There are tons of gay cartoon characters, you just don’t see any aimed at children. The Smiths have gay neighbors on American Dad, and South Park has Big Gay Al after all, but they’re intended for adult audiences.
Of course, there have always been lots of coded gay characters — too many to count, in fact. Just look at Disney alone: There’s Ursula in The Little Mermaid (AKA Divine), Jafar reads totally gay in Aladdin, and Simba’s uncle Scar doesn’t exactly come off as straight. Come to think of it, which Disney villain doesn’t send the gaydar dial bouncing a bit? But that’s another post entirely.
Cartoon Network recently aired an episode of Clarence that features a (very) brief appearance by two gay characters, and it very well may be the first time it’s happened on the network (if we’re wrong about that, we’d love to know of any past examples).
The characters aren’t relevant to the plot in any way, and really only serve to be the punchline of a pretty tired joke. Woman waits for blind date. Attractive man shows up. Woman gets excited. Man turns out to be meeting his gay lover. Woman is forever alone.
Here’s the scene:
And yet the fact that they appear at all seems significant. They aren’t presented as characters to laugh at, but just as normal people.
But apparently the smooch only barely made it to air. A revealing Tweet from series voice actor and writer Spencer Rothbell suggests the network was uncomfortable broadcasting the same-sex affection.
Rothbell also had this to add on his blog:
It’s such a minor throwaway moment but I guess it’s better than nothing. Maybe one day the main character can be gay and it won’t be a big deal.
h/t Observation Deck
Batman Is Finally Asked ‘Are You Gay?’ In New Comic Book
98 Characters In The Marvel Universe That Were Gay Before Anderson Cooper
The Griffins and Family Guy part are wrong. It’s American Dad and The Smiths who have the gay neighbors 🙂
@brucebruce836: thanks, noted!
Isn’t it amazing that these networks have no trouble broadcasting people being murdered or brutalized, but they go into palpitations if two guys kiss?
@Cam: Well, Cartoon Network is a little different, being that these are cartoons aimed at kids (which is why I think this is epically cool and hopefully a step in a very promising direction). So…a little less on the murdering and brutalization on this network, but yes–they still show some pretty adult material to kids that covers a wide range of everything…except sexuality. I think this is big.
Actually Adult Swim is the late night programming on Cartoon Network. it is very adult in nature. American Dad, Family Guy are staples among others. there are gay characters on 3/4s of the shows on during the Adult Swim programming 10pm to 6am. this just happens to be the one they are promoting at present. Roger the aliens is todays Paul Lind.
@brucebruce836: Actually, Stewie Griffin has been confirmed by Seth MacFarlane (“everyone likes to get their dick sucked”… and may would I hoover him) as being gay. In grown up episodes he even comes across as very gay. Meg is actually transgendered in grown up episodes.
@Shawn: true, but Adult Swim is not technically Cartoon Network original programming, and it’s also definitely not marketed toward children.
@tdx3fan: I think they only showed Meg as transgendered once in a future setting (as “Ron”), and I don’t think it was canon. Stewie is pretty much pansexual, I would assume, like Roger on American Dad.
I can’t believe you forgot Prince John from “Robin Hood.”
Well, everything starts with a kiss. Keep em coming.
To be technical, Scar did father a child, who was in the sequel. Now, I know just having children doesn’t really mean that he wasn’t still gay. I’m just saying.
Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s sister channel, actually has a pretty good track record of gay characters, albeit absurd characters in absurd shows. And the Venture Bros. probably has the most gay characters of any animated show I can think of, and it probably has more gay characters than some live action, or even gay ones for that matter. You’ve got Shoreleave, the Alchemist, Col. Gentlemen, my personal suspicion, Hank, Watch or Ward. You’ve also got some transgendered characters too like Hunter Gathers.
Still, back to topic, it’s a step in the right direction. Yay!
What about Snagglepuss?
Adventure Time, had a guy on guy kiss, when Fin kissed the giant frog that turned out the a King who had had a spell cast on him. The King even said “Thanks bro, not a lot of dudes, would be willing to do that for a dude.” and Fin was like “No biggie.
Then there’s Adventure Time’s Marceline and Princess Bubblegum!
I’m just praying that in this last season of Korra, the writers will have the guts to pair off either Korra and Asami, or Makko and Wu. They have been dropping some pretty serious hints since the end of season three. But honestly; why the fuck do we have to wait so long, and why are they making SUCH a big deal out of it? It’s like the elephant in the room, all these writers and showrunners know it’s going to happen at some point, and then it’ll turn out it’s not such a big fucking deal after all, but no-one dares make the first step. I honestly find it infuriatingly trite and frustrating. STOP GIVING US SCRAPS!!!
Having gay characters as a foil for straight characters is the opposite of progress. It’s called minstrelry.
@Leroygir: Yes, but no actual established queer characters yet. I am (as my handle will show, lol) equal parts obsessed and impressed with Adventure Time, not just as a cartoon but as an amazing piece of television, and it pushes the boundary in so many other ways that I would have expected Adventure Time to be the first to go there. They’ve definitely been LGBT-adjacent/telling gay allegories (“Princess Cookie,” anyone?) for quite some time, so I’m kind of upset Clarence beat them to the punch 🙂
@vive: However it is better than invisibility. I agree with what you were saying, but it doesn’t seem like they are offering anything else right now. I mean people laud Modern Family for having the “Bravery” to have a gay couple, and have you ever watched an episode? Every single episode is “What will Cam over react to and go into hysterics over while his non-sexual roomate rolls his eyes.”
@Cam, actually I don’t find the Modern Family couple to be an example of minstrelry. Those two are main characters, not just foils for a straight point of view. And I find them very funny – I actually know people like that. Sure, they are stereotypes, but in a good way. Everyone in that show is a stereotype. Without stereotypes there would exist no comedy.
@gauty: Hello, Gauty! As you brought it up, I thought I would ask you something I have been wondering about. I’ve seen images from “Korra” and I’m considering giving it a watch. That said, I know that it is a series that comes after “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. Is it recommended that I watch A:TLA before watching Korra or can I jump right into the later without having watched much of the former?
@vive: Sure, they’re funny–but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re pretty much a sexless, heteronormative, watered-down version for the masses whose actual romantic relationship is not treated on par with Jay and Gloria’s, or Claire and Phil. Then again, I don’t think I’ve watched in a couple seasons, so maybe they’ve gone about changing some of that.
@adventuretime, I agree they are somewhat sexless (although I think they have shown them kissing) but the other couples are sexless as well, at least in the episodes I have seen. To be honest, none of them are the kind of couples most of us would want to think of as being sexual, so this is actually something I appreciate.
@Starry Eyed: adding in my 2 cents. I’d actually start out with Last Air Bender, as i feel as a whole its a better story; but to answer your question, you can go ahead and watch Korra without having watched Last Air Bender. Its a good program, i hope you like it.
Personally I couldn’t care less if kids see a cartoon with two gay men on it or not. It’s not really something we as adult men should be focused on.
Honestly Cartoon Network has really horrible cartoons for kids that are too adult for them and extremely stupid. Cartoons used to have a major story arc and follow a long adventure. Now there are just random toilet humor jokes, thinly veiled sexual humor, and more… aimed at kids 8-13. It’s ridiculous.
All that said… we can’t get up in arms about a kids show not making characters gay enough for kids, and then get upset when people throw the phrase “gay agenda” at us. What stake do we have in kids seeing two same gender characters kissing? Fact of the matter is kids don’t grow into adults who have a problem with homosexuality until their parents enforce one. It’s not about a cartoon, a book, or anything else. Most kids will follow their parents beliefs until they got out on their own into the world. And no matter how idiotic those beliefs may be, we have no right to undermine them with our own opinions while they are still children.
It’s a little creepy to be worrying about seeing yourself in kids cartoons. There are tons of teen/adult only cartoons now and they do feature gay characters…
Parents want to have to answer as little about sex and sexuality as possible to their very young children. It’s an awkward conversation, they may answer incorrectly, and well some of them may not “agree” with it in their own home(their right even if it’s wrong). You can’t control someone else’s home or their children.
@Captain Obvious: “Most kids will follow their parents beliefs until they got out on their own into the world. And no matter how idiotic those beliefs may be, we have no right to undermine them with our own opinions while they are still children.”
That is incorrect – school syllabi teach (correctly, in my opinion) a number of subjects that are counter to the idiotic beliefs of many parents. If we were to grant your claim, there shouldn’t be any information on TV that runs counter to, say, creationism, or counter to the Muslim, conservative Jewish, or fundamentalist Christian teachings that women are inferior to men. These would be completely ridiculous requirements to impose on TV programs.
@stranded: Thanks, Stranded! I’ll have to look into watching them. I never got into “Avatar” when I first watched it, but I’ll definitely give it another go around with fresh eyes. I figure something must be good about the series if so many people talk as highly of it as they do. 🙂
@Captain Obvious: It’s less about seeing yourself in the cartoons and wishing for more widespread representation in general. There are definitely “kids” who are left out who would want to see themselves reflected more in cartoons. When I was 11/12 and just discovering my attraction to boys (and DEFINITELY still watching Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network), I would have KILLED to see something reflecting my experience on TV. Cartoon Network specifically is not aiming at 5 year olds; they market toward a more young-adult/adolescent audience–many kids who are coming to terms with their sexuality are in that age range.
If you don’t think there are great cartoons out now that have “story arcs” and “adventures” (HELLO, Adventure Time, anyone?), then you’re clearly not watching. Which is totally your prerogative, but don’t come down on cartoons nowadays because times are a-changin’ and you just want things back to the good ol’ days. I think that’s the silliest reason to dislike anything.
@Starry Eyed: Oh crap! sorry, I don’t get notifications about Queerty messages. To answer your question; YES. Watch it. Now. There’s just a lot of backstory and little characters beats that you would miss in LOK if you hadn’t seen TLA. It’s not crucial, but it makes the whole experience of the second series so much more enjoyable, and probably easier to follow too. And I mean, it’s also just too good to just skip over, haha. It certainly stands the test of time, if that’s what you’re worried about.
Season 1 of Korra is good, season two flails a little but has gorgeous animation, season three is in my humble opinion the best of the entire two series in terms of EVERYTHING (writing, fight choreography, animation, emotional resonance, etc.), and season four is on track to be on par with season 3.
Also, while I’m on this subject, and if you trust in my terrific tastes (and are looking to “waste” even more of your valuable time watching cartoons on the internet). It is absolutely necessary for your wellbeing that you also watch The Amazing World Of Gumball and Adventure Time. Those are my two other favorite shows, they are really, really clever and the animation is out of this world (especially in the later episodes of Gumball)
Let me know what you think! 🙂
@adventuretime: Completely agree with you.
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