A Walk on the Child Side: Rugrats Was Absolutely Iconic

Phil and Lil. Chuckie. Tommy Pickles. DIL PICKLES. All of them are iconic -- and for good reason. Phil and Lil, while dressed in stereotypically gender-conforming outfits, rarely, if ever, obeyed stereotypical behavior norms as expected by their assigned genders. Chuckie once complained about boys not being able to wear “dressies,” and his righteous indignation is more than justified. The kid is right! But instead of these awesome kids...I want to talk about the awesome adults of Rugrats.

 

Let’s start with Betty DeVille, Phil and Lil’s mom. She’s pretty cool, right? Ragingly feminist, probably queer-coded as a lesbian… She even wears a shirt with the symbol for “female” on it! Beyond that, however, Betty is incredible because she actually discusses breastfeeding her children on the show. While not depicted due to Nickelodeon’s strict standards, the mere mention of such an act allows for forward progress in the normalization of breastfeeding for young children.

 

Next we’ll focus on Didi Pickles, mother of Tommy and Dil. The most significant aspect of Didi’s character is not, in fact, her consistent rhetoric about Dr. Lipschitz’s teachings, but the mere fact that she works outside of the home, while her inventor husband Stu, stays home with the children. Though mainly depicted as a housewife, Didi actually works as a home economics teacher, and later episodes indicate that she may actually be a child psychologist, which explains her fascination with Dr. Lipschitz. Moreover, the even distribution of parental responsibility between Didi and Stu is significantly progressive for the mid-90s, and honestly... Didi is pretty iconic.

 

I would be remiss to neglect Charlotte Pickles, Angelica’s mom and sister to Stu-in-law. Charlotte is a hell of a business woman. She’s constantly on her phone, talking with her assistant or returning a call to a client. Charlotte is depicted as busy, over-worked, ambitious, and motivated. It is clear that these are values she hopes to instill in her daughter, which is why she is quick to scold Angelica. I would argue, however, that Charlotte is a great depiction of a motivated woman and ambitious mother, but compared to the other mothers on the show, Charlotte is often shown to be absent to her daughter, at least in part. I don’t like the implication that Charlotte cannot be both a doting mother and a productive businesswoman, but that seems to be a potential focus of the show. That is, decidedly, un-iconic.

 

But the rest of the show is pretty amazing! The kids are held to the same standards, the parents divide their parenting equitably, and progressiveness practically seeps from every episode of the show that you probably still have on VHS in your basement. Go ahead, soak it all in.