Looking back to cartoons and animated series as an adult can be nostalgic, but it can often make you blush as a passing line of dialogue catches your attention. Animation studios are able to get away with double entendres and subtle adult humor since they mostly work with adult voice actors, and children aren’t involved until they consume the product. Is adult humor acceptable in youth programming if the children don’t get it? Is it a good way to snag the attention (and viewership) of adults? Or is it wrong to potentially expose kids to more mature themes and subjects? I suggest looking to SpongeBob SquarePants (pre-2002) as well as the Animaniacs, a cartoon that often tested its censors, and Ren & Stimpy, a cartoon that was rehashed for kids as some examples of adult humor in cartoons/kid’s shows.
If it's mostly expressed in dialogue, or in a way that children would never get unless they had context, then I think it's a clever thing to include for the adults who are also watching. It allows a show to grow and mature with you (in a juvenile way you could say). Although it's also better if the show is well written in a way that adults can appreciate on a critical level. For me personally, this kind of humor makes a lot of old shows I used to watch more entertaining because they can sometimes get a tad risque. Animaniacs was the king of this concept. Besides which, if any kid already does have context for certain dirty jokes, then letting them hear that joke wouldn't necessarily adversely affect them, because they already know what the joke means. Adult jokes can't teach kids anything outright if they're hidden intentionally to only resonate with adults who get the references. – Jonathan Leiter6 years ago
I think of it as a courtesy honestly. You grow up watching these shows for one reason, and when you grow up, you can watch the same exact program because you then discover new things to love. I don't think there's anything inherently bad about double entendres in children's programming since there are just as many shows out there without them. If a parent was worried about hidden meanings, they can always watch Sprout or Nick Jr. – moonkid6 years ago
As long as the dialogue is not too confusing for the children, then I think it's alright to add subtle adult jokes into youth programming. Children television series are usually watched with adults (whether it's a parent, relative, or guardian), so the creators like to make humour that can cater to both audiences as long as it fits. I think this happens more with programming catered to middle schoolers though, since I can't recall any double entendres in pre school. – YsabelGo6 years ago
I've actually had this conversation with my dad, and he told me the only reason he could stand me watching Toy Story almost every day of my child life was because of the more adult content in the dialogue. The way I see it, the dialogue we see like that was specifically designed to appease adults, because if they have to sit through a childish movie about toys, they might as well get a few laughs out of it. – brady6726 years ago
Going to the movies was once a family experience--newsreel for adults, a 7-minute cartoon for kids, and a feature for everyone. Animators like the Fleischer Brothers and Tex Avery tried to keep adults in mind in the 1930s (and '40s and '50s for Avery) when making the cartoons that distributors marketed to kids. – drchrisp6 years ago
Nickelodeon cartoons, for sure! And Cartoon Network, Cartoon Network, Cartoon Network! – Jaye Freeland6 years ago
I think about this a lot when my children are watching Teen Titans. The name itself suggests it's marketed toward teenagers, but I'm not sure that's true; the creators would know that a younger market would be interested, at least. The humor is also borderline - and it's not the language per se, but much of the physical humor - there is a lot of emphasis on the consistently thwarted romantic relationships (Robin and Beastboy longing for Starfire and Raven, respectively), kissing, butt shots, tongues hanging out and eyes bulging when Raven takes off her cloak; things like this make me a little uncomfortable when my young children are watching. Ultimately it is up to me as the parent to make this judgment call, but it's hard without knowing who they are actually trying to market to. – Katheryn6 years ago