It's no secret that Cartoon Network's radar system has a lot of screws loose in terms of airing content that other channels would not consider appropriate for children...and not just on their primetime-to-late-night [adult swim]
line-up. Their daytime original programming (a lot of which take cues — and have crew members — from Nickelodeon's Nicktoons) all proudly push the limits of their TV-Y7 rating (and their imported theatrical cartoon shorts collectionnote
, despite being Edited for Syndication
, pushes the limits of their TV-G rating), though, as of 2010, most of their original programming airs with a TV-PG rating in an attempt to "age up" the programming and get more ratings from their Periphery Demographic
(older kids and parents who watch cartoons with their kids for either Moral Guardian
or nostalgia reasons).
Whether it's classic cartoons or original programming (both in the past and nownote
), Cartoon Network's shows work hard to smash the stereotype that cartoons are kids' stuff, and the examples below are shining examples of this.
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Cow and Chicken
- The show may not have had a long life on Cartoon Network (started June 2001; ended November 2003), but it left behind a glut of crap that got past the radar. Any given episode has one or more of the following:
- References to homosexuality, all of which was centered on The Larry 3000 and made up a huge chunk of what got past the censors (see Time Squad's Ho Yay section for more details)
- Drug humor (season one's "Eli Whitney's Flesh-Eating Mistake" and season two's "Pasteur Packs O'Punch" had Larry acting drunk; in "Betsy Ross Flies Her Freak Flag," Betsy Ross and George Washington's army all have red-rimmed eyes and act like stoners. On top of that, there was a strange, white cloud around the "Magical Farm Place Farm").
- Black Comedy, in the form of several instances of child abuse and neglect being played for laughs (Otto's life in the orphanage as seen in "Eli Whitney's Flesh Eating Mistake" and "Orphan Substitute," Otto getting left behind on the island on "Hate and Let Hate" for most of the episode, an unnamed child getting a piano dropped on him during his birthday party on "The Clownfather," and Otto getting injured while Tuddrussell tries to be like a father to him in "Father Figure of Our Country.")
- Phallic and oftentimes autoerotic innuendo (Tuddrussell's laser gun magazine folding out like a Playboy centerfold on "Kubla Khan't"), among other scenes involving Tuddrussell's guns (cf. "Hate and Let Hate," where Larry gets a Personality Swap after accidentally firing off one of Tuddrussell's guns).
- Freudian imagery that some viewers wouldn't notice the first time around
- Lines of dialogue that come off as rather...risque.
- Some racial/ethnic stereotyping (Larry saying the orphans looked cute with their "black faces" [which they got from mining coal] in "Orphan Substitute"; Atilla the Hun portrayed as a Mort Goldman-esque Jewish stereotype in "A Thrilla at Atilla's")
- Even a couple of the titles were iffy, particularly "To Hail With Caesar" and "Big Al's Big Secret".
- Ben 10: Alien Force:
Well, I'd better hit the shower. Ben:
Me too. Uh- I mean, uh...
- In Ultimate Alien, Zombozo and Kevin fight with mallets, with Zombozo declaring "Mine's BIGGER than yours!", and Kevin replying "It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it!"
- The Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Busted" has Bloo, after an unsuccessful attempt to glue together Madame Foster's stone bust of herself together again using toothpaste after he breaks it, stating, "A bust this big needs ample support!"
- In a later episode, Coco tries to get a single room after Eduardo already asked for it. When Mr. Harriman claims that Eduardo needed it more, Frankie starts to object and is about to explain, why a girl can't share a room with three boys when the scenario just switches. Once we are back at Harriman's office, he's sweating and utters something along the lines: "I-I-I never knew there were so many... special "needs" for women.... Ms. Coco gets the room." Frankie Foster smiles delightful and a bit mischievous. We are left to guess, what she just told him about girls... Not that we couldn't guess.
- Not to mention that they slipped in these lines...
Bloo: No, sheets!
No, sheets. Sheets, bed
Wilt: Yeah, that's really sucking! (Referring to a vacuum cleaner sucking in Bloo)
Eduardo: *Sigh* There's no pleasing this guy.
- Joey to the World sadly didn't get past the radar (in one of the rare times that Cartoon Network's censors actually did do a competent job at monitoring content — that wasn't found in a Looney Tunes cartoon). The Cartoonstitute short was credited as being "created by Cartoon Network", and they were putting it as a candidate for a comedy series...sadly, theories have it that the creator didn't know he was supposed to produce something for children, and the end result was something that would have had a nice home on [adult swim].
- While I Am Weasel was cut from the same cloth as Cow and Chicken, it was very light on dubious content. However, that isn't to say that the show was completely clean. The Red Guy from Cow and Chicken was still there and still had names that referred to his state of undress (Lance Sackless, Cleo-Pantless, Tallulah Bottoms, etc), the episode "I.R. Bush Pilot" has Weasel as an OB/GYN and a pilot (making the title one of the most sexual puns ever made on a Cartoon Network show that wasn't on [adult swim]), and "This Bridge Not Weasel Bridge" had a line about a worker who was coming home to his wife and the son he never knew he had (possibly because his wife had him with another man).
- The obscure Mike, Lu & Og has a few moments. For example, "Losing Lancelot" has Mike and Og going out on a boat to save Lancelot from sharks and Margery thinks the two are "too young to go out on a boat alone". Plus, we see Og run without his loincloth on in "Hot Couture" (though we only see his butt). Not to mention that the What A Cartoon pilot doesn't give backsides to Lu's bra and Og's loincloth.
- The nanoscopically short-lived series of shorts, Sunday Pants, might be seen as an example of the censors doing their job. However, twice, the word 'damn it' were shouted by characters, on prime time. It's arguable that the censors probably did this just for laughs and that the series was ending anyway. Since then, Sunday Pants has never been mentioned or even acknowledged by Cartoon Network.