It can be tricky to find the fine line between what's appropriate for kids television and what should have been saved for Adult Swim. Since that line is just a little different for each person, not everyone is going to agree on what's harmless fun and what's tasteless filth. With that in mind, we've collected a series of moments in youth programming that are controversial at best and heinous at worst.
1. Teaching kids about twerking at an early age
On paper, "twerking" and "shaking your butt" are the same thing, but anyone under the age of 35 can tell you the difference on sight. Like pornography, "you know it when you see it." You can shake your butt in a game of hokey pokey at Sunday School and no one would blink. But twerking is different -- the raw, aggressive sexuality of the dance move has been known to be described in the scientific community as "downright fuckin' dirty." As a parent, it's probably one of the things you least want to catch your kids doing, up there with torturing animals and falling asleep during Star Wars.
Despite Squidward's creepy smirk and bedroom eyes in the GIF above, he's pretty much just shaking his butt. The GIF below is a completely different story.
You might not be familiar with The Breadwinners, and according to the IMDb score, that's probably fine. In the very first episode, a character celebrates by growing giant glutes and grossly gyrating for the camera. If that weren't enough, one later episode focuses on a newly-hatched monster with three butt cheeks.
Guess what they make the baby do.
It's silly to shake your butt, but when you turn around, bend over and jiggle your ass up and down, there are certain connotations. This baby doesn't know it's emulating half-naked dancers in suggestive music videos -- and neither would the audience full of kids who might choose to emulate Breadwinners. Butts are inherently funny, and a baby with three butt cheeks could also be funny, but this is one forked thong away from a Nicki Minaj clip.
At least you don't have any fond childhood memories that Breadwinners can ruin. You can't say as much for The Powerpuff Girls reboot.
We've talked about the disappointing revival of the Cartoon Network favorite before, and this was by far the biggest offense. It doesn't matter that Blossom and Bubbles were under the influence of some rainbow magic -- it's incredibly uncomfortable to see kids twerking their post-toddler asses off.
For the sake of sanity, you have to hope that everyone involved in the creative decisions here don't really understand what twerking is. The same can't be said for Sym-Bionic Titan, though. They knew exactly what they were doing.
In the episode "Lessons in Love," a high schooler named Kimmy attempts to seduce Newton into doing her homework with a spontaneous and sexy dance routine. She is of course unaware that Newton is a cold, bonerless robot, so Kimmy is giving it her all here. The track that accompanies the dance is almost as blatant as the choreography itself; the lyrics include "Shake it / Bake it / Booty quake it / Roll it around / Don't fake it." What's more, the song was actually created specifically for this scene, presumably for the exact moment your mom walks in the room.
Granted, Sym-Bionic Titan was made for a slightly older audience, but later episodes of the show aired at 9:30 on Saturday mornings. A good rule of thumb: If a show has a scene that you'd be embarrassed to be caught watching at work, maybe don't slot it right after Pokemon.
2. Everything about the Chipettes
As far as new characters tacked onto old franchises go, there are probably worse ideas than genderswapping Alvin and the Chipmunks. It's just about the laziest move you could make, but at least Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor aren't any more grating than their male counterparts. In addition to having the ability to cover songs by female artists, bringing in female representation at least offered a new dynamic, even if the girls' personalities and body shapes are pretty much mirrors of the (supposedly non-blood related) boys.
That said, if the Chipettes were ever meant to empower girls, they sure went about it in the most baffling way possible.
Here we have three eight-year-olds kicking up their legs, showing off their garter belts for the entertainment of adults on a steam boat. Seeing the full thing may or may not ruin CCR's "Proud Mary" for you for the rest of your life. The thing is, seeing these elementary schoolers imitate old timey burlesque shows is relatively tame compared to the rest of the Chipettes' catalog.
It seems as though no one on the production team ever stopped to ask "Are we sexualizing these pre-sexual children a little too much?" Even if such a question was ever posed, the answer was apparently "No, I see nothing wrong with this."
It's bad enough that these third-graders are rocking belly shirts, but then they had to go and draw a bust line on Brittany. The whole scene is like the skeeziest episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, including the part where someone should be in jail.
It's still not as bad as The Chipmunk Adventure; for about half of the movie, the girls are dressed in Baby Slave Leia outfits. And then there's this part:
We've talked about this song before, and watching young girls seduce snakes hasn't become any less unsettling since. "Getting lucky" might have different meanings depending on the context and era, but the problem is that we've established a pattern here. The Chipettes, who are basically human girls with button noses, have been routinely sexualized in increasingly creepy ways.
That goes double for "Charlene the Chipette," seen in a half-hour special hosted by Will Smith.
Barring some kind of Hannah Montana situation, we can probably assume Charlene is different Chipette -- but she's still roughly the same age as Alvin, and she's still dressed like Jessica goddamned Rabbit.
We haven't even gotten to the worst part yet.
This could be innocuous. Everyone has silly baby bath pictures, and unlike the above image, having those in your browser history won't automatically put you on a government watchlist. But as we've seen, various Chipmunks media has conditioned viewers to see the Chipettes as sexual objects. There's a reason that the full sequence has almost eight million views on YouTube, and it's not because that cover of "Respect" honors Aretha Franklin's legacy.
Just a reminder: Pouring bleach in your eyes doesn't get rid of the mental images burned into your brain.