Prior to the turn of the century, many kids spent time in front of the television watching some of the best '90s shows. One of those shows was the Animaniacs, which many young fans probably never realized are a nuclear family metaphor. If that just blew your mind like an Acme cannon to the brain, a nuclear family is a traditional family model that includes two parents and any number of kids. Think Leave It To Beaver or The Simpsons. There are no external family members like uncles or grandmothers living in the same home and a set of values is shared.
The theory about Animaniacs as a metaphor for nuclear families centers around the Warner brothers and sister. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are siblings with similar values (and of course, humor) who live in the Warner Bros. studio water tower and find themselves on crazy adventures which, for the most part, they undertake as a family unit. In many ways, much of the Animaniacs subtext resembles a nuclear family, especially themes about bonding and working together. You may have laughed at the jokes and gags as a kid, but you probably overlooked these weird similarities to a nuclear family.
No One Wonders Where Their Parents Are
You never see the Warners's parents, and in one episode, they are said to be pencils (they're cartoons!). Even so, it's a little disturbing that no character seems to question where the father and mother are.
The Kids Are Treated As A Unit And Everything Centers Around Them
Yakko and Wakko like to refer to themselves as the Warner brothers, with Dot adding in her cute sister routine. The three essentially become a Warner unit and since the show centers around them, they are the most important family members. A nuclear family is centered around "the kids" and everything the parents do is pretty much done for them, such as providing them with shelter and a good education. Both parents may even work outside of the home in order to earn enough income to provide a comfortable life for their family.
Although Pinky and the Brain eventually took over their own show in a small step towards world domination, without the Warner "unit," the show would just be a bunch of random cartoons slapped together.
Lack Of Other Adults Means Lack Of Role Models
In a nuclear family, the parents are the primary adult figures and generally act as role models for the children. However, lack of adults in the life of a nuclear family child can mean a lack of role models. Perhaps the absence of role models caused some of the Warner family zaniness.
How are children supposed to know how to properly act around people like Michelangelo and Albert Einstein when there are no parents around to set an example?
The Kids Share The Family Work, But Are More Like Slaves
Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are essentially slaves to the studio, created in order to perform as entertainers, but then locked away when they turned out to be too weird. Like nuclear family children who are expected to help with chores and other responsibilities of a family household, the studio hoped the Warners would work towards the greater good of all involved. Unfortunately, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot just wanted to run around and have fun.
However, you could argue that because you're watching them on television, they are actually working for the studio. But try not to think about it too much - it's just a cartoon.