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Cartoon Culture

“Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter!”

Yesterday, the Parents Television Council released its latest study, Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter: Sex, Drugs and Profanity on Primetime Animated Shows Kids Watch Most, documenting the “shocking levels of adult content on networks with the highest-rated primetime animated cable shows”. The networks cited in the study included Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nick at Nite.

The report has it in particularly for Adult Swim. Says PTC President Tim Winter:

Adult content isn’t just creeping into the cartoons that kids today are watching the most; it has overtaken much of that animated programming. We’re not talking about cartoon characters slipping on banana peels and ramming into doors. Our data demonstrates that today’s norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth. There is now more sexual content on these cartoons than violence — even when counting traditional ‘light’ cartoon violence.

“Parents might not be surprised that there is an abundance of adult-themed content on a cable network called Adult Swim; but those same parents are likely to be very surprised at just how adult the content is and how often teens and pre-teens are flocking to the network. Many don’t even realize Adult Swim appears on the same channel as the decidedly kid-centric Cartoon Network“

Major findings in the report include:


• Sex (680 instances) surpassed every form of violence (674 instances) in animated primetime cable programming.

• Sexual depictions included simulations or obscured scenes of sexual intercourse, pornography, masturbation, pedophilia and prostitution.


• There were a total of 208 incidents relating to drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth, psychedelics and alcohol. Eighty percent of the drug-related incidents were depictions rather than references.


• The study identified 565 incidents of explicit language on shows rated TV-PG and TV-14. Twenty-seven percent of the uses of “f**k” and “sh*t” occurred on TV-PG programs.

Content Ratings

• Eighty-five percent of the TV-PG shows and 64% of the TV-14 shows containing sexual content did not have an “S” descriptor warning parents.

• Cartoon Network failed to use the ratings system to warn parents about sexual situations (S), suggestive dialogue (D) and coarse or crude language (L) 100% of the time.

You can download the entire report (as a PDF) HERE.