With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a second look at Rugrats all these years later and reflect upon what we learned – whether the show intended us to teach that lesson or not.
Devo Belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rugrats boasts one of the best opening intros of its era – thanks in no small part to the Mark Mothersbaugh-composed theme song that scores it. The Rugrats theme is equal parts appealing and offbeat as Mothersbaugh cues up his synthesizer to sound like child’s toy and clacks away at it to make the most rudimentary rhythm. Then the babylike babble “ba bas” come in.
In fact, all compositions for this show from Mothersbaugh and his collaborators Denis M. Hannigan, Rusty Andrews, and Bob Mothersbaugh (Mark’s brother) are great and help capture the perfect tone. It’s a shame there’s no “TV Theme Music Hall of Fame” for them to apply to. There is, however, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and that’s something both Mothersbaugh brothers really do belong in. ’80s new wave band Devo, consisting of the Mothersbaugh brothers (Mark and Bob) and the Casales brothers (Gerald and Bob), has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, 2021, 2022 but has yet to be inducted.
The Exquisite Misery of Adulthood
Watching Rugrats as a kid, you naturally identify more with the series’ pre-preschool leads. Even if you aren’t a toddler per se, those years are far closer to the seemingly unthinkable adult era of your life. Rewatching the show when you’re older, however, reveals that Rugrats understood adulthood is every bit as surreal as childhood.
The most famous (and widely memed) example of Rugrats‘ approach to adulthood comes in the season 3 episode “Angela Breaks Her Leg.” With three-year-old Angelica Pickles rendered inert by her (fake) broken leg, her aunt and uncle Didi and Stu tend to her every need. By just day 2, Stu is a broken shell of a man, driving out to the convenience store to buy chocolate pudding and preparing it on the stovetop at 4 a.m. because he’s “lost control of (his) life.” All of Rugrats‘ parent characters are richly realized and at times exquisitely miserable.
Moms Can Be Breadwinners Too
Don’t get me wrong: the ’90s weren’t that long ago. This show doesn’t come from the Mad Men era where all men are Don Drapers and all women are secretaries. Still, even in the relatively socially progressive decade, you didn’t often see mothers go to work in children’s television. That’s not the case in Rugrats where Angelica’s mother Charlotte Pickles isn’t just a boss but the boss.