21 Childhood Cartoons from the ’80s That Are Unthinkable in Today’s Society

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While these ’80s cartoons hold a special place in the hearts of many, it’s essential to acknowledge that societal norms and values have evolved since their original airing. Here are 22 childhood cartoons from the ’80s that would spark controversy if aired today.

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The Smurfs (1981-1990)

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The Smurfs, with their whimsical adventures in the enchanted forest, were a staple of ’80s childhoods. However, upon closer examination, the show’s portrayal of Smurfette, the only female Smurf, raises concerns. Smurfette’s character embodies outdated gender stereotypes, often depicted as a damsel in distress or the object of affection for male Smurfs. 

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985)

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He-Man and his allies defended the mystical land of Eternia from the villainous Skeletor, capturing children’s imaginations everywhere. However, the show’s depiction of masculinity and femininity is problematic by modern standards. He-Man embodies the hyper-masculine hero archetype, relying on brute strength to solve problems and defeat enemies. Conversely, female characters like Teela are often relegated to supporting roles, needing more agency and complexity.

She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-1987)

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She-Ra, sister to He-Man, fought alongside her allies to protect the planet Etheria from the evil Horde. While celebrated for its strong female lead, the show’s portrayal of gender roles falls short of modern expectations. She-Ra’s physical prowess is emphasized, reinforcing the stereotype that strength and power are primarily masculine traits. 

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1983-1986)

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G.I. Joe, a team of elite soldiers, fought against the terrorist organization Cobra to defend freedom and justice. While lauded for its patriotic themes, the show’s depiction of violence and conflict raises concerns in today’s context. Episodes often glorified military action, presenting violence as a glamorous and effective solution to problems. 

The Transformers (1984-1987)

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The Transformers are sentient robots from the planet Cybertron who are engaged in an eternal battle between Autobots and Decepticons on Earth. The show’s portrayal of gender is lacking by contemporary standards. The majority of characters are male robots, with few female Transformers represented. When female characters appear, they often conform to stereotypical gender roles or are portrayed as accessories to their male counterparts.

ThunderCats (1985-1989)

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ThunderCats, a group of humanoid cat-like creatures, embarked on adventures to defend their home planet of Thundera. Despite its popularity, the show’s portrayal of gender roles and character dynamics may raise eyebrows today. Female characters like Cheetara are often defined by their physical attractiveness and serve as love interests or sidekicks to male characters. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, pizza-loving crime fighters trained in the art of ninjutsu, captivated audiences with their action-packed adventures. However, the show’s reliance on stereotypes and violence as a problem-solving tool may give modern viewers pause.

The Care Bears (1985-1988)

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While cherished for its heartwarming messages, The Care Bears had simplistic moral lessons and lacked diverse representation. Characters are often defined by a single personality trait, lacking the depth and complexity expected in modern storytelling. Additionally, the predominantly white, heterosexual cast fails to reflect the diversity of normal society. 

Inspector Gadget (1983-1986)

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Inspector Gadget, a bumbling but well-intentioned cyborg detective, entertained audiences with his gadget-filled escapades. However, the show’s portrayal of gender dynamics, particularly the relationship between Inspector Gadget and his niece, Penny, may raise concerns today. While Penny is portrayed as intelligent and resourceful, she is often sidelined in favor of her uncle’s antics, reinforcing paternalistic attitudes and gender stereotypes. 

Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-1990)

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Alvin and the Chipmunks, a musical trio of anthropomorphic chipmunks, charmed audiences with their catchy tunes and misadventures. However, female characters like Brittany and Jeanette are often depicted as love interests or caregivers to the male chipmunks, reinforcing traditional gender norms.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-1970, but reruns in the’ 80s)

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The show featured a group of teenage sleuths and their talking dog, Scooby-Doo, who solved mysteries while unmasking villains in every episode. Despite its enduring popularity, the show’s formulaic plots and portrayal of gender roles may raise eyebrows today. Female characters like Daphne often needed rescue, reinforcing stereotypes of women as passive or helpless. 

Jem and the Holograms (1985-1988)

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Jem and the Holograms, a band of rockstar sisters with magical earrings, dazzled audiences with their glamorous adventures. While Jem herself is a strong and independent character, the emphasis on fashion and fame over substance may send superficial messages to young viewers. 

The Snorks (1984-1989)

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The Snorks, underwater creatures with snorkel-like appendages on their heads, embarked on aquatic adventures in the colorful world of Snorkland. While reminiscent of The Smurfs in its whimsical charm, the show’s portrayal of gender roles and character dynamics may raise concerns today. Female characters like Allstar’s sister, Casey, often found themselves in need of rescue or relegated to supporting roles, reinforcing traditional gender norms.

The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991)

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They followed a team of paranormal investigators as they battled supernatural threats in New York City. While praised for its imaginative storytelling and memorable characters, the show’s portrayal of gender and diversity may be scrutinized by modern audiences. The main cast lacks racial and gender diversity, with the team consisting primarily of white male characters. 

DuckTales (1987-1990)

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DuckTales chronicled the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his grandnephews as they searched for treasure worldwide. However, female characters like Webby often needed rescue or were relegated to supporting roles, reinforcing traditional gender norms.

My Little Pony ‘n Friends (1986-1987)

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Based on the popular toy line, My Little Pony ‘n Friends followed the adventures of magical ponies in Ponyland. While celebrated for its colorful animation and positive messages, the show’s portrayal of gender and diversity may raise concerns today. 

Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984-1985)

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Defender of the Universe followed a team of pilots as they piloted robotic lions to defend the galaxy from evil. While praised for its epic battles and sci-fi themes, the main cast lacks racial and gender diversity, with the team consisting primarily of white male characters.

M.A.S.K. (1985-1986)

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M.A.S.K. followed a team of crime fighters who battled the evil organization V.E.N.O.M. using high-tech masks and vehicles. While praised for its action-packed storytelling and memorable characters, the show’s portrayal of violence and diversity may raise concerns today. Violence was presented as an effective solution to problems without exploring non-violent alternatives.

The Jetsons (1962-1963, but reruns in the ’80s)

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The Jetsons, a futuristic family living in outer space, entertained audiences with their high-tech gadgets and space-age adventures. Modern audiences may scrutinize the show’s portrayal of gender roles and diversity. Female characters like Jane Jetson are often depicted in traditional domestic roles, reinforcing gender stereotypes. 

The Flintstones (1960-1966, but reruns in the ’80s)

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The Flintstones, a prehistoric family living in Bedrock, entertained audiences with their stone-age antics and modern-day parallels. While praised as a classic animated sitcom, the show’s portrayal of gender roles and diversity may come under the modern scanner.

Garfield and Friends (1988-1994)

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The show followed the lasagna-loving cat and his companions as they navigated the ups and downs of everyday life. While beloved for its humor and relatable characters, the show’s portrayal of certain characters may be viewed through a critical lens today. Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle is often depicted as socially awkward and inept, reinforcing negative stereotypes of single men. 

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