OPINION: Where the gay characters in children’s shows?

Getting LGBTQ+ representation in kids shows is much more challenging than you’d think

Layla East, Staff Member

Children’s shows are the building blocks of a kid’s view of the world around them. Parents trust that the shows their children watch teach them how to share, care for one another, and show them right from wrong.

But a massive gaping hole in children’s shows is representation, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.

Getting even the smallest amount of representation presents challenges. The show Steven Universe paved the way for representation but the path to creating that representation was difficult. The writers on the show wanted a wedding between two female characters. It took a great deal of convincing, but they got to air the episode, but it didn’t come without repercussions. In a Q & A in October 2019 at the NY Barnes and Noble, the creator of the show Rebecca Sugar said that most of the funding for the show came from International, and they were threatening to pull the funding if they went through with the wedding scene.

Because of their decision to air the episode they had to end the show much quicker than planned, leaving many viewers unsatisfied. All because of a wedding scene.

The children’s show Arthur had repercussions as well because of a wedding scene. Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn, was getting married to another man. In the episode, none of the characters brought up that it was weird or shocking that their teacher was marrying another man.

The show wasn’t shoving it down anyone’s throats; it was simply there. According to an article titled ¨Arthur’ in the Washington Post, the episode showed children a same-sex wedding. However, Alabama and Arkansas PBS stations refused to air it.

That is absolutely absurd. I understand that people aren’t going to fund a show or air an episode if it is receiving a ton of backlash, but isn’t it their job to produce good shows for kids that everyone can relate to and shows all walks of life?

Even with recent shows the representation is lacking. In the TV show Gravity Falls there is a gay couple, which seems like a big step forward for the community especially since the show was made by Disney, but I disagree.

When I watched that show as a kid I had no idea they were dating. The way they portrayed their relationship was more of a bromance than romance.

It was almost like a joke that they were friendly with each other. It seems like Disney just wanted to appease the LGBTQ+ community, not wanting the character to be gay.

I have found the the little representation we have is either poorly represented or falls victim to queerbaiting, which is a marketing technique where creators hint at, but then don’t actually depict same-sex romance.

For example in Voltron: Legendary Defender, Shiro was revealed to be gay at the 2018 San Diego Comic Con by the shows creators. The announcement was met with support by the fandom. But the only scene between Shiro and his fiance is in a flashback where they have an argument and break up. Later in the show, his ex-fiance is abruptly killed.

This led plenty of audience members to be rightfully disappointed. The creators hyped up their relationship to no end, but fell short in delivering an impactful and meaningful relationship between the characters. Shiros’ love interest was displayed as a season selling point at Comic Con, only for the character to be killed off just as quickly as he was introduced.

One of the biggest arguments for parents not wanting LGBTQ+ characters in kids shows is that they would turn their kids gay. That argument has no evidence to prove its factuality and is completely ludicrous. Nothing can turn people gay. They are born that way.

Another reason that argument falls through is that, would it really be thay horrible if your kid was gay? In reality that “argument” is just disguised homophobia.

If anything the lack of representation is more harmful than a gay character. I know from my own experiences and my friend’s experiences that growing up without seeing characters feeling the same way you do can make you feel like who you are is something to be ashamed of and abnormal.

This causes many teens to spend their middle school and high school years in the closet, not being able to truly be who they are.

Children need a realistic view on the world around them, and kids shows are a great way to introduce them to it. So without representing all types of people, kids can feel abnormal for who they are.

It’s necessary to show kids that there are people different or similar to them so they can grow up to be an understanding, well-rounded person.