Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

It’s no secret that those of us born in the 90s are some of the luckiest people around. We got to experience the greatest trends in fashion, music and, most definitely, television. In retrospect, however, there were tons of ambiguities in the cartoons and sitcoms that we hold so dear to our hearts. Here are ten questions from the shows of our childhoods that may never be answered:

1. How did SpongeBob light fires underwater?

A pineapple under the sea? Sounds legit; SpongeBob had tons of stuff in his house that could have weighed it down and prevented it from floating.  A squirrel under the sea? Tree Dome, duh.  A campfire under the sea? Nickelodeon is going to need a good explanation for that one.

2. What was Arnold wearing?

“Hey Arnold!” was my favorite cartoon growing up, but I was always distracted by the ambiguity of Arnold’s outfit: was he wearing a shirt or a kilt? Baggy clothes were all the rage in the 90s, but were the show’s creators trying to make traditional Scottish garb the next big thing, too?

3. Why was Pluto inferior to the others?

Pluto was a member of Walt Disney’s Big Five, along with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck; however, Pluto was the only animal of this group to not be anthropomorphic, and was actually Mickey’s pet. So what made Pluto different if he was an animal, too? Just like the former planet that shares his name, Pluto clearly drew the short stick.

4. What was Him?

Him, the villain from “The Powerpuff Girls,” was undoubtedly one of the most disturbing creatures of children’s programming. Whoever created him clearly knew the formula for creepiness: take a voice that alternates between an echoing falsetto and a spine-tingling snarl, add a hatred for happiness, and put it in the body of a  wait, what was Him anyways? A satanic lobster? An evil transgendered clown? Regardless, it was obvious that Him was the creepiest cartoon creature around.

5. Who was watching Tommy and the gang?

Nothing was more adorable than watching the “Rugrats” babies go on adventures, mispronouncing words the whole way, but was no one concerned that they had no adult supervision? Not once were the babies interrupted for diaper changes, snacks or naptime. It’s hard to believe there was that much neglect in the Pickles’ household, though — maybe there’s some truth to the conspiracy that the babies were actually figments of Angelica’s imagination.

6. Why did Raven always try to prevent the future from happening?

The whole point of Raven Baxter’s visions in “That’s So Raven” was that they were inevitable; still, she would try to prevent her visions from becoming actualized if she didn’t like what she saw. But maybe the future looked the way it did because her visions considered the fact that she would try to prevent them — so if Raven hadn’t constantly tried to prevent the futures she foresaw, she would have foreseen more pleasant futures, right?

7. Should Kel have gotten professional help?

Kel, from “Kenan & Kel,” was known for his obsession with orange soda. Although his reaction to the beverage was entertaining, it was also a little alarming. I mean, Kel would do anything for orange soda — sounds like a serious addiction to me. And who knows, what if orange soda is a gateway to worse things, like Coke? Or coke?

8. Did Ms. Frizzle’s class get consent forms for all those trips?

I distinctly remember having to get consent forms signed by my parents before I could go on a field trip in elementary school. On “The Magic School Bus,” however, Ms. Frizzle’s third grade class was always going on spontaneous adventures, more than likely without the students’ parents knowing. Doesn’t that mean the Friz was technically kidnapping her students?

9. Where was the transparency in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”?

Fresh Prince was the flawless victory of 90s sitcoms: it had family, comedy, fashion and, of course, Will Smith. One thing it lacked, however, was transparency. At the beginning of the fourth season, we were welcomed by some impostor claiming to be Aunt Viv when the show switched actresses without notice. By the next season, baby Nicky was five years old, and no one even acknowledged his miraculous growth spurt. Couldn’t we at least have gotten a couple explanations?

10. Will Cartoon Network be responsible for paying for my therapy?

One night back in the early 2000s, I stumbled across “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” figuring any show with a pink puppy couldn’t do much harm. Fast forward thirteen years and I still have the occasional nightmare about a menacing figure surrounded by fog and saying, “Return the slab.” The show’s eeriness was addictive, and I’m pretty sure I’m a little messed up psychologically because of it.


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