Follow TV Tropes


Overshadowed By Controversy / Western Animation

Go To

  • The Adventure Time episode "What Was Missing" immediately became popular and controversial as the first big vehicle for the Homoerotic Subtext between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen. When the show's online Mathematical! Companion Show explicitly alluded to the innuendo, the resulting controversy led to its cancellation.
  • The American Dad! episode "The Mural of the Story" is mainly known for its infamous scene of Stan flaying off Hayley's entire face which one negative review for the episode described as feeling like "something I'd expect from Family Guy on an off night" as well as how the scene in question was first shown at SDCC 2017 in a room full of kids, who reacted to it mostly by screaming in terror and crying.
  • Advertisement:
  • The one thing most people remember about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, other than the opening number by Mastodon, is its Viral Marketing campaign that caused the Boston Bomb Scare. This incident led to Jim Samples stepping down as the head of Cartoon Network, which ultimately put CN through a state of Network Decay, as the replacement CEO, Stuart Snyder, pushed out many of the channel's animated series in favor of live-action shows in a misguided attempt to compete with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.
  • Avoiding this may have been why The Beatles underwent a small bit of censorship on MTV in the 1980s - while there are no extreme caricatures, many episodes that feature rather unpleasant Asian stereotypes (especially the episodes centered around Japan) had to be recut. Despite this all, the show was dubbed and aired in Japan anyway, and then came Lennon's marriage to Yoko Ono a few years later.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Beavis And Butthead episode "Comedians" came under fire after a 5 year old boy imitated a stunt from the episode and ended up burning down his home and killing his sister. In response, MTV began heavily editing or outright banning episodes out of fear of repeat incidents.
  • Big Mouth:
    • Talks for a second season of the series was initially muddled because of the controversy over its sexual content. Specifically, the fact that the main characters are underage, which led to accusations of the series harboring pedophilic overtones. Before that, it had to deal with backlash over its initial trailer and an Audience-Alienating Premise, making it one of the more divisive animated series that Netflix has produced.
    • Season 3's messages on sexual orientation were overshadowed for Ali's explanation of pansexuality in "Rankings" due to her definition calling bisexuality "so binary" and implying only pansexual people can date trans people. Despite the season's good intentions, with the rest of the episode showcasing the Double Standard in how Ali's pansexuality is fetishized and Jay's bisexuality is dismissed, a lot of LGBT fans were too uncomfortable with the transphobic definitions of bisexuality and pansexuality. Co-creator Andrew Goldberg even apologized in light of the backlash.
  • Advertisement:
  • BoJack Horseman has an in-universe case happen to the crime drama Philbert near the end of the fifth season. BoJack and his costar Gina seem to both be on a great new career path, especially since Philbert was Gina's first meaningful role and she was praised for her acting ability. This goes down the tubes once video leaks to the public of BoJack nearly choking Gina to death due to being high on painkillers and unable to distinguish his show from his reality. Gina decides to lie about the severity of the video in an effort to not have her career overshadowed by it. Ultimately, an unrelated controversy about the CEO (who happens to be a sex robot) harassing women results in the production company folding and the show being cancelled anyway.
    Gina: My career, after so many failed attempts, is finally starting to take off. I am getting offers, and fan mail, and magazine columns about what a good actor I am. People know me because of my acting. And all that goes away if I'm just the girl who got choked by BoJack Horseman... I don't want you to be the most notable thing that ever happened to me. I don't want you to be the question I get asked in interviews for the rest of my life.
  • Cans Without Labels has been talked about heavily for its disastrous Kickstarter campaign and the fact that it was what John Kricfalusi was working on when his sexual misconduct and ephebophilia allegations came forward, far more than the content of the cartoon itself.
  • Countless cartoons from The Golden Age of Animation have been subject to censorship since the 1960s because of imagery that is nowadays considered racist or a bad example to little children.note  Though most of them only have minor scenes that can be edited in syndication, eleven Warner Bros. cartoons are almost impossible to edit without making the plot of the shorts near-nonexistant. These are the Censored Eleven, cartoons that can never be shown on American TV.
  • While Clarence is still a pretty popular show, mention it anywhere, and typically at least one person will bring up the mental breakdown of the show's creator Skylar Page, including him groping a female coworker's breasts, and his subsequent firing. It's possible that the management at CN didn't forget about it either, as Clarence wound up getting Screwed by the Network big-time over the next several years before being cancelled after only three seasons.note 
  • Clone High was overshadowed in India. While regarded as a Cult Classic in its native North America, the show was met with scorn and sparked protests due to its portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi as a raging party animal. Indian viewers found this incredibly disrespectful, as Gandhi is highly revered figure in India.
  • The Cow and Chicken episode "Buffalo Gals" is remembered mostly for the eponymous characters, who are heavily made out to be stereotypical lesbians. The episode was never reran on Cartoon Network again, and many networks refused to air this episode.
  • "Der Fuehrer's Face": An Oscar winning propaganda cartoon that has gained more notoriety over the years for starring Donald Duck as a Nazi than its artistic merits. It doesn't help that images from the cartoon often pop up out of context on various sites, causing many people to believe it actually endorses Nazism rather than criticizing it.
  • One of the Ever After High specials has Darling Charming delivering CPR to Apple White in a way that greatly resembles a kiss. While it hasn't been confirmed whether it's romantic or not, many fans interpreted it as such. Others, however, insist that it was just CPR. As a result, this ended up sparking debates on what's acceptable to put in children's cartoons.
  • Family Guy:
    • The episode "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" is remembered mostly for its negative portrayal of a born-again Christian and its overall message, which many felt amounted to "Belief Makes You Stupid".
    • The episode "Extra Large Medium" is best known for the controversy of a female character with Down syndrome who mentions that her mother is a former governor of Alaska, which strongly implies that her mother is Sarah Palin, the only woman to have served in the office of governor in the state. Palin actually is the mother of a child with Down syndrome. The situation was only made worse when Patrick Warburton, Joe Swanson's voice actor, told the media that even he thought it was in poor taste. Conservative pundits on Fox News and elsewhere were ironically praising Warburton as a hero for "standing up to Sarah Palin," something he denied was his intention, which turned the situation into a bigger PR nightmare.
    • The episode "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q" is best known for the controversy regarding its treatment of domestic violence, particularly how Brenda is portrayed as being too stupid to leave her abusive boyfriend.
    • The episode "Life of Brian" is one of the most controversial episodes of the show because of its premise of having Brian be run over by a car and killed and being replaced by the character of Vinny, a stereotypical Italian American. Brian was revived and brought back three episodes later, a move which proved to be just as controversial as "The Life of Brian", if not more so. Some fans thought that bringing Brian back wasn't part of the original plan and saw it as caving in too easily to the complaints. However, those who knew that Animation Lead Time made such a change impossible realized that the producers must have had had the idea of Brian being brought back to begin with, which made the whole thing look like a publicity stunt.
    • "Quagmire's Dad" is mostly known for the titular character, who comes out as a transwoman and transitions. Despite series creator Seth MacFarlane calling her the most sympathetic transgender character on television, the episode was criticized for indulging in stereotypical and transphobic jokes at her expense.
  • Full English was a British show intended to be the counterpart of adult shows such as South Park or Family Guy. Already unpopular with audiences who viewed it as copying from its source material, what nailed the show into the ground was an infamous segment where the ghost of infamous reality TV star Jade Goody has a fight with the ghost of Princess Diana. After numerous complaints, especially from infamously sensationalist newspaper The Daily Mail, the show was subsequently canned, and the remaining episodes were then aired one last time before never being aired again.
  • The Nickelodeon series Glitch Techs became engulfed in controversy following the very abrupt announcement that the show would be cancelled before it even premiered. This move was widely criticized by even the most die-hard Nickelodeon fans, largely since the staff members are now out of work as a result of the cancellation.
  • Johnny Test is probably more well known for its reputation as an overexposed show, extreme unpopularity, and overuse of a whipcrack sound effect whenever a character makes any kind of movement than virtually anything else about it.
  • Gwen Stefani's cartoon Kuu Kuu Harajuku is more known for complaints from various blogs and sites about its Japanese "cultural appropriation" than any aspect of the show itself.
  • The final episode of The Legend of Korra has largely been overshadowed by the last four minutes where Asami and Korra receive a Relationship Upgrade, which is one of the first cases of a canon same-sex relationship being depicted in mainstream non-adult animation. There's been talk about it being anything from pandering to it being improper for a show aimed at elementary schoolers. And even then some were unsatisfied because their relationship was only subtly built-up, and was not given full confirmation on-screen like Aang and Katara's relationship, but was only confirmed online afterwards.
  • The career of The Loud House creator Chris Savino was ruined in October 2017 when allegations of sexual harassment and blackmail came to light. Not only was he fired by Nickelodeon, but they confirmed that the show would continue on without him.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Last Roundup" is about Applejack joining a rodeo competition, promising to donate the prize money to help with public repairs, and vanishing to secretly work a cherry orchard so she'd have something to donate after failing to win any money. Any discussions about this plot were completely eclipsed by its opening scene, which gave fan favorite character Derpy Hooves lines and a canon name, and the fact that the scene was censored after the first airing due to her portrayal, cross-eyed look, and name being considered offensive to some.
  • Despite being devoid of controversial content, the child show Peppa Pig has been the center of controversy in some countries:
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016):
    • Within a month of starting, the series gained an unsightly reputation due to various changes such as removing popular character Ms. Bellum, recasting the girls, and a Denser and Wackier tone similar to that of Teen Titans Go!. This on top of viral clips showing Blossom and Bubbles twerking, which would have been seen as meme pandering even if it wasn't an overtly sexual dance move.
    • The episode "Horn Sweet Horn" was overshadowed by advertising portraying it as a Very Special Episode using the story of a horse wanting to be a unicorn as a metaphor for transgenderism, only for the episode to turn said horse into a monster and reveal that he was a unicorn the whole time, in what many saw as a transphobic Broken Aesop. Not helping matters was the fact that it was never written to be an allegory about gender dysphoria, but Cartoon Network executives saw it that way and marketed it as such.
    • The series' reputation was further affected by the accusation of character Jared Shapiro being a blatant Self-Insert for writer Jake Goldman.note  This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that Blossom has a crush on him and it isn't quite specified whether or not the feeling is mutual. Keep in mind that Blossom is middle school-age at the oldest, Jared is in high school, and Goldman is an adult man. However, another writer stated that Jared wasn't Goldman's direct creation, as he was just physically based on him as a production crew inside joke, and they simply decided it'd be doubly funny if Goldman voiced him, too.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show:
    • The episode "Man's Best Friend" was banned due to a scene with Ren violently beating George Liquor with an oar. It was also one of the possible reasons why John Kricfalusi was fired from the show. Despite this, it is still considered one of the funniest episodes of the show.
    • The whole show fell into this in early 2018, due to two female cartoonists accusing Kricfalusi of statutory rape and possession of child pornography in light of the #MeToo movement. Even prior to the 2018 accusations, Kricfalusi was an example of this as his immense talent as an animator was often overshadowed by his notoriously bad temper, abrasive demeanor, his harsh criticisms of other animators and cartoons, his self-righteous views and his falling out with Billy West, who described his experience working on Ren & Stimpy as the "worst of my life", as well as Bill Wray and Bob Camp who saw their careers seriously damaged by their work on the show.
  • Rick and Morty's reputation took a hit following the disastrous Szechuan Sauce promotion event. On October 7, 2017, McDonald's brought back the sauce, which gained a Colbert Bump after being mentioned in the season 3 premiere. However, each location had only 20 packets of sauce, leading to angry fans starting riots and harassing workers, many of whom weren't informed of the event until the very day it started. This fiasco, combined with reports of fans harassing the show's female staff and the spread of an infamous (but satirical) rant about the shownote , has led to Rick and Morty gaining an infamous reputation for having a toxic fanbase.
  • The Simpsons:
  • South Park:
    • "Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Anus" is more known for the anger it generated from fans when it aired as an April Fools' joke instead of the highly anticipated "Cartman's Mom Is Still a Dirty Slut", the episode that reveals the identity of Cartman's father.
    • "Trapped in the Closet" is more known for how both Tom Cruise and Scientology responded to the episode. The episode is also known for the questionable circumstances that led to the departure of Issac Hayes, Chef's voice actor, who was a Scientologist himself.note 
    • Episodes "200" and "201" are a Milestone Celebration that reveals the real truth concerning Cartman's father. However, the former caused a radical Muslim group to send death threats to Trey Parker and Matt Stone for depicting The Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit (even though it was really Santa Claus); Comedy Central subsequently edited the latter episode so all audio and visual references to Muhammad were censored, thus resparking the Muhammad cartoon controversy in real life. To this day, it has never been rerun, it is not available for legal streaming and only the censored version has been released on DVD. The uncensored version wouldn't be released until it was leaked in 2014. However, it's only available through torrent sites. The censored speech at the end, amusingly proven true by the censorship, essentially amounts to "Use fear and you will always get what you want!"
    • There's some in-universe instances of this too, often directly based off of real-life instances mentioned on the other pages of this. In a parody of the Lance Armstrong case, "A Scause for Applause" featured Jesus being accused of using drugs to perform his miracles, with everyone destroying their "What Would Jesus Do" bracelets as the catalyst for the plot; Stan not removing his bracelet is what kicks off the plot. "A Problem with a Poo" parodied the Roseanne tweet controversy, as Mr. Hankey's offensive tweets result in him being banned from the town despite years of bringing them Christmas joy.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • The episode "House Fancy" only seems to be remembered for scene where Squidward's toenail is ripped out while he and SpongeBob are trying to move a couch, and the complaints it received.
    • The early seasons of the show drew the ire of the Christian Right due to them perceiving the title character as gay, which the producers denied. One notable example they used against the show was the episode "Rock-a-Bye Bivalve," in which SpongeBob and Patrick raise a baby scallop together and start acting like a married couple. Ultimately, religious groups ended their attacks on the show when it became apparent that the general public weren't taking their views seriously.
    • Two episodes are overshadowed by brief references to suicide: "One Coarse Meal" for a scene where Plankton is so sick of living in fear of Pearl ( Actually her father, Mr Krabs, dressing up as her to scare Plankton away from the secret formula) that he tries to get run over by a bus, and "Are You Happy Now?" for two jokes where it appears Squidward is trying to kill himself, but is really trying new ways to make himself happy, like putting up a birdcage or baking. Other episodes have had suicide jokes, but these were seen as particularly blatant and/or grim.
  • A minor example happened with Star vs. the Forces of Evil in Brazil after the gay kiss featured in "Just Friends". Some evangelical bishops called for a total boycott of all Disney products in the country.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Writer Jesse Zukenote  is mostly remembered for the harassment they received over their work on the episode "Beta", the Ship-to-Ship Combat it caused, and the fact that it caused them to leave the show, than any of their merits as a writer (they would later return for Season 5, only to leave again for mental health reasons unrelated to the above controversy).
    • The Sardonyx arc, originally hyped for the arrival of a new fusion, is remembered mostly for Pearl's questionable actions throughout the arc. While "Bismuth", detailed below, is when the "SU Critical" movement really caught on, the discourse over whether Pearl was sympathetic at all in this arc can be seen as laying a lot of groundwork for it.
    • The episode "Keystone Motel" is mainly remembered for two things: the UK broadcast getting rid of every reference to Ruby and Sapphire being in a relationship, and a bunch of fans leaving gag reviews about a real motel with that name, until the show's producers had to tell them to cut it out since a majority of the reviews made the motel look poor in quality.
    • It is nearly impossible to talk about the art book without bringing up the character known as Concrete. The art of the character, from a design brainstorming exercise, resembles a caricature of African-Americans due to her literally black skin and oversized lips. Furthermore, she's described in a text blurb as being illiterate, which is a stereotype of said ethnicity. This caused quite a stir in the fandom where many accused the show's staff of promoting racist views. The designer of the character, Lamar Abrams (who is African-American himself) and Hilary Florido, who wrote the text blurb, apologized, and the character (along with the rest of the Gems in her section) was removed from future prints. The controversy then shifted onto certain fans who harassed the crew even after the apologies, with some going as far as to call Abrams slurs. This caused a whole new section of the fanbase to defend the crew, even those who found Concrete offensive, with many pointing the apparent hypocrisy of it all.
    • The episode "Bismuth" was overshadowed by the debates over whether or not the titular character was in the right for wanting to shatter the Diamonds and whether or not bubbling her was the right thing to do, to the point where it's been cited as the birth of the infamous "SU Critical" movement online.
    • "Alone at Sea" is mostly remembered for its allegorical depiction of toxic relationships, as well as debates about whether or not it meant that Lapis or Jasper were abusive.
    • In general, the show has developed a negative reputation among certain areas of the public due to the antics of some of the fanbase. Incidents include fans bullying a fan artist to near-suicide after said artist drew images of the characters, particularly Rose Quartz, with body sizes and designs different than in canonnote , the previously-mentioned "SU Critical" movement, which quickly garnered a negative reputation amongst the community, spreading allegations that the show's staff promote bigotry (in spite of the fact that the staff come from diverse backgrounds), and the aforementioned incidents with Zuke and Abrams. This is especially ironic, considering love and acceptance are two of the show's biggest themes.
  • Teen Titans Go! is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial shows on Cartoon Network since it started airing in 2013, if not one of the most controversial cartoon shows period. The show has been given lots of advertising, reruns, and marathons, to the point that it has its own Adored by the Network page. Meanwhile, Cartoon Network's other shows (most notably Steven Universe and Adventure Time), both in-house and acquired, have either been under-advertised, given multiple month long hiatuses, or outright cancelled by the network, leading some to believe that the channel was deliberately sabotaging the shows, alienating their fanbases and potentially putting the people who worked on them out of jobs, just to make room for more Go! reruns. This, along with its periphery hatedom amongst older audiences, especially fans of the original Teen Titans, has overshadowed nearly every other aspect of the show, quite possibly every other new show on the network, and the career of current president Christina Miller. It has gotten to the point where somebody legitimately vandalized her Cartoon Network Wiki page to list one of her jobs as "Ruin Cartoon Network".
  • The fifth season of Total Drama, Total Drama All-Stars, is largely remembered for its awkward treatment of Mike's Dissociative Identity Disorder, with the finale receiving a lot of backlash for Mike being able to cure his disorder by literally pressing a button in his head, which many found offensive to those with mental disorders.
  • Twelve Forever will most likely be chiefly remembered for its massively Troubled Production (its producer shut down before its premiere), as well as creator Julia Vickerman being fired for mistreating her coworkers, and making pedophilic comments on her social media.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender, while well regarded for a good portion of its run, quickly spiraled into this starting from its seventh season on. Season 7 was infamous for introducing Shiro's boyfriend, only to immediately kill him off after around five minutes of screentime. By far the most infamous example, however, is the extremely negative reception to the ending, where Allura, the main female character of the show, essentially kills herself in a Heroic Sacrifice that comes out of nowhere and is poorly explained, if at all, and yet the show's narrative treats it as a triumph. Not even a later Word of God confirmation that Allura was not truly dead could stem the controversy, as the same source of that confirmation also involved the executive producers acting openly dismissive towards the outraged fanbase.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: