‘Hey Arnold!’ Was Banned in Kenya For Its Alleged Phallic Nature

Many TV shows come and go for various reasons. Sometimes, a country might ban a series if they feel it is too inappropriate to appear on the air. Some restricted shows are not surprising, but a seemingly innocent one might throw people for a loop. 

A few years ago, Kenya censored Hey Arnold! along with other cartoons. The animated series displayed diversity while showing realistic characters in a New York-like setting. So, why did it get banned? 

‘Hey Arnold!’ is about a city kid named Arnold

RELATED: The 90s Cartoons That Defined Millennial Childhoods

Hey Arnold! is a children’s cartoon that first aired on Nickelodeon in 1996. It ran for five seasons before ending in 2004.

The animated series became a hit among young viewers, and the franchise had two films released. Much of the voice cast were children, and a couple of the actors were Toran Caudell and Francesca Marie Smith. 

The show centered around a 9-year-old boy named Arnold. The character is street-smart and lives with his grandparents in a fictional city called Hillwood.

Arnold hangs out with his friends and acts as the leader of the group. Another fan-favorite is Helga, who hides her crush on Arnold by bullying him. 

Many episodes feature Arnold helping a fellow classmate or tenant. Sometimes, the show would have a premise focus on an urban legend. To a young viewer at the time, Hey Arnold! was an ordinary cartoon. However, the series would end up sticking with them as they became older. 

Some people consider the show to be ahead of its time. It featured a diverse group of friends from working-class families in the inner city. The cartoon was political and enjoyable to watch. 

Kenya censored the children’s cartoon ‘Hey Arnold!’

For a show that defined the childhood of many millennials, some people had issues with Hey Arnold! at the time. On the surface, it is a regular cartoon. However, it is one of several shows that got banned from airing in another country. 

The Kenya Film Classification banned Hey Arnold! in 2017 due to its phallic nature. The ruling included how Arnold’s grandfather has a head that appears similar to the shape of a penis.

In one episode, there is a shot of the grandfather standing next to a poster. The poster reads, “Try my sausage.” The nation likely felt that children should not have to see anything that could be a sexual innuendo.

Not only did Kenya censor Hey Arnold! for its phallic nature, but the country also believed the show was pushing an LGBTQ agenda. As of right now, it would seem that the ban remains in place. 

Other animated shows not available in Kenya

Hey Arnold!
Hey Arnold! | Nickelodeon

Of course, Hey Arnold! was not the only cartoon to get censored in Kenya. According to The Christian Post, the nation pulled several Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon shows from the air. A couple of them included successful series like The Legend of Korra and Adventure Time

Viewers cannot watch Clarence, Steven Universe, or The Loud House in Kenya. All these shows have vastly different plots, so what do they have in common worth censoring? The reason also is the depiction of LGBTQ behavior or characters.  

The Kenya Film Classification ruled that the cartoons were trying to “normalize, glamorize, and even glorify homosexual behavior.” Adventure Time featured two women kissing, and The Legend of Korra made a same-sex pairing canon. 

Kenya’s government felt the depictions or implications would negatively affect the moral judgment of young children. Viacom International Media Networks Africa does try to ensure diversity in shows. Still, they decided to respect Kenya’s wishes and allowed them to restrict the cartoons.