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What Do You Mean Its For Kids: Western Animation

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    Cartoon Network 
  • Adventure Time. A fantasy show with a post-apocalyptic backstory and a cast filled with personal issues, the show is filled to the bone with adult references, and it's all wrapped up in the silly adventures of a boy and his dog.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has some of the episodes whose content may be a bit too suggestive or violent for children, even though it's rated TV-Y7-FVnote . One episode, "Emperor Joker!", comes to mind, with the Joker destroying the universe To Create A Playground For Evil with playing cards, and then proceeding to kill Batman in many numerous, comical ways and then bring him Back from the Dead repeatedly, over and over again. Though most of the deaths are Gory Discretion Shots and some of them are explicit (such as Batman becoming a skeleton by the Acid Pool), and even one of them has him become a Winged Soul Flying Off to Heaven at Death, all of them are very disturbing for children; but keep in mind that the show's creators did their best in softening the blows and trying to make the episode more kid-friendly than the original, explicit Superman comic book that it adapted very loosely.
    • And then there's "The Mask of Matches Malone!", in which the many deaths of Batman are very disturbing in spite of the Cloak of Nefertiti that is supposed to be very helpful, and it even shows the innuendo song "Birds of Prey" that got leaked onto the internet, resulting in the episode being left on the cutting room floor, airing only in Australia, and released as a bonus episode on the U.S. Season 3 DVD. "What do you mean it's for kids?", indeed.
  • Code Lyoko Let's see. Tons of tentacle mind rape. Once case of actual tentacle rape from vines. All of the times Aelita died, nearly died, attempted suicide, or had a clone die. All the cursing in Evolution. All of the Fanservice. Aelita seeing her mother kidnapped and her father murdered, on screen. Aelita suffers from flashbacks and hallucinations. Then there was the time Jeremie started acting suicidal and reckless to further his work. X.A.N.A. made so many murder attempts on screen that it can be turned into a drinking game. Franz Hopper went completely insane, as shown through a video diary. And a ton of other horrors.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog is packed to the gills with scary scenes, like the screamer girl from "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City", and the blue...something from "Perfect". It ran for four years and got canceled for being too scary, which isn't too surprising. Probably the most controversial episode was "The Mask", where the villain was clearly a pimp who cruelly beat his two charges, with scenes of lesbianism thrown in for good measure.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Not only because the main premise is about two kids that became friends with Death Itself, but also because the show depicts a series of grotesque situations quite unusual for a children's show.
  • Johnny Bravo is about an Elvis Presley-sounding Casanova Wannabe trying to score with women. Seth MacFarlane (the crown prince of black, cringe comedy) worked on this show before Family Guy, American Dad!, Ted, and The Cleveland Show, so this should surprise no one.
  • MAD: Most of its parodies are of movies and TV shows that wouldn't be considered "children's entertainment" (i.e. CSI: Miami, The Social Network, House, Two and a Half Men, The Bourne Identity, Jersey Shore, ER, Cloverfield District 9, among others) often mashed up with movies and TV shows that would be considered "children's entertainment"note  (Sesame Street, iCarly, Bob the Builder, Kung Fu Panda, etc.). It's no wonder fans have compared this show to Robot Chicken (though it is said to be the Spiritual Successor to the FOX sketch show, MADtv, which wasn't a kids' show to begin with, but had plenty of Subverted Kids Shows during its 14-year run).
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: G Rated Drugs in the forms of candy and maple syrup, stories full of bizarre, dark events that would make A Series of Unfortunate Events look like a Bowdlerised Grimm's fairy tale, and animation that makes Ren and Stimpy's look sane, on-model, and beautifully animated (as in "Disney during the 1950s" or "Disney when it got good again in the late 1980s thanks to The Little Mermaid" beautifully animated).
  • The Powerpuff Girls. Word of God says it originally wasn't intended for kids (after all, its working title was The Whoop-Ass Girls), but the Animation Age Ghetto struck and he was forced to change it. The original intent becomes more and more obvious later in the series.
  • Even better is Regular Show. More sex jokes, frequent lethal use of weapons and mild profanities ("crap", "sucks", even "pissed") then you can shake a yardstick at. Justified, as Regular Show is based on two short films J.G. Quintel made in animation school called "2 in the AM-PM" and "The Naive Man from Lolliland." While "The Naive Man from Lolliland" is safe for family viewing (the one use of the word "hell" wouldn't phase most viewers), "2 in the AM-PM" isn't — at least by Cartoon Network's already selective standards.
  • Robotomy: Excessive violence, a lot of Comedic Sociopathy, some sexual innuendo, some mild swearing (mostly words like "crap," "sucks" or "screwed"). Justified, as one of the show creators worked on Superjail and it has the look and feel of a Superjail spin-off or companion show.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, which is pretty much Scooby Doo if it wasn't so campy and 1960s. Despite being rated TV-Y7-FV, the show includes moments of death, extreme violence, Black Comedy and the season one Big Bad being revealed to have kidnapped Fred from his birth parents and threatening to harm him if they ever came back for him; to make things crazier, the Bigger Bad is an Eldritch Abomination that the gang had to kill in order to save the Universe. Not to mention an abnormally high amount of Stuff Blowing Up very realistically, up to the point where near the end of the series, roughly half of Crystal Cove is gone! Its Shout Outs skewed heavily toward the adult side of the audience as well, referencing everything from Twin Peaks to Hellraiser to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars was originally criticized for being too childish and kid-friendly throughout most of its first season. It more than made up for it from the end of the first season and beyond. Brutal depictions of War Is Hell, Family Unfriendly Deaths abound, and a good amount of morally questionable moves by the traditional heroes turned it into one of the most fearless family-friendly animated programs in recent memory.
  • Teen Titans was pretty kid-friendly overall, but it did have moments of this at times with storylines involving the end of the world, Blackmail when Slade threatens to kill the Teen Titans unless Robin becomes his apprentice, and a few instances of Mind Rape. Not to mention Raven's demonic heritage would make some religious parents and viewers scared.
  • Time Squad: Here's an apt description of the show: on the outside, it was a funny, unassuming edutainment cartoon (that was more entertainment than education) about an orphaned history whiz taken in by a Time Cop and his Robot Buddy to the future where, each episode, they go back in time to fix history. On the inside, it had more Ho Yay than the original Star Trek, got away with more adult jokes than Rocko's Modern Life, played up the Hilariously Abusive Childhood trope for laughs more than The Simpsons and South Park combined, and seemed to indulge in more homoerotic subtext than anything Oscar Wilde has written. Is it any wonder that Cartoon Network aired it at five in the morning during its final years?
  • Young Justice is rife with Getting Crap Past the Radar, including implications of Twincest, many references to and depictions of murder, and doesn't shy away from the severe mental strain that is put on Child Soldiers.
    • The subplot in "Beneath" heavily implies that the mother of one of Jaime Reyes' friends is being physically abused by her boyfriend. The same episode also reveals that Queen Bee is essentially running a child-trafficking ring, where innocent teenagers are kidnapped and sold to aliens who use them for experimentation.
    • One of the protagonists' favorite tactic is Mind Rape. And it is played out for maximum shock value.

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show about a war that has lasted for a hundred years, tearing apart families and nations and was begun with the genocide of an entire people. The protagonist, the 12-year-old last survivor of said people, assembles a team of Child Soldiers and trains to overthrow the Evil Overlord (who happens to be a shockingly abusive parent) that seeks to subjugate or kill anyone who isn't Fire Nation.
    • The "Southern Raiders" episode in general, for its portrayal of murder, revenge and forgiveness. It doesn't go the way one might expect.
    • The series finale is about preventing said Evil Overlord, who has gained a massive two-day power boost, from immolating an entire continent.
  • To continue the tradition, The Legend of Korra revolves around Fantastic Racism, the terrorists that form in response to it, and the totalitarian oppression in response to that. The whole plot is ultimately kicked off because of child abuse, and ends in a Murder-Suicide. It's a wonder how this show is rated Y7-FV.
    • Not to mention that the method of Debending looks eerily similar to public executions.
    • And that's being subtle and mature compared to Korra straight up Jack Bauer-ing a guy in Book 2 by sticking his head in Naga's mouth and threatening to turn him into her afternoon snack.
    • Book 2 also includes two of the most vicious cameos ever committed to celluloid. That nice professor who refused to leave Wan Shi Tong's library? He's still there... as a dessicated corpse. And Admiral Zhao died, right? Not exactly... his soul is still around, trapped in a spirit prison and driven insane by his own worst memories.
    • In general, the show has a tendency to play disturbing imagery completely straight. When Korra's limbs are temporarily erased by getting struck by bending in spirit form or the spirit of darkness forces himself out of Unalaq's mouth, latches onto Korra's face, and rips the spirit of light out of Korra's eyes and throat, it's not an attempt at gross-out humor in the slightest, just kind of horrifying.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants used to be rated TV-Ynote  until around 2006, where it changed it to TV-Y7note  to better reflect its post-movie content. Still, with episodes like "One Coarse Meal", "Are You Happy Now?", "The Splinter", and "Face Freeze", the first two treating suicide as a laughing matter and the last two being more graphic than average, its a wonder why they didn't bump the rating even higher.
  • Hey Arnold!. The show features adult themes like an overkill (by Nickelodeon standards) of cursing and the darkest backstory of any Nickelodeon character (Helga, who is considered the unfavorite in her family in favor of her Stepford Smiler sister, has a verbally abusive father, and a mother who is clearly a depressed alcoholic).
  • Invader Zim was more grotesque than most of Nick's other works, featured things like children summoning demons and a disturbing amount of body horror (including one kid getting his eyes plucked out), and was created by a man who wrote a comic series about a homicidal maniac.
    • It's really kind of in between this and its sister trope. The show was very very clearly meant for a young teen audience, but for whatever reason Nick shoehorned it in a block that was otherwise targeted at a different demographic that the show was completely inappropriate for. That said, it's still questionable for even the intended demographic- while it's toned down from JCV's comics, it's basically a hair away from Squee in terms of content, which is very solidly meant for adults.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show was the Trope Codifier for Grossout Show and was filled to the brim with horrifying Gross Up Close Ups, yet was one Nickelodeon's flagship series.
  • Rocko's Modern Life was, without a doubt, aimed very much at young adults for a kids' show. While tame compared to Ren & Stimpy, it still has its moments. Social satire runs rampant throughout the series, some of the adult humor is flat out extreme and ridiculous, a few of its worst innuendos got banned from even the DVDs, one of the episodes was banned for being too sexually sleazy, a lot of crazy and disturbing stuff happens in general, there is often serious abuse going on between characters, the theme song even shows what a sick mockery Rocko's childhood was...Jesus, where to begin? This show actually pushed boundaries almost as much as Ren & Stimpy.


    First-Run Syndication 

Video GamesWhat Do You Mean, It's for Kids?    

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