A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there have been several incarnations of this show, including some "lost episodes" that were aired in 2003 under the title Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon. Although the original series (which still airs in syndication and is available on DVD) is tamer than that version and was definitely marketed toward grade-schoolers and tweens, between the frequent implications that the main characters are gay and their constant abuse of each other, it's really a much better fit for older tweens and teens. What's more, the show -- which first aired in 1991 -- was ground-breaking in its willingness to disregard social conventions by depicting bodily functions and adding a significant amount of gore to its cartoon violence. The episodes that air on Nicktoons usually offer a somewhat watered-down version, but they still aren't meant for kids.
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What's the story?
In its early-'90s heyday, THE REN & STIMPY SHOW was ground-breaking TV, offering cartoon gore, bodily functions and fluids, crushed heads, oozing brains, and an ongoing fascination with the controversial aspects of sexuality, particularly homosexuality (which isn't portrayed very attractively here). It pre-dated South Park and has a lot in common with Bart Simpson's beloved Itchy and Scratchy Show. It was never pretty, but it was fascinating and often funny. Those early, decidedly mature episodes can be found on DVD, but Nicktoons now airs repeats of a somewhat-defanged version of the show, which included the less-offensive original episodes and those made later, without creator John Krisfaluci. (The show's evolution can be seen in its animation, which goes from intentionally rough to much more polished and plushie-toy ready.)
Is it any good?
No matter what format it's in, Ren & Stimpy is still too edgy and adult for younger children. Teens may enjoy the scatological humor and the occasional attempt at social satire, but Ren & Stimpy's once-shocking take on classic cartooning is old hat now. It's been done, and it's been done better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the trends that this series started (or at least heralded), contributing to the current media landscape in which there are far fewer limits than there used to be. Was the show's influence good (South Park) or bad (arguably, South Park), and what affect has it had on the rest of society? Is society different because we've grown used to watching animated creatures defecate on TV?
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