Follow TV Tropes


Overshadowed By Controversy / Western Animation

Go To

  • The Arthur episode "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone" is mostly remembered for the fact that Alabama Public Television refused to air it because it was about Arthur's teacher Mr. Ratburn getting married to another man. This fact has eclipsed virtually everything else about the episode in the public consciousness, including his new husband's name.
  • 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 Butt-Head 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 baby sister. In response, MTV began heavily editing or outright banning episodes where the boys performed dangerous activities out of fear of repeat incidents.
  • Big Mouth:
    • Talks for a second season of the series were initially muddled because of the controversy over the show's 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. Even though the show was ultimately a critical success, the depictions of underage nudity and sexual behavior makes it extremely difficult to talk about the show to the general public.
    • Advertisement:
    • 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. 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 people were too uncomfortable with the transphobic definitions of bisexuality and pansexuality. Co-creator Andrew Goldberg even apologized in light of the backlash.
  • BoJack Horseman has some In-Universe examples:
    • In-Universe, controversy strikes 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 being 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.
    • Advertisement:
    • Happens in the final few episodes to BoJack's flagship show Horsin' Around. Due to the revelation of BoJack's involvement with costar Sarah Lynn's death, as well as his numerous other instances of toxic and downright predatory behavior becoming public knowledge, the show's producer considers the series tainted with such a reviled figure's name tied to it and cancels a planned Blu-ray/DVD release. She goads BoJack into a deal to allow the series to air after heavy recuts to remove him entirely, effectively changing the whole premise of the show.
  • 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 allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls came forward against him, 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 Skyler 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 
  • While regarded as a Cult Classic in its native North America, Clone High is infamous for the massive backlash in India due to the show's portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi as a raging, sex-obsessed party animal. As Gandhi is highly revered figure in India for helping them gain independence from British rule, many Indian viewers found this extremely disrespectful, and the protests that sparked helped contribute to the show's abrupt cancellation. It should be noted, however, that the Gandhi in the show isn't actually Gandhi; he's a clone who cracked under the pressure to live up to Gandhi because he's so well-revered.
  • The Cow and Chicken episode "Buffalo Gals" is remembered mostly for the eponymous characters, who are heavily made out to be stereotypical lesbians, with sexual innuendos throughout. 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. Oddly, the fact that the cartoon also contains an offensive caricature of a Japanese person is rarely mentioned.
  • One of the Ever After High specials has Darling Charming delivering CPR to Apple White in a way that greatly resembles a kiss (note that both characters are girls). 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:
    • "Movin' Out (Brian's Song)" is hardly remembered for anything other than a gag where Quagmire rapes Marge Simpson, then follows her home and shoots her family. The joke provoked a serious backlash, including from Fox network executives and people who worked on The Simpsons, and is more talked about than just about any other element of the episode, including the fact that it served as the conclusion of the Jillian Arc.
    • "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".
    • "Extra Large Medium" is, at best, only remembered 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 ended up praising Warburton as a hero for "defending" Sarah Palin, something he denied was his intention, which turned the situation into a bigger PR nightmare. The actress who voiced the character actually has Down syndrome in real life, and later made a statement criticizing people who questioned the episode... but some have claimed she was pressured into making the statement by Seth McFarlane, keeping the controversy going.
    • Two back-to-back episodes in season 10 have attracted controversy for their poorly-handled representations of Domestic Abuse that directly contradict each other:
    • "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, another anthropomorphic dog who acted like 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 to boost the show's ratings and viewership.
    • "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, including many characters referring to her as "it" and Brian complaining that there's no registry for transgender people like there is for sex offenders.
  • 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.
  • Though the show has received critical acclaim, it can be a bit difficult to discuss Glitch Techs without bringing up its Troubled Production. First announced as early as 2018, the series was originally going to be a Nickelodeon original, but had no promotion or even production updates beyond leaked footage and Word of God. Then, in January 2019, the show was very abruptly cancelled before it even got a chance to premier, and the show's production staff were laid off without any warning note . This move was widely criticized by even the most die-hard Nickelodeon fans, feeling it only supported the accusations that Nickelodeon relies too much on nostalgia and require their shows to be immediate successes. Though the series was picked up by Netflix over a year later and has been well-received, the continued discussions regarding the show's production only further damaged Nickelodeon's reputation among fans.
  • Glenn Martin DDS has been causing a lot of controversy over the years, prior to the fact it was a adult program played on Nickelodeon around the same time Sponge Bob Squarepants was airing, its heavy use of sexual themes and amounts of gore cause it to spread massive criticism, before eventually worsened by having episodes where a boy shoves his head up an elephant's rectum.
  • While Harvey Beaks is regarded as one of the better Nicktoons to come out of the early 2010s (a notable Dork Age for Nick); it's been largely overshadowed by its abrupt cancellation and the network's treatment of creator CH Greenblatt after he broke the news of the show's ending online.
  • 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 supposed 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 Western animation. Some have accused it of being too "pandering", usually towards supporters of the ship. On the other hand, others 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • 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 accusations 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 grown 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, as he stood firm and refused to censor the episode despite Nickelodeon's insistence. Despite this, fans still consider it one of the funniest episodes of the show.
    • The episode "Powdered Toast Man" got backlash due to the titular character burning the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights after being declared President, which was removed from reruns. Also in the episode, Powdered Toast Man saves the Pope (played by Frank Zappa); reruns later referred to him as simply "the man in the funny white hat," perhaps due to a similar outcry from Catholics.
    • 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, the toxic work environment he created, 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. Comedy Central openly stated that Kricfalusi will not be involved with their reboot of the show in any capacity - and even that didn't stop backlash towards it due to how heavily associated Kricfalusi is to the series.
  • 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.
    • "Super Best Friends" is best known for being banned due to Muhammad being part of the titular group of deities, and is usually brought up alongside "200"/"201" when discussing the Muhammad controversy.
    • "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 Isaac 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 subpages. In a parody of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, "A Scause for Applause" featured Jesus being accused of using drugs to perform his miracles, with everyone destroying their "What Would Jesus Do" bracelets; Stan not removing his bracelet is what kicks off the plot. "The Problem with a Poo" parodied the Roseanne Barr tweet controversy, as Mr. Hankey's offensive tweets result in him being banned from the town despite years of bringing them Christmas joy. There's also the meta two-parter "Cartoon Wars," in which a mediocre episode of Family Guy sparks mass panic just because of a very brief Cutaway Gag featuring Mohammad. Like its fellow Mohammad-themed episodes, "Cartoon Wars" doesn't air on television anymore.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The episode "House Fancy" only seems to be remembered for a scene where Squidward's toenail is ripped out while he and SpongeBob are trying to move a couch, and the complaints it received due to Nausea Fuel.
    • 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.note  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, and most fandom discussion and criticism of the episodes is based around those jokes.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • A minor example happened 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.
    • Ever since it ended in May 2019, the series became known outside of fan circles mostly for its incredibly controversial finale, to the point that Star basically commiting genocide is sometimes the only thing people know about it; with a Vocal Minority of fans claiming that it negatively impacted the show's reputation.
  • 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 out 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.
    • The show has become rather (in)famously for the intense debates that have sprung up regarding the show's views on redemption. With very few exceptions, every antagonist in the show, ranging from simple bullies and troublemakers to genocidal war criminals, is either given a full redemption or is otherwise dealt with nonviolently. This caused countless debates as to whether or not this was a good message to sell to its primarily child audience, and the heated at best, downright toxic at worst debates over this quickly began to eclipse the show itself due to how strongly each side felt about it.
  • Stripperella suffered this due to exotic dancer Janet Clover filing a lawsuit against Stan Lee for stealing her idea.
  • 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, as well as its own Marathon Running 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 TTG reruns. This, along with the 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 former president Christina Miller, whom was responsible for turning the show into the flagship show of the network.
  • Thundercats Roar has been largely overshadowed by the backlash to its initial reveal; along with its Denser and Wackier tone and Art Shift, as well as being aired in the wake of the short-lived but much-loved 2011 series. This caused many involved with the series to receive death threats, as well as causing CalArts to close due to a percieved shooting threat referencing the infamous "don't come to school tomorrow" meme (this despite the fact the "CalArts style", which Roar resembles, did not originate from the school). A crossover with the similarly-controversial Teen Titans Go did not help, with a questionable joke featuring Panthro's corpse, which many felt was mocking the death of Earle Hyman, his voice actor in the 80's cartoon, from just a few years prior. The widespread backlash, combined with poor ratings, and the fact that Thundercats doesn't have the same Pop Culture Osmosis as DC Comics does, led to Thundercats Roar being cancelled after just one season.
  • The Transformers: The episode "Thief in the Night" is best-known for featuring Carbombya, a nation of very broad Arab stereotypes that offended Casey Kasem so much he resigned from the show.
  • 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, most infamously a story about her stalking a teenage boy at an amusement park.
  • The qubo version of VeggieTales was originally controversial when it aired because, among other edits, all references to God were removed, including the ending message, to appeal to a secular audience. note  Parent groups were not happy about this and filed complaints to NBC about it. This resulted in Season 2, as well as a third season that would go unaired until 2016, leaving in references to God. Despite this, the show did extremely well in ratings, becoming qubo's second highest-rated show after 3-2-1 Penguins! and LarryBoy Stories.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender, while well regarded for a good portion of its run, quickly spiraled into this starting from its seventh season on:


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: