10 Controversies Caused by Nicktoons

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These off-the-wall cartoons have a long history of rubbing some viewers the wrong way, sometimes for reasons you'd never expect.

1. The Bleep Heard ‘Round The World

Be careful what you wish for. Several parents complained when, in a 1998 episode of The Angry Beavers, series protagonist Norbert hollered “Oh shut up, Dag!” How did the network respond? By bleeping out the word “shut.” The situation immediately went from bad to worse, as many viewers now assumed that the yellow rodent was actually cussing. Nick later changed the line to “Shush up, stupid!” 

2. Fox News Weighs in on Bikini Bottom Climate “Bias”

“SpongeBob is talking a lot about global warming, and he’s only looking at it from one point of view,” bemoaned Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson. Her scorn was prompted by a special episode of Spongebob Squarepants called “Endless Summer,” which was screened during an event run by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011. The offending clip depicts SpongeBob and Mister Krabs deliberately raising regional temperatures by pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to create demand for their swimming pool. 

3. Blue’s Clues Host Becomes Urban Legend Fodder

Take note, internet: This myth needs to die! Steve Burns voluntarily left his 5-year hosting stint on the popular Nick Jr. show Blue’s Clues. He was not, as many erroneously believe, fired after supposedly being jailed for heroin possession. Sadly, the entertainer (who now works as an indie rock artist) was also forced to fend off malicious rumors which claimed that he’d actually died from overdosing on the drug. 

4. Rugrats Accused of Anti-Semitism

Good Comics

The Rugrats daily newspaper comic landed Nickelodeon in hot water on September 20, 1998, when a particular strip featured Tommy Pickles naively pondering the meaning of a traditional Hebrew mourning hymn while attending Synagogue with his grandfather. Outraged readers proceed to shame the company for belittling such a solemn prayer. “The caricature of Grandpa Boris is reminiscent of stereotypical Nazi-era depictions of Jews,” Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said. Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell ultimately responded to mounting criticism by promising that Boris would “no longer be used in the comic strip series.” 

5. Nick Pulls Explicit Rocko Episode

Rocko’s Modern Life slipped more than its fair share of adult jokes past unsuspecting TV censors, but when the title character’s gravel-voiced neighbor Bev Bighead declared that she needed “a little attention from a man once in a while” and began seductively pursuing him to comedic effect in an episode called “Leap Frogs," executives felt the show had finally gone too far. “Leap Frogs” was swiftly pulled from the lineup.

6. Convicted Killer Drops Invader Zim Reference

It didn’t take long for this alien invasion show to come under fire for its occasionally morbid sense of humor—a situation that certainly wasn’t helped when notorious teenage murderer Scott Dyleski was cited as having “joked about body parts" after watching an episode of Invader Zim called "Dark Harvest."   

7. SpongeBob Sparks Labor Debate

A particularly topical episode called “You’re Fired, SpongeBob!” thrust the absorbent fry-cook into the center of yet another politicized media controversy last November. Laid off from his job by Mister Krabs’ discovery that he could save “one whole nickel” by letting him go, SpongeBob briefly entertains a beggarly lifestyle before telling Patrick the starfish, “Unemployment may be fun for you, but I need to get a job.” This innocuous-sounding remark managed to trigger passionate responses from an array of pundits throughout the mainstream media, though Nickelodeon itself has refused to issue an official statement on the matter.

8. Ren & Stimpy Episode Gets Banned for Excessive Violence

Ren & Stimpy Wikia

Crass doesn’t even begin to describe the manic vulgarity of The Ren & Stimpy Show. Plots frequently revolved around such topics as boogers, rubber nipples, and the general absence of pants. But when Ren the Chihuahua began bludgeoning his owner with an oar in “Man’s Best Friend,” the episode was booted off the air and didn’t resurface for over a decade.

9. SpongeBob Accused of Peddling Gay Propaganda

Perhaps the most scathing attack on this popular Nicktoon came in 2012, when the Ukrainian National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality argued that SpongeBob not only “promoted homosexuality” but was part of a “large-scale experiment” designed to transform the nation’s youth into “criminals and perverts.”

10. “Tweenage” Dora Enrages Parents

Dora the Explorer’s beloved television show has been a Nick Jr. staple since 2000, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a toddler who hasn’t heard of her bilingual adventures. But when Nickelodeon and Mattel teamed up to produce a line of updated “pre-teen” Dora dolls, psychologists Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown claimed that the new models unjustly “sexualized” the character and called upon concerned parents to take arms against the alterations, leading to a public relations nightmare for both companies.

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February 24, 2014 - 4:30pm
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