Disturbing facts about your favorite Nickelodeon shows

To many, Nickelodeon equals wacky innocence, heartwarming reminders of your childhood, and…that's about it. But remember: kids didn't make these shows; adults did. And, since adulthood is the opposite of innocence, there was actually quite a bit of seediness going on at your favorite after-school destination, both behind-the-scenes and right in front of your fragile little eyes.

The true meaning of GAK

Until it went dry 30 seconds after opening the package, kids everywhere loved playing with GAK, the squishy green putty molded after the slime that Double Dare dumped on unsuspecting everybodies for the amusement of, well, everybody. Probably, you thought "gak" was just a nonsense word, perhaps an onomatopoeia for the gakky, farty sound the stuff made when you squished it in your hand. Nope. According to Double Dare host Marc Summers, "gak" was actually one of the many euphemisms for heroin that drug dealers would use to talk about their inventory in public. So every time a kid screamed about how much they loved GAK, they were accidentally endorsing drug use. But there was nothing accidental about the naming: the show's crew knew exactly what "gak" meant, thought it was hilarious to name their goofy kiddie product after it, and found it even funnier that they could slip it past the executives at Nickelodeon, who were apparently just as clueless as the kids they marketed to.

A show about a Jewish family gets accused of antisemitism

Being one of the few mainstream cartoons to both feature a Jewish family and openly celebrate Jewish culture and holidays, you'd think Rugrats would have no hope of ever being accused of antisemitism. But that's exactly what happened in 1998, as Tommy Pickles' Grandpa Boris drew the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, which felt he portrayed Jewish people in a stereotypically negative way. It wasn't anything he did in the actual cartoon, in which he rarely appeared. Rather, the anger came from his comic strip form (yes, Rugrats had a newspaper comic, back when people still read those things). He and Tommy go to a Jewish temple and Boris recites the "Mourner's Kaddish," which is a prayer for the deceased. Such a serious prayer in a kiddie comic, coupled with Boris' overall appearance (a big nose and huge ears) looking much like a Jewish caricature from Nazi propaganda, made the ADF angry enough to complain. Nickelodeon responded by never using the character again in the comic, and somehow using him even less in the cartoon that he barely appeared in anyway.

The world of Spongebob is an underwater nuclear fallout site

Sure, Spongebob Squarepants has its off-color humor, but it's not really that dark. It's mostly just silly and surreal, right? Not really, because while Nickelodeon's never officially confirmed it, Spongebob's entire world is almost certainly the result of nuclear radiation and mutation. The big clue, as argued by a popular Internet fan theory, is in the name of Spongebob's town, Bikini Bottom. According to Nickelodeon itself, Bikini Bottom lies underneath Bikini Atoll, an area around the Marshall Islands. What Nick doesn't mention is that the United States used Bikini Atoll to test 23 nuclear bombs between 1946 and 1958. Several of these bombs exploded underwater, and a brief connect-the-dots session can conclude that the resulting radiation mutated the life down there and gave them extra intelligence (if you can call Patrick "intelligent"). They basically became tiny Godzillas, though far more harmless and silly than destructive and angry. So if you enjoy Spongebob, you can thank the Nuclear Age for that, anyway.

Ren and Stimpy somehow goes too far

The fact that nightmare fuel like Ren And Stimpy existed on a kids' network is disturbing in and of itself. That being said, it somehow survived for years without Nickelodeon censoring it into oblivion, though some scenes went too far even for the network's shockingly lax standards. The episode "Powdered Toast Man," for instance, features a scene where the Pope buries his face in the butt of the eponymous superhero. As you might imagine, religious groups took major umbridge with this affront, and Nick responded by removing the cross from the Pope's hat and changing his name to "The Man With The Pointy Hat," because that's going to fool anyone. Another episode, "Man's Best Friend," which features Ren violently beating a man to near-death, didn't get censored so much as outright banned. In fact, Nickelodeon was so angry over this episode, the network fired the entire animation team behind it. It's probably a good thing they didn't have Ren laying the smackdown on the Pope; Nick might have actually pressed charges over that one.

The $25,000 pie

Sometimes, disturbing things happen even when nobody intends for them to happen. Such was the case with Double Dare, when a woman sued the show after getting hit with a pie, an indignity suffered by virtually every previous contestant. She didn't sue over choking on the pie, or having her nose broken on the tin, or anything else that might make sense. No, she sued because, according to host Marc Summers, the pie made her unable to have sex. Yes, really. One can only wonder how she arrived at that conclusion. Was she so embarrassed over getting pie'd on cable TV that she couldn't get in the mood? Was her partner too busy laughing at her to climb into bed? Double Dare's showrunners, for their part, had no interest in her reasoning, and even less interest in this becoming an actual news story. So they simply threw the lady $25,000 to, in Summers's words, "go away." Getting five figures for no reason other than a network not wanting its name dragged through the mud (or pie filling) over literally nothing? That's basically winning the lottery.

What Rugrats animators really thought of Didi

According to Melanie Chartoff, who voiced Didi Pickles, Tommy's mother on Rugrats, the show's animators once let off steam by turning Didi into a hardcore bondage enthusiast. They then let off further steam by vandalizing an entire bathroom with the drawings and then showing them off to her, because over-the-top, demented humor is useless if you keep it to yourself. As she described in the book Slimed! An Oral History Of Nickelodeon's Golden Age: "I was invited into the men's room to see S&M drawings of Didi inside all the stalls. They had her decked out in leather, with whips and chains; the whole dominatrix regalia." No pictures of said bathroom art exist, but if you want an idea of what it looked like, just search the Internet for 30 seconds.