ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

By now, with the age of the internet and full-blown nostalgia taking hold of most of us, we're used to putting some of our childhood favorites under a microscope. Like with last week's dissection of Rugrats, this often means finding some truly shocking references that blew right over our heads growing up.

Rocko's Modern Life was particularly good at using innuendo to get some truly mature things past the censors. From phone sex to masturbatory euphemisms, this show did not hold back at all when it comes to inappropriate material. You know, maybe that's what made this show so great and so distinctive from contemporary children's cartoons.

Here are nine of my favorite reasons why I enjoy Rocko's Modern Life way more as an adult than I did as a completely oblivious kid.

1. Rocko worked at a phone sex hotline

This one has been making the rounds lately for being just so in your face that it's downright unbelievable it made it past the censors. Rocko takes a job at a phone sex hotline and ends up on the line with Mrs. Bighead.

As if the conversation weren't enough, the guidelines for a good operator really drive this home: "Be hot. Be naughty. Be courteous."

2. Closet cases

In an episode entitled "Closet Clown," the gang is consoling Ed Bighead after they discover he's been working as a clown. They tell him that he shouldn't be ashamed because everyone has secrets that are totally acceptable, like Heffer pretending to be a pixie and Dr. Hutchinson keeping a baboon heart under her pillow. However, when Rocko expresses interest in rainbows, the previously compassionate group becomes an angry mob. Clearly, this coded secret is the one that they couldn't tolerate, making this episode an allegory for coming out.

3. Would you and your little friends like to play a game?

Mr. Bighead wants to play a game with Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt, but they inform him that they are already busy playing their own. When the camera cuts to the board, there is a literal monkey bearing his butt to the two friends who hold paddles. This is a pretty overt reference to the euphemism "spank the monkey," which means masturbation. Probably not something kids would pick up on, but still shocking to see in a kid's show.

4. And that's not the only masturbation joke

Rocko's Modern Life had a KFC-like fast food restaurant chain called the Chokey Chicken. If I have to explain that one to you, you definitely should not be watching the show.

5. Not-so-subtle titles

The show does a great job with strict innuendo with "buck" here clearly standing in for another stronger rhyming word.

6. Mature references

This scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho would go right over the heads of most kids, as the Norman Bates character instantly becomes his mother. But, I gotta wonder who it's in there for? Parents may get a kick out of it, but I feel like they would then see all the other things on this list and prohibit the show from their home. Maybe watching habits were just different in the nineties.

7. H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

As if characters hobnobbing with the Devil and the Grim Reaper weren't enough, Rocko's Modern Life even spells out exactly where they're sent. Sure, they obscure the name, but it doesn't take the most vigilant kid to suss out what that says.

8. A fascination with nipples

Do you remember Really Really Big Man, the huge, insect-like hero with superhuman strength? Somehow, in my memory, I had forgotten his magic nipples that can attach to people's eyeballs and have them see into the future.

Not really innuendo, but still just plain weird.

9. (Eye)ball exam

Any guy who's been to the doctor will recognize what's happening here, and this kind of exam is DEFINITELY not for the eyes. Yeesh, even that cupping gesture is giving me the heebie-jeebies. But, that feeling is certainly not out of place on Rocko's Modern Life.

As a show with plenty of innuendo, this is far from an exhaustive list of examples, merely my favorites. In the comments, let me know other naughty bits that you've caught on rewatch.

Which example do you find the most shocking?


Do you miss when cartoons had outlandish gaffes like this?


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