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What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?

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For kids age six and up.
"Our future society is desperately bloodthirsty. When they fight, you see people just foaming at the mouth out of excitement at the destruction. It's a kid's movie!"
Bayer and Snider, Movie B.S. on Real Steel

Often times, productions that are marketed to children make us wonder if they were created for them, because of potentially explicit content, serious and mature plots or both. 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, formerly 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, and children weren't always expected to be shielded by default from the horrible realities of the world around them.

Another reason for this trope is that a good number of children are quite fond of scary or violent things, and are often too young to understand the reasons many of these stories are considered dark. 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. When played for laughs, see Demographically Inappropriate Humour.

Another major reason for this reaction is that the core cast of the work in question are animals instead of humans. It has been noted with many examples listed here that despite having the similar mature themes along with the presence of blood and violence, whether the cast is human or animal often solely determines whether it gets shelved to the young adult or children's section respectively in bookstores and libraries.

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  • The advertising campaign for Kellogg's Fruit Wind-Ups consisted of CGI anthropomorphic fruit killing their normal-shaped but sentient brethren in extremely sadistic and cruel ways in order to make the product. This leads to things like innocent fruit desperately begging not to die; one involved the evil fruit sucking all the juice out of an orange, leaving his dead empty skin laying in the street. If anything, it's Sausage Party meets Danganronpa.
  • One Got Milk? ad featured two children who refuse to drink milk, because they believe milk is for babies. They tell their mother that their elderly next-door neighbor, Mr. Miller, never drinks milk. They see him going to use his wheelbarrow when suddenly his arms rip off because, having not consumed milk, his bones are weak and fragile. The children scream in horror and then frighteningly start imbibing every last drop of milk they have. This ad was enough to have ex-California Governor Gray Davis demand that the National Milk Processor Education Program yank it from broadcast.
  • In 1989, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society created this animated PIF against the whale hunting on the Faroe Islands. Despite the fact that it features whales being graphically slaughtered with lots of blood as they scream, the makers of the PIF wanted it to appear before the movie When the Whales Came, which is rated U in the PIF's country of origin, the United Kingdom.

    Asian Animation 
  • The level of violence in Black Cat Detective probably wouldn't be allowed in any modern children's show. Most graphically, in the very first episode, the protagonist shoots the ear off the main villain who is then shown holding his own severed ear, with blood all over his hand and head. In general, the graphic shooting and stabbing of Mooks is clearly seen as no big deal. Civilians and heroes can die too; for example, in one episode, a monkey child gets eaten by the villain.
  • Happy Heroes is undeniably a children's show, but it contains some surprisingly dark scenes and pieces of lore, such as the entire story about Doctor H. missing his Disappeared Dad, the episode in Season 7 where a certain character sacrifices themselves, and another episode in Season 14 where the Dark Demon stabs Happy S. and turns him into his Jixie Stone form. The Season 7 episode in particular is notable, as it's one of the episodes that was made available on Miao Mi, an Hong Kong-based educational channel for preschool and kindergarten-aged children.
  • The Haunted House: The Secret of the Ghost Ball is about two siblings and a friendly goblin. Every episode features the trio catching various kinds of ghosts, sometimes accompanied with their two classmates as well. Many of their encounters are incredibly scary, going as far as including Humanoid Abominations! Sprinkle in chunks of Body Horror here and there, a batch of Nightmare Fuel, and a bunch of depressing backstories, and now you've got some perfect Nightmare Fuel in your hands. All this despite the show being aimed at children.
  • The earlier seasons (notably season 1) of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf is often criticized for being quite violent and stretching the boundaries of Slapstick into Family-Unfriendly Violence. People cite the incident where a kid caused serious harm after imitating the show. Though fans defend the show by saying that the show itself is fine and that parents should be more mindful if they're worried about it.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • 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 into a Physical Goddess, out to commit genocide against the Evronians as payback for their invasion of her homeworld.
    • Basically the whole reason why the relatively obscure story "The Call of C'Russo" is so widely known. It plays the despair-inducing and existential dread of the Cosmic Horror Story genre completely straight for a Disney comic.
    • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck reads, essentially, like an adventure novel. If the main characters had been human instead of Funny Animals and the comic hadn't made liberal use of Discretion Shots and Bloodless Carnage, it would have slotted in quite neatly next to Blueberry and Modesty Blaise.
  • 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 granddaughter, Merry Berg, whom he has been accused of raping.
  • Due to a case of Values Dissonance, Italian comics are often this, with the lone exception of Diabolik (that was never for children but was mistaken for this anyway). 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), 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).
      • The Reginella Saga deals with the love story between Donald and the titular alien queen and features such lovely things as Reginella, usually a nice girl, outright kidnapping Donald and wipe his memory to keep him with her before events forced her to release him in the first story. The apex is achieved with the third one, where we have a furious Donald disrupting Reginella's forced wedding with a shotgun and putting up a Mook Horror Show on an entire army. That he then threatens to finish off if they don't melt their weapons into agricultural tools right now.
      • L'Inferno di Topolino (Mickey's Hell) is a Disney version of Dante's Inferno. Despite being massively Lighter and Softer than its inspiration, it includes bits like this (which, in original, has the same verse structure of the poem):
        My name is Goofy and I am a poet
        Now through Hell we'll have a walk
        Towards a dark and painful place.
        Once there we will pary Satan
        To be so gracious with us
        To make us exit this painful pass.

    • One of the main characters of Rat-Man is Cinzia Otherside, a blonde transsexual 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.
  • Malaysian comics, at least some Malaysian Chinese works, have this trope due to blood, death, gore, guns, weapons, etc. being prominent in them. Ping Ton Comic, an Malaysian comic strip series, contains English swear words.
  • 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 (2006) 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, it's pretty normal for kids to read stuff like that.
    • Plankgas en Plastronneke is a Flemish comic book widely known for being endorsed by the famous Flemish 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 at 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 children's' 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.
  • Tytus, Romek i A'tomek is one of the most well-liked Polish comic books, and often treated as a quintessential kids' series. However, the later installments contain some surprisingly dark and mature themes, including sexual innuendo. For instance, about half of Book 22 has Tytus accidentally turn evil due to Phlebotinum and subsequently run a criminal gang whose activities are depicted quite realistically; meanwhile book 26 ("Tytus's Honeymoon") has Tytus and his wife fly a vehicle which is propelled by them having sex onboard.
  • Mega Robo Bros gets on here just barely by throwing in the occasional swear word.
  • Condorito is a Long Runner, so he has fans of different generations, including children of 8 or 10 years. However many of his jokes have a lot of Black Comedy, a lot of violence - including deaths - used humorously, etc. In addition to that in the oldest stories they include all kinds of ethnic stereotypes that are less acceptable today.
  • The chilean comic Mampato was always designed for children, and also for educational purposes, but in his stories he has no problem in showing things like war, racism, sexism, disproportionate punishments (Twenty lashes for stealing an apple!), Human Sacrifice, etc., etc.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender already had a lot of themes you wouldn't expect to see from a children's show, ranging from abusive families to what growing up in a war does to a child, but the comics went full in on the political themes that were only touched on in the show, spending a great deal of time exploring the realistic consequences of 100 years of war:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise explores the consequences of longtime colonization. When Zuko realizes that the vast majority of the colonies' population are second, third, fourth or more generation colonists who know no other life than what they have in the colonies and that it would be wrong to uproot them all and move them to a nation they've never been in, it brings him into conflict with Earth King Kuwei, who quite understandably sees them only as invaders who stole land rightfully belonging to the Earth Kingdom.
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift and Avatar: The Last Airbender – North and South both explore the darker sides of the industrialization that tends to follow wars.
      • In The Rift, the industrialization of a small town has both caused them to build over an Air nomad holy site, but also forgotten a festival meant to appease the spirits, and the spirits in question are pissed. Aang does eventually appease them, but general Old Iron thinks that spirits have no place in this world.
      • In North and South, Katara and Sokka return home to find their old village turned into a city thanks to the aid of the Northern Water Tribe. While this does come with significant improvements in life standard, Katara worries that it will cause the loss of the unique Southern Water Tribe culture, especially since the NWT tends to act a lot like white saviors (except not white). The story does not reach any definitive conclusion to this, but shows both sides to be in the right. On the one side, the SWT has a unique culture that deserves to be preserved. On the other, the industrialization has improved the life of the south significantly, especially for non-benders.
    • In Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow, newly minted Fire Lord Zuko struggles with how much power he should exhert to protect his people while avoiding becoming a tyrannical dictator like his father. When the children of the Fire Nation start going missing, people start blaming him for not doing enough to protect him, and the New Ozai Society terrorist organization gains traction by organizing militias to protect the people if the Fire Lord is unable to.
  • Most of the comic book stories starring Sonic the Hedgehog. Way back in the 90s, in the Archie Comics series, Sally’s mentor Julayla dies of old age. Pretty tame, right? Nothing too bad except for how horrifying Eggman aka Robotnik looks. Fast forward over a decade later, and you have Scourge (formerly Anti-Sonic) implying that he murdered his own father and gouged out Patch’s eye. Also, we get plenty of fanservice in the later comics from characters like Bunnie, Fiona, Rouge, Sally, and the female echidnas like Julie-Su, Lara-Su, and Lien-Da. In the IDW series, many of the characters get turned into evil zombie robots due to the Metal Virus (Shadow and Vector look especially creepy), with Sonic himself getting infected and nearly succumbing to the virus.
    • Sonic “hooking up” with Fiona before she became evil. Said characters are 15 and 16 years old respectively. How did THIS make it past the censors?!
    • Some sex jokes involving Scourge, Fiona, Bunnie, and Rouge have been thrown in. They’ll likely go over a kid’s head, but there’s one involving Bunnie calling herself a “sax-cymbal”.
    • The Metal Virus saga in the IDW series is a top contender for the bleakest Sonic story ever. The 21-issue arc is almost nonstop misery from start to finish, and if older readers were as drained as Team Sonic was by the time of their Darkest Hour, one can only imagine how younger readers must've felt.
      • The Metal Virus itself, a bioweapon created by Dr. Eggman, is a Spiritual Successor to his roboticizers in the Archie series and the old weekend morning cartoons. But whereas old-school roboticization was instantaneous, this new form of it is slow, painful, and (for a kids' comic) pretty gruesome. Those who succumb to the Metal Virus turn into zombie-like robots called "Zombots", which, with their red eyes, sharp teeth, gruesome Spikes of Villainy, and perpetually angry faces, are not a pretty sight to behold, their ability to infect with merely a small touch notwithstanding.
      • By far the most horrifying Zombot-ification is that of Tangle the Lemur, the IDW series' resident Plucky Comic Relief. Unlike other such transformations, hers happens completely on-page and is very detailed. Her Zombot form is one of the ugliest, too.
      • Sonic manages to hold off his own Metal Virus infection by repeatedly running it off, but he nearly exhausts himself to death doing so and the infection finally overcomes his speed during the Zombot arc's climax. And just before Silver cures him via the Chaos Emeralds, Zombot spikes sprout all over Sonic's body like an awful skin condition. Yeesh...
    • The tragic tale of Whisper the Wolf. Long story short, she was once part of an elite anti-Eggman mercenary squad, but one of her friends turned traitor and the others were consequently slaughtered by Eggman's robots; poor Whisper, the Sole Survivor, became a traumatized shadow of her former self, rarely speaking up and keeping no company but a small handful of Wisps. She opens up to Tangle with some hesitation, only for Tangle to fall victim to the Metal Virus and break Whisper's heart all over again. To add to Whisper's dismay, Sonic and co.'s only hope of stopping the plague is a a subsequent truce with Eggman against the Deadly Six; this, combined with Eggman's Joker Immunity, screws Whisper out of avenging her losses to him, although thankfully she gets compensated when Sonic and Silver destroy the Metal Virus, bringing back Tangle and the plague's other victims.
    • Mimic the Octopus, the traitor who sold Whisper's team out to Eggman, is an Ax-Crazy shapeshifter who often combines his true form's facial features with those of the people he impersonates; what results is not kid-friendly at all.
    • The Deadly Six make their IDW debut late in the Metal Virus saga and prove to be much eviler than they are in the games as they seize control of the Zombots from Eggman. They've always been violent Sadists, but what really makes their IDW incarnations horrifying is their malevolence towards children. For example: one of the six Zeti, Zor, outright says he wants to have a child Zombot-ified and make the father watch.
      • By the time the Zeti come along, Cream the Rabbit, a cute six-year-old girl and one of Sonic's nicest friends, has lost more to the Metal Virus than anyone else. When the Zeti get involved, however, Cream's already rotten luck kicks into overdrive. Shortly before getting infected with the Metal Virus herself (and likely succumbing off-screen), she's physically abused by the Zeti girl Zeena, who dangles her in front of some Zombots while manhandling her (according to a recent Word of God, the original script had Zeena kicking Cream around while she was already down, but luckily that idea was scrapped). Later, after the Metal Virus is finally destroyed and its victims restored to normal, Cream is confronted by the leader of the Deadly Six, Zavok, who threatens to kill her out of spite for Sonic. Thank goodness the poor girl finally caught a break later on...
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures was created by Archie Comics as a Lighter and Softer substitute for the main Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, which were much darker, gorier, and intended for older audiences. It started out in the vein of the silly cartoon series that aired around the time of its initial release, but like the Sonic comics from the same company, elements of continuity, sociopolitical commentary, and violence began to creep in as the series went on, some of which really pushed the boundaries of the The Comics Code. It culminated in an infamous story arc where the Turtles face off against (and punch out!) Adolf Hitler.


    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.

  • TMNT Shellraiser, found at Nickelodeon Universe at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey. Considering it's themed after one of the world's biggest cartoon series, and it's under the license of children's network Nickelodeon, it was designed to be marketed specifically towards kids. Despite this, it's one of the most extreme roller coasters in the world, with it going from 0 to 62.1 mph in a span of only 2 seconds, and also holding the world record for the steepest drop on a roller coaster, having a beyond-vertical drop of 121.5°.

  • An in-universe example in Airlocked. While the titular Immoral Reality Show, disguised and marketed as fiction, is full of violence, murder, and innuendo (and that's not even mentioning Season 3 being Hotter and Sexier by design), there are examples of merchandise geared towards all ages and multiple children in the fanbase, including one or two cosplaying toddlers. Word of God is that space has a wide variety of age rating systems.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Not Parent Approved promotes itself as a "kid-friendly" version of Cards Against Humanity for ages 8 and up. Besides the ubiquitous Toilet Humour and over-the-top mean spirit, some cards would be considered to be too inappropriate for children, such as "Infected private parts", "My brother must be going through puberty, because he spends most of his time ___", "Training bras", "The non-existent private parts of a Ken doll", and "The word 'balls'".
  • Warhammer 40,000. In its home market of Britain, the game is (or at least was for a long time) primarily targeted at posh children and early teens. In the US, it is considered a very adult setting, with copious amounts of gore and Nightmare Fuel, dystopian nihilism, and heavily implied sexual themes as well (regarding the Dark Eldar and Slaanesh). Most American players are college students and adults. In fact, an announcement for a series of children's books based on the setting was met with derision among American fans. In continental Europe, Russia, and Canada, the game is marketed equally to both groups.
  • There is a trading card game where monsters are summoned through a process heavily implied to be ritual sacrifice, frequent references are made to hell and demons (albeit bowdlerized), including the implication that the game's discard pile is hell, per the card effects of several of those demons, along with bloody violence depicted, often on the cards themselves, and no shortage of scantily-clad women on the art (albeit censored in some markets). The game is Yu-Gi-Oh!, and it's sold to American grade schoolers, even when it's aimed more at a teenage audience in its native Japan.

  • 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.
  • "Junior" versions of musicals tend to skirt the edge of this; in addition to altering scores to match children's vocals and generally shortening them/cutting down on the number of songs to require less endurance, junior versions where the original isn't appropriate for children will often edit out some of the most objectionable. For example, the junior version of Legally Blonde cuts out many of the sexual references of the original, while the junior version of Once on This Island omits Ti Moune's suicide. Some people accept this, while others are skeptical or believe that the alterations don't go far enough.

    Theme Parks 
  • BonBon-Land in Holme Olstrup, Denmark is supposed to be an average children's theme park, with roller coasters, water rides, and Funny Animals. However, a majority of it is based on extreme Toilet Humour that sometimes cross into Vulgar Humor territory, such as sculptures of a cow exposing her big bare (read: Nipple and Dimed averted) breasts and a seagull taking a dump into an alligator's mouth.

  • Buzz Lightyear sippycup — so that's what "To infinity, AND BEYOND!" really means...
    • Similarily, these Spider- Man balloons. Guess that is what he means by "his spider sense is tingling".
  • 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 toy stores. 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...
    • Mike Mozart of Jeepers Media had some fun pointing out the issue of this toy here. Watch out for his awful British accent, though.
  • In 2004, Marvel Select released an action figure of Black Cat from Spider-Man, complete with huge, almost-exposed breasts. The age rating on the box? 7 and up.
  • LEGO:
  • 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 too far.
    • Furman was specifically concerned about the "For Kids" part of this trope. He was very much about darker, more fatal Transformers 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 has 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. It sure doesn't sound like the backstory of a kids' franchise. . . yet that's exactly what it is.
  • Enter the cute and funny doll for kids, Baby Laugh A-Lot. And if that doesn't give your kids nightmares, the doll on a low battery can fix that. More generally, talking dolls tend to be creepier than their creators probably intended, especially when their batteries run down.
  • The 1980s and 90s were simpler times with much more lax restrictions on what was considered "Child-friendly." To that end, Aliens, Predator, and RoboCop got toylines. You know, the shows with, respectively, face-raping alien scorpions, an evil alien safari hunter who skins people alive, and a man being shot 57 times while he screams in agony on-camera. Even gory slasher media have toy lines for children.
    • Then there was the kid's cartoon, toy line and Star Comics comic title based around the Police Academy films. While the later installments were indeed Lighter and Softer and PG-rated around the time of Police Academy 3: Back In Training, the first film was VERY R-rated, and was basically a raunchy sex comedy set at the titular academy. Even with the Lighter and Softer, later installments still had their quota of adult humornote 

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

  • Word of God has it that Assigned Male is aimed at kids. There's enough talk about genitalia to make any age uncomfortable, sex and politics are discussed, and characters swear in plain sight. All of this is simply because those things are part of life and make sense in context, but it's still a bit odd.
  • 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.
  • Schlock Mercenary: In-universe with the Schlock Mercenary cartoon. It's marketed at kids—complete with toys and coloring books—but is still based on the violent exploits of mercenaries.
    Tagon: For as tiny as they made me look, I sure bleed a lot.
    Brad: I thought we sold the story rights to a family channel.
  • Sonichu is ostensibly 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).
  • The original Sonic the Comic was perfectly kid-friendly. The unofficial continuation Sonic the Comic – Online! 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.
  • Draconia Chronicles has an In-Universe example, wherein a character watches an episode of the local My Little Phony with her girlfriend and her girlfriends kids. The episode ends with the villain getting beaten to death onscreen, to which she muses "Isn't this a little violent for a kids show?" She is promptly shooshed by the kids.
  • Anecdote of Error treats its subject matter very seriously. Said subject matter includes bodily dismemberment, Fantastic Racism, a brutal war in which both sides are awful, and scenes of utter horror. The reader would be highly unlikely to come to the conclusion that children are the target audience, but the comic's creator started publishing it while still a teenager, making it this trope by default.
  • In-Universe in Ennui GO!; Max and his friends frequently watch a show called The Jimmies, which is ostensibly for kids. However, the characters frequently discuss kid-unfriendly topics such as nihilism and drugs, have parodied rather adult shows, and at one point shilled an anti-erectile dysfuntion pill complete with horrifying side effects. It gets to the point that Max and Cricket outright wonder if the show's messing up their development.

    Web Original 
  • Baby! Love Your Body is a (thankfully defunct) Internet series that is supposedly marketed towards children, particularly prepubescent children. The entire first episode is incredibly creepy, first starting off with the main characters listing a whole bunch of words used to describe female genitalia, including explicit words like pussy and cunt. Worst of all, they try to pass off those words as innocent. It gets even worse when the other characters are revealed, which are crossdressing men who are dressed up as vaginas, and flamboyantly describe the properties of a female vagina. The ending of the episode can only be described as a nightmarish LSD trip as one of the characters enters the vagina. Fortunately, it has not gone viral, nor has it received anything but negative feedback from those that have seen it, thus pulling the plug on future episodes being made.
  • Battle for Dream Island: Despite being a show targeted towards children, there is a whole lot of death (albeit bloodless). Many of the episodes deal upon subjects kids are less likely to understand. After BFB 1 had its comments removed due to COPPA (fortunately, they are back), Cary states that the series is for both kids, and older fans to enjoy.
  • Bogleech is, for the most part, a perfectly appropriate science education web site for general audiences. But its occasional disturbing images make it stand out from most works aimed at children; it's certainly no Brain POP.
  • In-Universe with Candle Cove. The show was a pirate adventure with a very creepy bad guy (a skeleton wearing clothes fashioned from flayed skin). It supposedly ended on everyone screaming their heads off in pants-destroying terror, villain included.
  • 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).
  • Gemini Home Entertainment gives us the "Games for kids" video tape that lists various games that children can play. The four listed games are Hide and Go Seek, Freeze Tag, Sardines and Feed the Woodsnote .
  • Many English-speaking commenters have this reaction whenever Lauri, host of the Hydraulic Press Channel, mentions cutting out certain types of content and posting it to his alternate Beyond the Press channel instead, believing it to be too intense for all of the young children who watch his main HPC channel. He's taken requests, almost all of which have come from children under the age of five, for end-of-episode clay animals, despite the fact that he swears up a storm in most videos. One wonders if the parents of those young children just tell them he's actually speaking Finnish whenever he swears.
  • Kingdom Smarts: The Kingdom Hearts franchise's place in this trope is lampshaded by Jake with increasing frequency as a game series where you visit Disney worlds and go on adventures with Disney characters becomes increasingly dark and involves multiple existential crises. By the end of the episodes focused on Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, where events spiral into a Downer Ending, Jake declares that these are games marketed for children and shouldn't be so sad.
  • The LOCAL58 installment "Show for Children" is an In-Universe example. It's a cartoon in a style reminiscent of Max Fleischer (with Cadavre from Broodhollow)... until two-thirds of the way through, with the music disappearing and and Cadavre committing suicide by looking at the sinister and realistic-looking moon. Followed by a Freeze-Frame Bonus of TV station slide image of a clown statue... turning its eyes toward the viewer. Of note, Kris Straub (who created both Local 58 and Broodhollow) put in the description of the online postings, "Not for children."
  • Neopets is a rather weird example in itself. By the mid-2000s, when the site's popularity was at its peak, it was clearly aimed primarily at young children; however, when the site first started out, it was mostly used by college/university students. Various remnants of material from that time (such as the Ski-Lodge Mystery plot) stuck around, waiting to be prime scariness for any children who happened to stumble across them. Nowadays, the kids who used the site during its heyday have grown up and many have returned out of nostalgia, while the number of younger users has decreased significantly, causing another shift back to an older audience - while the site remains very similar to how it was when its audience skewed younger, complete with infamously overactive profanity filters and highly restrictive forum rules banning people from mentioning other websites and "controversial topics". The current fanbase frequently requests the addition of a section of the Neoboards for older users, with less restrictive rules.
  • 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.
  • The Web series, Pencilmation has quite a few moments of adult humor.
  • The riddles on 7-Second Riddles often involve murder, violence, infidelity, and suicide, leading to surprise that the channel is targeted at children and boasts a bright and colorful art style.
  • In-Universe, the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park was marketed as a tourist attraction for the whole family - this being an unimaginably huge Eldritch Abomination filled with bizarre and dangerous parasitic organisms and sleeping beneath a good chunk of Texas that a Mega-Corp made into a massive, unsafe Womb Level experience.
  • Stampy's Lovely World, if you would believe it. On the surface, it's a happy, child-friendly Minecraft series about a YouTuber (renowned for being one of the most child-friendly Minecraft-based content creators on the platform) building and playing minigames in his happy, fun-filled world with his friends... and then there's HitTheTarget, who uses methods such as kidnapping, drugging and even outright torture and/or attempts to sentence the protagonist to a Fate Worse than Death at least twice to achieve his less-than-savory goals. Oh, and suicide becomes a plot point in an episode (even if it's not considered as big of a deal in a survival Minecraft setting, in theory), there are plenty of fearful moments throughout the series, and by Episode 700, the main protagonist is implied in more cynical interpretations to be a severely traumatized workaholic who's repressing his issues to the point that it took about seven years for anyone to notice. Granted, most of the horror falls into the Fridge Horror category, but the point still stands.
  • In-Universe example in SuperMarioLogan: Bowser 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.
  • Comes up In-Universe in the Thrilling Adventure Hour Beyond Belief episode "Scream a Little Scream." Sadie Doyle refers to children's' 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.
  • 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".
  • "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.
  • The infamous YouTube Kids Channels, AKA Elsagate, starring characters from children's favorite TV shows and movies and attempting to pass off as "educational" videos for young children. Aside from being No Budget bootlegs and more surreal than a Crack Fic, some go overboard on the content and throw in doses of Vulgar Humor, Family-Unfriendly Violence, and Nightmare Fuel.
    • DaddyOFive and Toy Freaks are much worse examples. Both channels had videos of real children in disturbing situations and being abused, yet were targeted to children. DaddyOFive went a step further, in that the father specifically urged his eldest son to physically abuse the younger children, with the three youngest regularly suffering such abuse as being thrown to the ground, choked, beaten across the room and repeatedly psychologically abused to the point of near-nervous breakdown, activities the father would sometimes engage in himself. Fortunately, both channels have since been shut down; In the case of Toy Freaks, this was specifically thanks to the Elsagate controversy drawing attention to such content. The parents behind DO5, on the other hand, have attempted to bring their channel back on several occasions, yet dedicated commentators have ensured these attempts have ended in failure.
    • Another thing that happens on these kids' YouTube channels is that the algorithm will sometimes mix up characters from cartoons aimed at kids and ones aimed at adults. For instance, there are Finger Family videos featuring Bojack Horseman and Family Guy characters playing the roles of the fingers, and there was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Wrong Heads video that was a Crossover with Rick and Morty.
    • The YouTube channel Bedtime Story has animated versions of fairy-tales for kids. Despite what you'd think by the cartoony animation and voice acting, there isn't much Disneyfication. For example the adaptation of Donkeyskin still includes the king trying to marry his daughter.
    • As part of YouTube's settlement with the FTC over allegations it violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), YouTube started requiring creators to designate if their videos are "made for kids". In addition, YouTube would use its AI to detect if content was "made for kids". However, to the surprise of absolutely nobody familiar with the demonetization bot that got them sued for discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, the system started marking pretty much anything with cartoony characters as "made for kids", even if the videos are age restricted. Even stranger is that plenty of videos that are completely unrelated to children's content, yet still suitable for general audiences, were being caught up in the net, meaning things that weren't obscene but not the sort of content you'd expect children to be interested in was being recommended via the algorithm. After much backlash from creators (and complaints from parents), YouTube eased up a bit after creators began intentionally including profanity in their videos to avoid being marked as "made for kids" by the algorithm with creators upset over losing their community abilities and parents upset for obvious reasons. Still, official pages of older shows that would no longer have a child audience remain marked You Tube Kids, such as Power Rangers (most who were fans are now in the 30-35 age demographic). Most infamous victim of this might have been "Don't Hug Me, I'm Scared", which, with the possible (very debatable) exception of the first episode, is most certainly NOT suitable for kids.
    • Made worse by the fact that people who joined after the COPPA agreement don't always understand what "for kids" and "not for kids" mean, assuming they mean "family friendly" and "not family friendly", so you have new creators signing up, well-intentioned as they are, mistakenly marking their content for children, so you have dark breakup songs and dry science lectures being marked as "YouTube Kids" because they aren't R-rated.
  • Snaiad is a speculative biology site, so you'd think it would be something along the lines of The Future Is Wild or After Man: A Zoology of the Future, right? The creator's raunchy sense of humor (including an entire family of predators known as "fuckers") seems to say otherwise. That aside, however, it's mostly a perfectly decent site for general audiences.


A faaaamily- oh who are we kidding- a PSYCHO picture!


Video Example(s):


Lizzie Borden

Rebecca discusses how the jumprope song about Lizzie Borden is actually about her supposed murdering of her parents with an axe, and ponders how it managed to be recontextualized into a child-friendly form.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / LyricalDissonance

Media sources: