8 Surprisingly Scandalous Little House On The Prairie Story Lines

The theme song and opening sequence of Little House in the Prairie is incredibly comforting. Sit a spell, Ma and Pa seem to say as she tucks her hair into her bonnet. We'll tell you a story of a simpler time, long before Snapchat or Angry Birds, when kids just rolled down hills to amuse themselves. The music swells, the camera focuses on a quaint town full of quaint townsfolk and you ready yourself for a story about the county fair or butter churning.

But Little House wasn't all marbles and fiddle-playing. There's that one where Ma seriously considers hacking off part of her arm. And the one when Mr. Edwards is mauled by bears. And the one when Mr. Edwards is crushed by a tree (it was a rough show for Mr. Edwards). The show wasn't just in it for the shock of gore so soon after homemade apple pie, it also hit a surprising number of important issues like fat-shaming, disabilities, and sexual assault. So if Melissa Gilbert's (a.k.a. half-pint) run for congress inspires some nostalgia watching, be careful. If you want an interesting, thought-provoking hour of television, we have some suggestions. But if you want to peacefully unwind, we suggest a lovely season 2 episode about a one-room schoolhouse math meet.
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Child Abuse: Season 1, Episode 20, "Child of Pain"

In the olden days, before you could call D.C.F., you just took custody of the kid in question in the school or church and held a really tense town hall meeting. While this method wouldn't fly today, the general message of "if you see something, say something" still holds.
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DIY Surgery: Season 2, Episode 15, "A Matter of Faith"

This is what happens when you don't use Neosporin, kids (and live out in the middle of nowhere without access to a phone). This is some late-season Grey's Anatomy, or maybe a dark episode of Macgyver, but prairie women are tough. Ma wasn't going let a little cut take her out.
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PTSD: Season 2, Episode 21, "A Soldiers's Return"

This episode still works today. While we hope things have gotten a lot better as far as mental health services for returning vets since the civil war, there are still so many cases of returning soldiers — even surrounded by well-meaning and loving family members — turning to drugs.
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Street Harassment: Season 3, Episode 9, "The Bully Boys"

Street harassment is not a new phenomena; not even Ma could go into town without a super creep wanting some "farm fresh eggs" (proof you can make anything sound aggressively sexual if you put your mind to it). Of course, prairie rules also meant that instead of questioning what she was wearing, the creeps are straight-up run out of town.
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Fat Shaming: Season 5, Episode 3, "The Man Inside"

When the Ingalls and Co. move to the city, things are tough. There's drinkin', fightin', and bullying an obese man practically to death. The end lesson is timeless: fat jokes aren't funny.
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Sexual Assault: Season 7, Episodes 17 & 18, "Sylvia"

On Law and Order: SVU, prairie edition, a girl who has already been heavily slut-shamed (for her revealing floor-length dress?) is sexually assaulted by a man in a clown mask and gets pregnant, which inspires more gossip. She eventually falls to her death. If nothing else, it illustrates pretty clearly how awful blaming the victim is, all while scarring a generation of kids who were hoping for a fun town fair episode.
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Suicide: Season 9, Episode 2, "Times Are Changing, Part 2"

Or: That time baby Shannen Doherty tried to take a page out of Virginia Woolf's book. The message if pretty much the same as the Heathers song — with some strong religious undertones.
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Drug Addiction: Season 9, Episode 17, "Home Again"

I have no idea how they could have canceled Little House so soon after this piece of cinematic brilliance. The swell of the accusatory music. The projectile vomiting. Pa's suddenly brilliant white hair, brought on by a stress of a kid who really could have used D.A.R.E. No ABC After-School Special could have done it better.