10 Controversies Caused by Nicktoons

Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon

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

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


Nickelodeon

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.

Friends Cast Confirms Reunion Special is Coming to HBO Max

David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston in Friends.
David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston in Friends.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Could we be any more excited? After months of reports that the cast of Friends might be coming together for a reunion of sorts, it looks like it's officially a done deal.

According to Variety, all of the six original actors—Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer—have signed on for an unscripted special from HBO Max. While previous reports claimed each star would likely earn between $3 and $4 million for their appearances, it's now believed their paychecks will be "at least" $2.5 million apiece.

And to make everything even more real, the beloved actors behind the iconic series are personally confirming the news. All six stars took to Instagram quickly after the news dropped to share their excitement. "It's happening," they captioned the posts.

In a statement, HBO Max's chief content officer Kevin Reilly had this to say of the news:

"Guess you could call this the one where they all got back together—we are reuniting with David, Jennifer, Courteney, Matt, Lisa, and Matthew for an HBO Max special that will be programmed alongside the entire Friends library. I became aware of Friends when it was in the very early stages of development and then had the opportunity to work on the series many years later and have delighted in seeing it catch on with viewers generation after generation. It taps into an era when friends—and audiences—gathered together in real time, and we think this reunion special will capture that spirit, uniting original and new fans."

The Friends reunion does not have a release date yet, but HBO Max is debuting this May.

Party Like a Hobbit at Chicago’s Lord of the Rings Pop-Up Bar

Gollum and a Ringwraith loom near Bilbo's hobbit hole at Replay Lincoln Park's Lord of the Rings pop-up bar.
Gollum and a Ringwraith loom near Bilbo's hobbit hole at Replay Lincoln Park's Lord of the Rings pop-up bar.
Replay Lincoln Park

One does not simply walk into Mordor, but one does simply walk into The Lord of the Rings pop-up bar in Chicago—as long as you’re at least 21 years old, of course.

Replay Lincoln Park, known for elaborate themed pop-ups for Game of Thrones, South Park, and other entertainment franchises, has transformed its premises into a magical reproduction of Middle-earth aptly called “The One Pop-Up to Rule Them All,” open now through March 23.

Inside, you’ll be able to crouch under an outcropping of tangled tree roots while one of the dreaded Nazgûl lurks above you, high-five a grimacing Gollum, and snap photos with all your favorite Lord of the Rings characters.

nazgul at the lord of the rings pop-up bar at chicago's replay lincoln park
The Nazgûl like to party, too.
Replay Lincoln Park

You might want to skip elevenses to make sure you have plenty of room for a Hobbit-approved feast during your visit. The menu, catered by Zizi’s Cafe, features items like Fried Po-tay-toes, Lord of the Wings, Beef Lembas, and Pippen’s Popcorn.

ent replica at chicago's replay lincoln park pop-up bar
Say hello to a friendly Ent while you munch on "Pippen's Popcorn."
Replay Lincoln Park

According to Thrillist, there will be three different counters in the bar, each with its own specialty drinks. Head to The Prancing Pony for a second breakfast shot (maple whiskey, bacon, and orange juice), or take a trip to Minas Tirith to toss back a palantir shot, made of silver tequila and passion fruit purée. If you’re in the mood for a little dark magic, you can trek over to Mordor and try a “my precious” shot, a fusion of dark rum, orange liquor, and Cajun seasoning.

lord of the rings pop-up bar at chicago's replay lincoln park
The Eye of Sauron is watching you order another round of Mordor shots.
Replay Lincoln Park

For those of you who are happy to accompany your Tolkien-obsessed friends to the pop-up but aren’t exactly tickled at the sight of a moss-covered Ent replica yourselves, take heart in this added bonus: Replay Lincoln Park also boasts more than 60 free arcade games and pinball machines.

[h/t Thrillist]

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