Why “The Rugrats” is Terrifying.

If you’re like me, chances are you grew up watching shows like Hey Arnold!, Rugrats, Codename! Kids Next Door, ect.

I’ve got a 4-year-old niece, she’s adorable and energetic, and loves Rugrats. So when I babysit her, chances are Rugrats is on the TV.

And I’ve noticed some things.

We’ll come back to the horrifying child neglect/endangerment issues in a few minutes because I want to start with this picture:

That's a g'damned skeleton in a show about babies.

Tommy almost falls down into that. Into a room with a body that has completely decomposed into a skeleton and nobody noticed. And this is the first season of the show. This is from 1990!

Also, when scouring google looking for that picture I came across this one:

And oh dear—what is that? I don’t even remember this and I really don’t think I want to. Ever. Ever.

Ever ever again.

Except I’m a self-destructive pile of stubborn “MUST KNOW EVERYTHING.” That monster is from S3E31. Chuckie gets a new bed, no more crib, just bed, and immediately he jumps to “MONSTER.” He even imagines a horrible monster voice.

In the end, it turns out to be a really comfortable sweater. But that doesn’t change the fact that that episode is literally fourteen straight minutes of nightmare fuel. 


A show with ten seasons has a lot to pick from. And the pool of examples of child neglect was legitimately too wide to pick from and do examples on a fair sample.

But here’s a list of the worst examples season by season:


  • Season one Tommy gets kidnapped and returned before ANYBODY notices.
  • Season two four babies manage to get loose in a very crowded museum and go unnoticed for way too long.
  • Season three the babies leave the backyard where a bunch of f’ing babies are unsupervised and get into the new RV of grandpas. They get locked in and adventure to the moon BEFORE ANYBODY NOTICES.
    Sidebar: Season 3 is incredibly deep and real.
  • Season four they break free of their parents and proceed to run amok in Las freakin’ Vegas. Look, I know it’s the early 90s guys but…Unless Rugrats takes place in a parallel dimension where nothing really bad ever happens
    • Except people are still kidnappers, and people die.
  • Season five Stew and Drew take the kids to Piggie’s Pizza Palace set them down, and proceed to pay absolutely no attention to the fact that their kids are literally destroying shit.
  • Everything about the movie. Every. Single. Moment.
  • Season six Grandpa takes the babies to a boxing match that he’s in. Who’s gonna watch the kids grandpa? Who’s going to watch them when you’re dead? 
  • Season Seven Angelica is able to take off with baby Dil, who’s what…Tommy’s a year so Dill is like 4 months old guys. I don’t think we ever see him crawl, just lay there and play with his toys. Angelica is able to pick him up, put him in a toy car, and drive away without any of the grown-ups doing jack shit.
  • The second movie also every single minute. Every. Single. Minute. WHY IS NO ONE FREAKING OUT THAT THEY HAVEN’T SEEN THEIR BABIES ALL DAY?!
  • Season eight features an all out baby brawl in the laundrymat
  • Season nine Angelica convinces the babies to play in the crawl-space the whole time and none of the adults take notice.

Season ten is just the Rugrats gang retelling fairy-tales.

Seriously parents in the Rugrats universe: get your shit together.

As horrifying as early Rugrats was, it is still, to date, one of my favorite shows. Early Rugrats succeeded in crossing the imaginations of the babies with the reality of the world. The scary stuff never ends up being the actual scary thing. The monster under the bed is just a sweater, the dust-bunnies are just big ole’ wads of gross dust. Tigers are legitimately big kittens.

I take that back, the skeleton was real. Tommy would have had no context of the height and that it could kill him. So that…was an objective shot.

That’s scary as shit. What if Tommy hadn’t have escaped? What would his parents have thought happened? It would just be years later, maybe even DECADES when the post office finally gets renovated or someone thinks to look in the “Dead letter room” and they find the skeleton of a postal worker and a baby. A baby who hopefully has a broken neck from crashing and dying on impact and didn’t dehydrate/starve/freeze to death in the bottom of a hole in a building literally full of people.

But that didn’t happen, and the trauma of that moment is lost on Tommy almost as fast as it happens. So…happy endings.


One thought on “Why “The Rugrats” is Terrifying.

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