‘Woke’ warnings on 1990s TV shows:  Modern parents slam ‘sexist’ Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, claim Friends is ‘homophobic’ and warn ‘no child should EVER watch’ Ren and Stimpy

‘Woke’ warnings on 1990s TV shows:  Modern parents slam ‘sexist’ Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, claim Friends is ‘homophobic’ and warn ‘no child should EVER watch’ Ren and Stimpy

‘Woke’ warnings on 1990s TV shows:  Modern parents slam ‘sexist’ Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, claim Friends is ‘homophobic’ and warn ‘no child should EVER watch’ Ren and Stimpy

  • Friends, The Simpsons, Rugrats, and SpongeBob SquarePants all are criticised
  • Parents also slam ’90s classics the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Dawson’s Creek 

Woke‘ modern-day parents are so offended by programmes children and teenagers watched in the 1990s they are given them age warnings and flagging any ‘iffy’ content. 

Mothers and fathers are leaving reviews on much-loved classics such as Friends and The Simpsons, as well as cartoons Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, while even Arthur is deemed to be ‘too violent’.

They can also flag whether the shows have ‘too much sex’ or alcohol use.  

Ratings are given on the show’s ‘educational value’, ‘violence and scariness’, and whether there are any ‘positive role models’. 

There is also advice on what programme-based topics parents can talk to their children about as well as what they ‘need to know’ before settling down to watch any episodes.

Most recently producers of children’s favourite Bluey were forced to cut a scene from an episode when outraged parents accused it of being ‘fat-shaming’ and of sending out a ‘toxic’ message. 

But older programmes are feeling the heat too on website Common Sense Media. Below are some concerns ‘woke’ parents have left on the era’s famed shows.     

Friends has ‘frequent reliance on homophobic jokes’

It’s theme tune is recognisable from the first note, and we all grew up feeling like Chandler, Ross, Joey, Monica, Rachel and Phoebe were our own friends. 

But the show has been marred with criticism that the sextet coffee-drinking New Yorkers wasn’t diverse enough, with the NBC hit sitcom’s co-creator Marta Kaufmann in 2020 getting emotional and stating, ‘I wish I knew then what I know today’.

Friends is arguably one of the most famous sitcoms of all time running for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004, but some think only those aged 18 and over should be allowed to watch it. 

Complaining of it having ‘too much sex’ and ‘too much drinking/drugs/smoking’, one person wrote: ‘Sex is promoted strongly, as something to be aimed for. Drinking is also promoted. I would say this isn’t suitable for Christians and anyone under 18 due to its content. It’s a shame tv ruins stuff like this as it has the potential to be decent.’ 

While Common Sense Media warned: ‘Premarital sex is depicted as the norm for dating relationships; there’s also frequent drinking and some smoking. Families looking for inclusive content won’t find it in Friends. Almost all-White cast and frequent reliance on homophobic jokes.’

The Simpsons ‘teaches kids to drink, swear, and smoke’

The Simpsons is one of the longest-running TV shows in history having first airing in 1989. One triggered parent thinks it's an 'adult cartoon' as it 'would only teach kids it's okay to drink, swear, and smoke'

British families have been following the hilarious escapades of yellow-skinned family Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie for decades.

Matt Groening’s creation has bagged 34 Emmy Awards in the 23 years it has been lighting up our television screens, but some people have been left offended while Homer is described as the ‘do not try this at home poster boy’. 

There are also a warning that ‘characters drink beer in nearly every episode’.   

‘There’s frequent use of “hell” and “damn,” usually by Bart,’ the website warns. ‘Homer frequently chokes Bart, but it’s played for laughs. Religion, morality, ethics, and other sensitive issues are mocked. 

‘Halloween specials are particularly violent, with characters killing each other in gruesome ways that may disturb young or sensitive viewers.’

One parent vented: ‘This is an ADULT cartoon that’s watched by kids because parents think “ALL CARTOONS ARE FOR KIDS”. An adult cartoon would only teach kids it’s okay to drink, swear, and smoke. 

‘None of the characters are role models,and the whole cartoon itself is nothing but child abuse (with Homer being an abusive father to Bart).’

Hey Arnold! character with ‘iffy behaviour’

Hey Arnold! was one of the most popular Nickelodeon shows in the 1990s and has been often thought of being progressive for his time. But parents were warned about an 'overbearing girl' whose 'iffy behaviour is a notable hiccup in an otherwise fun cartoon for kids'

The Nickelodeon classic is the brainchild of creator Craig Bartlett and followed the life of football-headed schoolboy Arnold and his classmates. 

Although it has attracted less of the brunt from ‘woke’ parents, the website raised one ‘hiccup’ in the form of Arnold’s secret admirer Helga Pataki. 

‘There is some bullying from a loud, overbearing girl, who picks on all of her peers but singles out Arnold for the worst of it to hide her crush on him,’ it reads. 

‘Her iffy behavior is a notable hiccup in an otherwise fun cartoon for kids. Expect some mild playground language (“freakin’,” “crap,” and names like “dork” and “geek”) among the classmates to be the worst of the content.’ 

Rugrats has ‘too much swearing’ and is ‘a little whiny’

A parent thought Rugrats - which follows life through the lens of babies Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil - had 'too much swearing'

Another Nickelodeon classic this time from studio Klasky Csupo. The episodes centred around the world from a babies’ point of the view in the form of lovable characters Tommy, Chuckie, and twins Phil and Lil.

Its Tommy’s cousin, Angelica, that has enraged one parent of an eight-year-old and 10-year-old who gave the show a two out of five-star rating and felt there was ‘too much swearing’.

They wrote: ‘Angelica always has a rude thing to say about the babies (Tommy, Chuckie, Fill, Lill) she uses “Baby Bottle Sucker”, “Dumb” and more.’ 

While parents were warned by the website: ‘One main character, Angelica – who, like the rest of the gang, is a child – is mean and manipulative and known for being a liar. Young viewers will need to be reminded that they shouldn’t follow her example, no matter how funny they find her antics. 

‘The show can get a little loud and whiny at times, but, then again, the central characters are literally a bunch of babies.’ 

SpongeBob SquarePants has ‘no moral values’

SpongeBob SquarePants was lambasted by a professor in 2019 of being 'violent, racist and whitewashes US military rampages' on Pacific Island natives. Some parents weren't impressed either and the show was described as a 'know your kid situation'

SpongeBob and his square pants first hit our screens at the back-end of the 1990s and was an instant hit among viewers.

The goofy sponge lives in a pineapple under the sea in Bikini Bottom and often irks his neighbour Squidward.

The animated show following the Krusty Krab grill chef has gone on to win multiple Annie awards – animation’s highest honour – and is still going strong today with a number of movie releases. 

Yet in 2019 a professor lambasted the late Stephen Hillenburg’s creation as being ‘violent, racist and whitewashes US military rampages’ on Pacific Island natives.

And Common Sense Media describes the show as a ‘know your kid situation’ due to its ‘frenetic pace’ and ‘edgy humour’.

Rating it as being suitable for children aged 10 and over, one parent said: ‘I wouldn’t recommend this show to anyone, specially to young children. The show is full of violence and idiocy. Not funny at all (at least not what they are showing in 2018). It is so absurd that it’s impossible to explain to a child. It is literally junk for the mind.’

While another said it had no moral values and was ‘stupid humor’. ‘No intelligent person would want their kids watching this ridiculousness,’ they said. 

‘Too much violence’ in Arthur with ‘scary’ dentist scene

Sweet-natured aardvark Arthur was aimed at children aged between four and eight although one parent bizarrely thought the show had 'too much violence'

CBBC favourite Arthur is aimed as being suitable for children aged between four and eight and ran for 25 series and 253 episodes from 1996 to 2022. 

Its central character is sweet-natured aardvark Arthur Read with its theme tune neing accompanied with lyrics about getting along with each other and believing in yourself. 

Still, one parent said the show ‘displayed whiny, mean, sarcastic children at their worst’. 

‘The way the siblings on the [show] interact is not something I’d allow in my home, and I don’t like my kids viewing it as entertainment,’ they wrote. ‘Yet another show that equates being mean with being funny. We won’t be watching!

While another said it had ‘too much violence’.  

They moaned: ‘I have a almost 5 year old, and I know it said 5 and older, but I can tell you even when my son turns 7 this may still apply.

‘I have seen episodes where they are scary, there was a dentist one that was super super disturbing, my children were petrified making the dentist out to be nasty and scary and haunting, horrible show, and also I have seen an episode that talks about NOT liking vegetables, and saying they are gross or whatever term they used.’

There are ‘no positive role models’ in Johnny Bravo

Narcissistic womaniser Johnny Bravo was a hit show for Cartoon Network with the character loosely mixed on a combination of James Dean and Elvis Presley

Johnny Bravo’s creator Van Partible has not been shy in admitting the character was a mix between James Dean and Elvis Presley.

The narcissistic slick blonde-haired sunglass-wearing idiotic womaniser first aired on Cartoon Network in 1997. 

However, Common Sense Media says there are no positive role models in the show. ‘Johnny’s ridiculous pick-up lines never get him the girl. In fact, the girl often turns on him, pours a drink down his pants, chainsaws a tree so that it falls on his head, etc. – satisfying, but not necessarily behavior to strive for,’ it says.

While it also calls his pick-up lines ‘offensive’ and that ‘it’s all about innuendo – Johnny’s mission is to get the babes, but why he wants them is never mentioned. The “babes” are often shapely and bikini-clad.’

Although it does say ‘Johnny remains kind and generally good-hearted, he’s appealing to viewers of all ages’. 

Rocko’s Modern Life’s ‘hidden raciness’ is ‘iffy for teens’

Rocko's Modern Life won praise for introducing a trans character during its recent reboot on Netflix in feature-length episode Static Cling

Rocko’s Modern Life was first on our screens in 1993 and ran for four series until 1996. 

It follows neurotic wallaby Rocko in O-Town and was known for pushing boundaries with its risque adult dialogue. 

It most recently made a comeback on Netflix in 45-minute feature episode Static Cling where it was praised for including a trans character. 

One parent of two was not a fan after watching the first two episodes and labelled it ‘disgusting’.

‘The first episode has scenes of graphic, bloody violence,’ they wrote. ‘The second episode’s title is a clear pun on “Who Gives a F***?”, the third episode is BLATANTLY sexual in nature with Rocko’s neighbor trying to have sex with him, and the fourth one has a NUDIST PARTY! NOT FOR CHILDREN!’ 

The ‘fair amount of hidden raciness… makes it iffy for tweens’, Common Sense Media said. 

‘Sexual innuendo is hard to miss in coy references to sensitive body parts and euphemisms like the “Chokey Chicken” restaurant, most of which will be recognizable to tweens’ keen eyes and ears. 

‘Slapstick-style violence matches the show’s surrealism (electrocution, death by vacuum). On the upside, though, Rocko’s interactions with his motley crew of friends illustrate the meaning of friendship and promote tolerance.’

‘No child should ever watch’ Ren and Stimpy

The Nicktoons classic often depicted Chihuahua Ren losing his temper and taking it out on Stimpy by slapping him around the face or beating him up

The three-time Emmy-nominated cringey cult cartoon starring a Chihuahua and a cat aired for five seasons spanning 1991 to 1995 on Nickelodeon followed by reruns on MTV.

In the show, Ren is quick to anger and usually takes it out on Stimpy by slapping him in the face or beating him up.

The animated series was hugely popular both here and in its native north America.

Among the 53 reviews on the show, one parent says: ‘I recall watching it a lot during my childhood. On a child scale? Absolutely not. I don’t know why this show is constantly targeted towards children when it is obviously made for adults.

‘Inappropriate language, actions, and images. A few years back one of my students caught a glimpse of the show and I had to stop him immediately, as I knew what was about to happen in the episode he was watching. 

‘If you’re an adult, and you have a strong stomach, this show is alright. But under no circumstances should you ever let a child view this show.’

While another simply just says ‘avoid’ and ‘this stuff is gross’.  

Beavis and Butt-Head offers ‘nothing positive for teens’

Beavis and Butt-Head has a strong fan base and was a huge hit for MTV during the 1990s

Let’s face it, Beavis and Butt-Head was never created for the younger audience. In the UK the lowest age rating for some episodes was 12.  

The idiotic heavy metal-loving teenage slackers originated from creator Mike Judge’s 1992 short film Frog Baseball.

MTV commissioned the show for eight series and was at one point its highest rated show. 

But ‘the sexual references, crass humor, strong language, and irresponsible messages in this animated series ensure it’s not appropriate for tweens and offers nothing positive for the teen set’, Common Sense Media says. 

‘Beavis and Butt-Head are foul-mouthed (“damn,” “bitch,” “ass,” etc.), irresponsible, uneducated slackers whose destructive behavior is the basis for the show’s humor,’ it reads. 

‘They view women as a means to sex (though they never actually have sex), school as a waste of time, and rules as a challenge to their independence. The show’s crudity is exaggerated and only upstaged by its graphic discourse about sex, including the guys’ comments about arousal and ejaculation.’

It goes on to say the duo are ‘anti-role models’ and ‘their characters are clearly the absolute opposite of what anyone would aspire to be’. 

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has ‘too many sex jokes in it’

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air helped catapult a wise-cracking Will Smith to Hollywood stardom

It’s the show that has one of the most catchy theme tunes from the 90s and that catapulted a wise-cracking Will Smith to Hollywood superstardom. 

But today’s parents have blasted the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as ‘sexist’ and overloaded with raunchy jokes and ‘sexual innuendo’.

Launched in 1990, it ran all the way through to 1996, viewed by millions across the globe. 

Common Sense Media said the show jokes from the show’s main teenage protagonists can ‘border on offensive and sexist’.

‘But taken in context and with a grain of salt, they’re nothing worse than what kids hear at school or on the playground,’ it added.

Not all parents were against it, with some championing the 90s sitcom, hailing it ‘amazing’, ‘excellent’ and a ‘classic’. 

But not everyone was impressed, with one parent branding it ‘crude’, while another wrote claimed the show was ‘confusing’. 

‘Even though there are no explicit sex scenes, there’s a ton of sexual innuendo and characters talk about sex all the time,’ they wrote. If you want to create a show for people who just wanna have a laugh without thinking about sex, it’s not enough to just have it without scenes.’

‘Racial diversity lacking’ in Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

'Lacking diversity': Buffy The Vampire Slayer was slammed for its lack of black and Asian characters

Demon slaying teenagers juggling school work with the evil undead was all the rage in the 90s and early noughties. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – featuring heartthrob Sarah Michelle Gellar as the vampire-killing extraordinaire – proved a smash hit with younger audiences at the time.

It netted a slew of awards, including several Teen and Kids’ Choice Awards during its seven season run from 1997 to 2003. So popular was the show, it even spawned its own successful spin-off Angel.

But now, two decades on from the final episode, parents have said it is a ‘campy show’ that ‘misses moral potential’ which is plagued by ‘too much violence, sex and blood’. 

Parents need to know that while even grade-schoolers may be drawn to the high school setting, humor, and fun horror movie aspects of, this hugely popular vampire series’ dark, mature themes aren’t a good fit for younger kids,’ warned Common Sense Media.

‘Violence increases in intensity over the seasons, with characters frequently being killed, and main characters are involved in sexual acts and scenarios.’

It added that although there were ‘positive LGBTQ+ role models and storylines’, it’s but racial diversity was ‘sorely lacking, and black characters are portrayed stereotypically’.


Matt Strudwick

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