Ride?
This bit of innuendo comes from "Golem," the fourth episode of Batman Beyond. It focuses on Willie Watt, the high-school nerd, who is harassed by jock bully Nelson Nash and is trying to connect with baby Bobbi Blade Sommer. At one point, Nash tries to offer Bobbi a ride in his car while Willie's trying to talk to her. “How about a ride?” he asks her. “You like that car more than me,” she replies. Then, Nash comes up with, “Who’s talking about cars?” Did you get that one kids? Censors in the US did, and they had the line edited out after the premiere screening so that it’s omitted from any reruns. But, you can still appreciate the line if you’ve got the DVD box set of the series. Trivia: Nash was voiced by Seth Green.
14 Transformers – Thief In The Night
Some fans debate whether the Transformers are actual superheroes or not. We’re saying they are. Certainly, in Transformers: The Last Knight and other recent movies, they’re saving Earth and humans using their otherworldly powers — that’s good enough for us. But, if they’ve become saviors of humanity in recent years, there was a time when they were outright racist. An episode of their cartoon series that aired in October, 1986, titled “Thief in the Night,” takes place in a fictional Middle Eastern country by the name of Carbombya. You heard that right. As the Transformers drive into Carbombya City, there’s a sign that reads, “4,000 people / 10,000 camels.” You get the idea. The racist overtones were so bad that voice actor Casey Kasem — or Kemal Amin "Casey" Kasem, who was Lebanese — quit the entire series, where he'd voiced several of the characters.
13 Rambo: The Force of Freedom – The Entire Series
The idea out of making a kids’ superhero cartoon based on a movie about a disturbed Vietnam vet who suffers from PTSD and goes on a violent killing spree when he falls afoul with small-town law enforcement is just a bad idea from the outset. It came out in 1986, however, when we’ll note that there seems to have been very different ideas about what was okay for the kids. In the cartoon, John Rambo is a shirtless he-man battling terrorists. Sylvester Stallone starred in the movie franchise, which was huge back in the day. First Blood, the original movie, grounds the violence in the story about a war veteran who got spit on when he came home. Not really Saturday morning cartoon fare. The sequels just became violent war-themed action movies — like Rambo rescuing war prisoners from Cambodia, that kind of thing. Again, not within your typical 9-year-old’s frame of reference.
12 The Spectacular Spider-Man — Black Cat And Spider-Man’s Goop
The Spectacular Spider-Man was in its first season when Spidey encountered Black Cat and the symbiote, both in the same episode. In the story, Black Cat is after the symbiote, so it’s not surprising the two superheroes should meet up. Black Cat is a thrill seeker and has always been portrayed as sexy. But, Peter Parker is only 15 years old in the show. She doesn’t know that, but the writers certainly did. So why does she joke with him about keeping his “goop” out of her hair when he catches her with a web by the hand? Now, in the story, she’s supposedly referring to his spiderweb goop, but if you’re into 1990s movies, you'll remember There's Something About Mary, starring Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller as the loser in love with her. In one infamous scene, Diaz surprises Stiller's character just after he had what we’ll call a "happy ending" while thinking about her. He hastily blurts out that the substance in his hand is hair gel, and she proceeds to use it in her hair in the image that has become iconic moment in the movie. She called it goop too.
11 The Powerpuff Girls – Fuzzy Lumpkins And The Dirt
The Powerpuff Girls is a landmine of sly inside jokes, but every now and then, it goes over the top. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup use their superpowers — created accidentally in a lab by Professor Utonium — to save the people of Townsville again and again. It’s a toon for the kids, but you can tell its animators had a field day with references they figured the little ones wouldn’t get. An episode called “Shotgun Wedding” featured Fuzzy Lumpkins, a villain who was no stranger to the girls. After falling in the mud and then getting covered in flowers and other junk, he looks like one of Fuzzy's species in disguise. Fuzzy is smitten and proposes marriage. The girls arrive as Fuzzy announces the wedding and beats the crap out of him and his relatives — and they beat the Professor out of his disguise. Fuzzy seems like he's going to beat up Professor Utonium, but instead, he grabs the dirt disguise and talks about true love. He then takes the dirt into his cabin and proceeds to consummate the marriage with a lot of loud squealing. Dirt sex? Really?
10 X-Men — Inappropriate Flirting
In the X-Men animated series, there was a lot that was questionable about the character of Rogue. Gambit was constantly after her, and while she would always say she wasn’t interested, her actions showed she loved the attention. Mixed messages much? In the fourth episode of the series titled "Deadly Reunions," Cyclops, Rogue, and Storm are battling Magneto in a chemical plant. Cyclops falls unconscious because of the fumes, and Rogue has to perform CPR. She decides this is a good time for flirting. As she’s getting ready, she tells the unconscious Cyclops that she wants him to make her “feel welcome” and then tells him not to worry because she won’t tell Jean about it. Just get on with it Rogue — they’ve sued doctors for as much!
9 Sym-Bionic Titan – Twerking Kimmy
Sym-Bionic Titan aired on the Cartoon Network in 2010/2011. It combined the familiar high-school toon dramas with aliens and battles with giant robots. Our heroes were two alien teens and one humanoid robot from the planet Galaluna. Their spaceship crashes on Earth while they’re trying to escape an evil general and monsters called the Mutraddi who are taking over their home planet — typical superhero stuff. That is, until episode 10, titled “Lessons in Love.” . That’s when Octus, the robot passing as a human teenage boy by the name of Newton, agrees to help Kimmy, a bouncy cheerleader, with her homework. Kimmy, being the high-school vixen that she is, figures she can charm Octus into doing all the work for her. When he doesn’t, she tried to convince him by twerking. In fact, the show actually recorded an original song for her to twerk to, with lyrics like, “Shake it, bake it, booty quake it, roll it around. Don’t fake it.” Not exactly PG fare.
8 The Powerpuff Girls — Members Only
You wonder who they really think is watching The Powerpuff Girls sometimes. The episode begins as the girls attempt to become part of, and then are rejected by, the Association of World Super Men (AWSM) on account of not being men. As they leave, villain Mascumax walks into the scene with, “Witness the coming of Mascumax! Step forth and bring thy manhood against mine own, so that we might see who has the upper hand upon the measuring stick!” It’s not even open to debate. Mascumax proceeds to kick butt with the male superheroes. “I feed off of your expulsions of manliness. The more manhood you bring against me, the harder I shall become!” Naturally, it’s only the Powerpuff Girls who can bring him down, and they do it by coming together to form a cat. He he.
7 Freakazoid! — The Meat Joke
Freakazoid is a nutty superhero who took on villains, and the show also included mini-episodes of other bizarro superheroes. It was written by the same people who made Animaniacs, the classic 1990s series that was already known for its way of slipping a lot of sly adult references into clever writing. While the kids enjoyed the crazy antics, the adults could enjoy the dialogue. Probably the best example comes from an episode where Sergeant Cosgrove, voiced by Ed Asner, is Freakazoid's bestie and a police sergeant in Washington, DC. In the episode “Tomb of Invisibo,” the two have a pretty ambiguous exchange. “Hey Cosgrove, how come you never got married?” Cosgrove replies, “Because I like meat too much.” Freakazoid then says, “You could get married and still eat a lot of meat.” There’s a couple of beats before Cosgrove answers with, “I didn’t know that.”
6 ThunderCats — Unnecessary Nudity
If you grew up in the 1980s, you knew the ThunderCats. It aired between 1985 and 1989 and was rebooted in 2011/2012. The ThunderCats are cat-like aliens who have to leave their own world, Thundera, and take refuge on Third Earth. Lion-O is their leader, with Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, WilyKit, WilyKat, and Snarf. They're pursued and harassed by evil mutant and Mumm-Ra, a sorcerer on Third Earth. In the very first episode titled “Exodus,” Lion-O — who is a child in a man-cat’s body — wakes up from a nap and sees a topless Cheetara next to his bed. In fact, the entire lot of them are naked until they land on Earth 3 and get their new “raiments” to blend in with the locals.
5 Justice League — Flash In The Pan
"Eclipsed" was a two-part episode of Justice League that aired in 2003. The story centered around an ancient and evil spirit looking for vengeance on mankind. Flash, meanwhile, is in Central City selling out his fame by doing product endorsements. The story is a two-parter, but in between all the action, Flash and Hawkgirl have a moment. Flash brags and refers to himself as the “fastest man alive!” naturally. Hawkgirl, though, steps on his boast immediately. “Which might explain why you can’t get a date.” It takes our boy Flash a couple of seconds to figure it out. Then he says, “Yeah… hey!” We’re wondering how many of the kids who watch the show got the joke.
4 Batman: The Brave and The Bold — JL Song
This actually happens in an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold called “Mask of Matches Malone,” even though it references the Justice League. Batman's teamed up with Black Orchid to go after Poison Ivy. Black Canary, Huntress, and Catwoman are after Two Face. They all end up at the Double Decker Club, a gangster hideout. Batman is disguised as Matches Malone, an underworld snitch, and he gets Catwoman and Black Canary to come with him into the club. Mayhem ensues and the ladies are joined by Huntress. The three of them, Catwoman, Black Canary, and Huntress pretend to be a singing group to get through to the Caped Crusader, who is disguised as Matches, but who is actually Two-Face at this point. At any rate, the ladies sing a song about sex with the male JL members. Warner Bros. actually censored part of the song, but some delightfully double-entendre lines made it through. “Flash’s foes, they finish last. Too bad sometimes he’s just too fast!” “Aquaman’s always courageous, his little fish, less outrageous!” “Plastic Man can expand, becomes putty in our hands.” “Batman throws his Batarang, what a weapon, what a bang. He’s always right there for the save, I’d like to see his secret cave…” It was the first appearance for the Birds of Prey.
3 Justice League Unlimited — Amanda Waller And Bruce’s DNA
There’s a surprisingly salacious moment that comes from Amanda Waller, a DC character who isn’t really known for her sense of humour. “Epilogue” was the second season finale of Justice League Unlimited, airing in 2005, and the episode tied up some loose ends from Batman Beyond. It's set in future when Amanda Waller is a government liaison, and she went into her back of tricks to make sure that Batman has a successor — whether he wants one or not. A dude called Tim McGinnis turns out to be his biological son. At one point, Amanda explains to Tim how she managed to make sure Bruce Wayne had an heir. “Bruce's DNA was easy enough to obtain. He left it all over town.” Say what? When Terry has the same reaction that we do, Amanda adds, “Not remotely what I meant.” Riiiight.
2 The Powerpuff Girls — The Rowdyruff Boys Shrink
The Rowdyruff Boys were created during the first season by evil villain Mojo Jojo as the male equivalent to our trio of superheroines. He gets the idea while in prison, and calls Professor Utonium to find how what he made the Powerpuff Girls out of. To counter their sugar, spice, and everything nice, he makes the Rowdyruffs out of — you guessed it — snips, snails, and puppy dog tails. And Chemical X, which he gets from the toilet in his prison cell. So, yuck. But, they are super aggressive. After their first appearance, they are brought back in season 5 in an episode called "The Boys Are Back In Town." First time around, the Powerpuff girls defeated them with niceness and kisses. This time, the Rowdyruff Boys end up bigger and badder, but the girls figure out that “Whenever their masculinity is threatened, they shrink in size.” Once again, the ladies win.
1 The New Batman Adventures — Harley’s Cream Pie
In "Beware the Creeper," an episode from The New Batman Adventures, the main plot involves The Joker throwing a reporter into a vat of chemicals (there are a lot of them in Gotham, apparently,) and he becomes The Creeper, another wacky citizen of the city. At one point, though, The Joker comes home in a bad mood and Harley Quinn tries to get him in a much better one. She's sent the help away and emerges from a huge cream pie. Naturally, she’s covered with whipped cream and pie filling and does a little song and dance for him — “Happy anniversary, Mr. J / You're really swell and okay / It's seven years to the day-hey / Take the night off, let's play...” Then she comes up with, “Wanna try some of my pie?” When The Joker walks up to her, she adds, “I’m sure you’ll want seconds.” The Joker, being the bad boyfriend that he is, turns her down. But, we sure wouldn’t.