What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?

For kids age six and up.

"He died?! And this is supposed to be a kids' movie!"
Rizzo the Rat, Muppet Treasure Island

Y'know, for kids!

Often times, productions that are marketed to children make us wonder if they were created for them (namely for potentially explicit content and/or serious and mature plots. While the latter is existent, the former is more common.) Namely, if these shows have an awful lot of Parental Bonus, Parent Service, and the like. Unfortunately, this can also bring Moral Guardians out of the woodwork if it seems to be blatant enough. This can also happen when something is given a G rating but has an awful lot of potentially explicit content.

This phenomenon can also occur due to Values Dissonance. For example, Once Acceptable Targets are, by definition, no longer acceptable, and Real Life tragedies can make things Harsher in Hindsight, and different countries' Moral Guardians have different standards. There's also the fact that, in the past, the line between "child" and "adult" wasn't always drawn at the same age as it is now.

Another reason for this trope is that a good number of children are quite fond of scary or violent things, as long as the bad guy loses in the end.

Often confused with What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?, where a work is commonly mistaken as being for kids even when it is not.


Other examples

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    Comic Books 
  • Disney Italy created Paperinik, Donald Duck's Super Hero alter ego... who is actually an Unscrupulous Hero who sadistically torments anyone pissing Donald off but gets mistaken for an actual superhero, by characters and some writers and readers alike, because criminals are at or near the top of his shit list; whenever the writers remember his origins he's chased by the whole police force because he's just that scary, has gadgets to spray acid (for use on locks, fortunately) and to wipe out memories, stopped going around with an actual M1911 pistol only after replacing it with a multi-purpose beam weapon that includes a Disintegrator Ray, and, in an early story, tried to murder Gladstone before thousands of witnesses (disguised as a mere and well-deserved kick in the butt... that threw Gladstone from a tower).
    • The Paperinik New Adventures series, inspired by American superhero comics, introduced the Evronians, an Horde of Alien Locusts out to eat our emotions (save for a few people to keep as cattle) and transform us into Slave Mooks. Also, a survivor of Xerba, a planet invaded by the Evronians, has transformed herself in a Physical Goddess out to commit genocide against the Evronians as payback for their invasion of her homeworld.
  • EC Comics. The entire company output qualifies, even after correcting for Values Dissonance for their being published in the 1950s. Even back then, however, Moral Guardians raised plenty of objections that their comic books were inappropriate for kids; EC strenuously resisted censorship until The Comics Code went into effect.
  • Heaven's girl, a comic produced by the Children of God/The Family in 1987 for child members before being purged, feature the gang rapenote  of the heroine, Marie Claire.
    • Disturbingly Marie Claire was based on David Bergnote 's greatdaughter, Merry Berg.
      • Even more squicky, he has been accused to raping her.
  • Due a case of Values Dissonance, Italian comics are often this. Examples include:
    • Aside for the above-mentioned Paperinik and Paperinik New Adventures, Disney Italy has created W.I.T.C.H. (with plenty of nightmarish situations and enough instances of Getting Crap Past the Radar to deserve an entire page here, Mickey Mouse Mystery Magazine (in which Mickey Mouse finds himself operating in a city dirtier than Gotham), and has a habit of showing Scrooge shooting at someone with intent to maim (with a rock salt-loaded blunderbuss) or, in the past, kill (with a buckshot-loaded double-barreled shotgun).
    • One of the main characters of Rat-Man is Cinzia Otherside, a blonde transexual prostitute with a 30-cm penis in love with the protagonist and often trying to do him. Then the various stories include one-off gags (with Cinzia having originated as one) such as Bambi's mother returning to life as a Flesh-Eating Zombie and eating Bambi (it was the storyline parodying The Walking Dead)...
    • The satirical comic Jenus of Nazareth openly shows paedophile priests.
  • The Marvel Adventures line is written for the 5-12 kid demographic, but it seems designed to address most of the adult audience's criticism of the Marvel line: it has a much less confusing continuity, steers away from the Wangst and bleakness the main line tended to indulge in, and sidestepped the whole Civil War fiasco, and the rest of the dueling-author messes completely. Marvel Adventures appeals to adults who liked mainstream Marvel Comics from the 1960s to 1980s, IE when they were targeted to kids and teens. The fact that said period is largely considered to be the company's hey-day is a reminder that Tropes Are Not Bad. (Also, forget the 80s; Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man has the Blonde Phantom as a Recurrer. Remember her? No? Ask your grandparents.)
    • Interestingly, as much as Darker and Edgier is considered a good thing, it is quite lighter than the mainstream comics. It turns out that if you tell a good story, people will enjoy it over a poor one that has more blood, sex, and swearing.
  • My Little Pony:
  • The Smurfs is the More Popular Spin-off of another comic book, and has a fair share of creepy stories... Starting from the very first book, featuring a Zombie Apocalypse that predates Night of the Living Dead (1968) by nine years.
  • Played strangely with Superior Spider-Man, which indulges in every excess contemporary comics are wont to indulge in (Doc Ock stealing Peter Parker's body, then jacking off in it?) - but the writer has gone on record as saying that he wants kids to read it.
  • A lot of Flemish comedy comic books can be frightening to foreigners. Though in native Flanders, where Moral Guardians are treated like extremists, its pretty normal for kids to read stuff like that.
    • Plankgas en Plastronekke is a Flemish comic book widely known for being endorsed by the famous Dutch comedian Urbanus. Did we mention that its jokes are almost all a form of Comedic Sociopathy? It has more gore and gross-out than Drawn Together and Family Guy combined.
    • Pitch is pretty tame in general, though some of the Black Comedy shots (there is a suicide joke in the beginning of the very first album), may make it off-putting for foreign viewers.
  • Cindy and Biscuit manages to get this trope and What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids? as well due to its ludicrously extreme violence and Mood Whiplash depictions of Cindy's depressing mundane life. It has been nominated for childrens' comics awards, and according to Word of God is intended for children, but some early reviewers assumed that it was a Deconstructive Parody of Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World stories.

  • Misuse of the ratings on Fan Fiction.Net and Archive of Our Own can lead to people believing this. There are fanfics on the former rated K or K+ that contain things like cursing and lemons. On AO3, the ratings have no clear guidelines, so it is way too common for fics that have F-bombs in their tags or explicit sexual kinks to be rated for general audiences.
  • The final story of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, "Black Rain", contains the Slender Man. In a kid's show. This is only the tip of the iceberg (for one, the opening of the episode plays out like a non-murderous version of a horror movie).
  • My Little Unicorn preaches that things like love and tolerance are actually worthless and only brutal force can lead to true happiness. Characters get Killed Off for Real in rather brutal ways for little kids, and there are certain sexual innuendos to be found in the entire story. Yet the author proclaims that the fanfiction is way better entertainment for kids than the actual show it rips off of.
    • The best example for it may be a chapter of My Brave Pony: Star Fleet Magic II, in which Fluttershy is in the hospital to be operated on. A changeling slips in and tries to kill her by cutting her open and letting her bleed to death.
  • The creator of the fanon SpongeBob spinoff Warriors of Bikini Bottom claims the show is intended for middle school age and up, but that doesn't stop it from having characters discussing their sex lives (and on occasion, even having sex), swearing in the transcripts, and having various gory fights.
  • The Inside Out story Intercom has a K+ rating on Fanfiction.net, which is generally the equivalent to the original film's PG rating. In spite of that, however, this story is pretty dark (at least once Cerebus Syndrome kicks in) as it features rather mature subjects such as mental disorders and Riley deciding to take anti-psychosis medication behind her parents' back. Luckily the latter point is alleviated, but then worse problems begin to arise...

    Newspaper Comics 
  • This trope was invoked in a Bloom County strip, where one character is going around telling everyone "the awful truth" about, well, everything. He comes to Steve, and says "The truth is, Knight Rider is a kid's show!" to which Steve replies. "Can't be. Can't &%^#ing be!"
  • Little Nemo. It's a whole nightmare world! Though this is more of a shift in what is acceptable for children. It was a lot more open at that time as shown with other so-called children's books during that time like The Wind in the Willows, which would almost be impossible to publish as a kid's book now. There's even a panel where Little Nemo, who is about nine at that point, is reading Gulliver's Travels.

  • Dino Attack RPG is a fun family adventure on a family-friendly website with death, destruction, genocide, drugs, alcohol, sexism, smoking, homophobia, unstoppable cosmic horrors, child abuse, murder, betrayal, and torture, among other things.

  • Depending on the incarnation, Starlight Express includes hate-motivated beatings, a Serial Killer villain, Domestic Abuse, marital infidelity, a young woman singing a solo about her favorite sexual experience, a retired prostitute, a character who maintains an equal-opportunity harem, an ocean's worth of sexual innuendo in general, and references to smoking, alcohol, and drugs. The show manages to get away with all these elements because the characters are anthropomorphic toy trains. The Las Vegas version of the musical, which featured the main female characters in showgirl costumes, actually wasn't intended for kids, but attracted family audiences regardless.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the 2011 Dance Off With the Star Wars Stars, which is for children, Darth Vader performs C. Lo Green's "F**k You!" (or at least the radio edit) during the freestyle half of the show.

  • For years Barbie has been accused of this (not to mention Bratz), and we'll just leave it at that.
  • Buzz Lightyear sippycup — so that's what "To infinity, AND BEYOND!" really means...
  • Speaking of Mike Mozart, there's this Dora the Explorer-licenced AquaPet. It's rather...interestingly shaped
  • G.I. Joe as a whole gets this treatment, actually. Because it happened in the comics, there are those older viewers/readers who think that every TV show and movie—past, present, future, and otherwise—should use real bullets instead of (the Hasbro-mandated) lasers, and that there should be more onscreen deaths simply because of the military nature of the concept and toyline (which goes all the way back to the 1960s or 70s; i.e., before the "Real American Hero" era). Aside from the aforementioned Resolute, the closest the fans got to a version of Joe they wanted was probably the live-action movie series.
  • For a short period of time, there were vibrating Harry Potter broomsticks in toystores. Which were enjoyed fondly by... well... all ages, until it was brought to the companies attention that not everyone was riding the broom pretending to play Quidditch...
  • LEGO.
    • The properties that LEGO chooses to adapt for the LEGO Adaptation Games and toys tend to skew towards PG-13 rated titles. Star Wars and Harry Potter are initially PG material (with the later, darker ones being PG-13) but we also have the Burton/Schumacher Batman films (all PG-13), the Pirates of the Caribbean films (likewise) and the Indiana Jones series (first two are PG, but only because PG-13 didn't exist, and The Temple of Doom was partially responsible for its creation).
    • In 2015, LEGO released a set that passed the LEGO Ideas submission and approval process... based upon The Big Bang Theory. Merchandise for a sitcom filled to the brim with sex jokes is being sold in LEGO Stores alongside themes like Legends of Chima and Ninjago. You know, for kids!
  • While not a big deal back in the 1960s when they were made, post-modernism pretty much guarantees that these bad boys won't be seeing a revival: Meet the Ding-a-Lings!
    • Transformers scribe Simon Furman complained about this trope in regards to the dark Beast Machines.
      • It should be noted just how much of Simon Furman's work fits into this category. When the writer of the bloodbath the Marvel Generation 2 comics became calls something too dark, you know you've taken Darker and Edgier Up to Eleven.
      • Furman was specifically concerned about the "For Kids" part of this trope. He was very much about darker, more fatal Transformer stories, but he was explicitly writing with an older audience in mind than the cartoon series are marketed towards.
    • It's a bit understandable, though, if you look at the premise devoid of context: Two factions of a race of alien war machines come to Earth, their war having gone on so long that battling for the resources our planet can give them to continue the war effort is more important than the war itself. The weakest of them has enough power to slaughter dozens of human soldiers and come away with nothing more than a badly-scratched paint job. At best, their feelings towards us are paternalistic, and they look down with a combination of pity and admiration on those of our species who see it as their sworn duty to defend us from them. At worst, they find us repulsive and enjoy slaughtering us when they have a chance. A sunny kids' show is not what you'd imagine it would look like... Nonetheless, it's still a family franchise, even if the fans think it should be otherwise.

    Visual Novels 

  • Word of God has it that "Assigned Male" is aimed at kids. While the idea of having a trans child as a protagonist for kids to relate to is admirable, there still seems to be enough talk about genitalia to make any age uncomfortable, and has characters swearing in plain sight.
  • The creator of Liltoon once had an on-site notice stating that his comic is suitable for readers aged 10 and up, but the "Flushing the Soul" arc seems to belie that.
  • Sonichu is nominally intended to be a children's comic, aimed for kids between the ages of 7 and 14...but that certainly doesn't stop its author from inserting scenes of bloody, brutal violence (up to and including a scene of a young girl mutilating a defenseless criminal with a pair of giant drills) and (supposedly) titillating sex (with an entire chapter dedicated to showing off the main characters' sexual anatomy). Needless to say, no children even read the comic in the first place.
  • The original Sonic the Comic was perfectly kid friendly. The fan-continuation Sonic the Comic is mostly on the same level however one arc is infamously dark. Stuck in the past with no modern technology, Tekno starts to have a mental breakdown. It ends with beating a villain to death. The fan outrage was very loud due to considering it overly dark and out of character. Eventually they retconned that Set survived the injuries, but that doesn't lessen the tone by much.

    Web Original 
  • Some of the Accidental Nightmare Fuel-overdosed family movies featured in The Cinema Snob lead him to question such an assumption. Examples include Red Riding Hood and The Monsters and Fun In Balloon Land (the latter in particular was described as "something a pedophile would film with captive children").
  • This trope is discussed in the Cracked articles 10 Great Books For (Traumatising) Children and 8 Weirdly Sexual Products You Won't Believe Are for Kids.
  • Doctor Steel's whole concept for "The Dr. Steel Show" was that of a kid's show that was just a little bit... warped. He also had a song, supposedly for a proposed kid's show, called "Smokey the Kid-Loving Trout" (graphic for this song on his website showed a stinking hobo-like anthropomorphic trout, complete with stogie, walking with children).
  • Misha has many music videos that are labeled "(FOR KIDS)". Nevertheless, in those videos: he usually dons a cap that contains the "F word" on it, gives out some traumatizing messages (one involves killing Santa Claus), and sometimes uses profanity and "flipping the bird".
  • Neopets is a rather weird example in itself; nowadays the target demographic audience is definitely for young children- but when this popular site first started out, it was mostly used by college (or university) students years ago. There are still remnants of this material from that time (such as the Ski-Lodge Mystery plot) floating around, waiting to be prime scariness for any children who happened to stumble across them.
    • 'Prime scariness' is a major understatement. Those deaths were gory.
  • Whenever he sees something that isn't kid-friendly, The Nostalgia Critic says, "You know, for kids!"
    • This joke has been phased out and replaced with freeze-framing during a particularly disturbing scene and adding the caption "A Family Picture!"
  • Oliver Harper's Retrospectives and Reviews: During his Return of the Jedi review, he points out how lenient the UK rating board was at first to the original Star Wars films, giving them all U (Universal) ratings despite the violence and blood.
  • Life in the Bay is an in-universe cartoon in We Are Our Adventuring Avatars which features plenty of torture, and some of it cannot be described directly. It has an in-universe rating of Y-5.
  • This is so prominent on Tumblr that it's become a running joke that people will overanalyze any given children's media in an attempt to make it seem more "adult-friendly".
  • Comes up In-Universe in the Thrilling Adventure Hour Beyond Belief episode "Scream a Little Scream." Sadie Doyle refers to childrens' books written by one of the characters in the episode, which include life or death candy trials and a boy who was "french fried from the inside," prompting her husband Frank to ask if these books were really for children.
  • In-Universe example in Super Mario Logan: Boswer Junior's favorite show, "Doofy the Dragon", is aimed at children, but contains jokes where Doofy tries to kill himself with knives and guns and one episode involved him lighting himself on fire. Chef Pee-Pee thinks the show is a bad influence on him for these reasons and discourages Bowser Junior from doing anything he's seen on the show.
  • The YouTube channel Webs & Tiaras is one of many channels that are notorious for both its status as a cheap bootleg and containing subject matter that is surreal that most people would be baffled are meant for young children, mainly a recurring theme of Your Cheating Heart and even some unintentional sexual undertones. It honestly seems more like a Crack Fic than anything aimed towards children aged seven and under.

  • This al-Qaeda jihadist film, supposedly.
  • Bubblegum/candy cigarettes — and also, licorice pipes, chocolate cigars, candy cigarettes, and the infamous "Hippy Sippy". Aside from the last item, these are still sold today (although often with bowdlerised names like "candy sticks"). Even a few of the most ardent anti-smokers still feel a little pang of nostalgia for these, and feel kind of torn at the idea of taking them off the market.

A family picture!