There is a need, we are being told, for pop culture’s animated icons — like Bart Simpson and the Pillsbury Doughboy — to be stripped of their squareness and “urbanized.” That is code for “black-ized,” though sometimes it’s “Latino-ized,” but almost never “Asian-ized” — because baggy pants, gold teeth, and ice around the neck are sanctioned stereotypes, while narrow eyes are not. The phenomenon isn’t new; Bugs Bunny has been thug-inated since at least the 90s and slapped on black market t-shirts and backpacks. But every time we see this yet-to-expire piece of zeitgest brought up, it makes us wonder: How come nobody is marketing bootleg homo-ized Roger Rabbits?
Because those stereotypes would, apparently, be offensive. SpongeBob SquarePants with a color-coded hanky in his pocket? Waving around glow sticks in a shirt two sizes too small? We’d take offense! And also: We probably wouldn’t buy that crap.
And yet there seems to be a consistent market for urban-ized fictional characters among people of color. Yes, white kids buy gangsta Mickey Mouse tees too, but that’s so they can radiate “black cool.” Black kids buy this gear because … it speaks to them?
Fine. We’re not going to negotiate personal style choices. But the real debate should be: If there’s a “need” to make characters more “urban,” does that actually mean there aren’t enough illustrated urban characters out there to fill the obvious pop culture appetite for them?
While SpongeBob may be one (gay stereotype) exception, and Michigan J. Frog another (black stereotype) exception, most of these characters that get urbanized are of the white variety. Bart Simpson. Family Guy‘s Stewie (himself an interesting exception, because he is gay). You don’t see these characters being white-ized, sent through the cultural stereotype machine to wear J. Crew madras shorts and sweater vests, because they’re already supposed to be white. It’s hard to imagine packaging The Jetson family even whiter. (NB: This type of thing is a whole other category.)
And yet, these characters almost never get repackaged as “gay” to make them cooler. (More effeminiate and queen-y, sure.) That’s because thug characters are cool; gay ones are not. Baby Stewie is clever in his original form; repackaged as a thug (see above) makes his wearable.
Arguably the most obviously gay character in the class, aside from the talking Family Guy child, is Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby. He has not been made cool by this phenomenon. (This is not bling.) And SpongeBob, who leans queer according to certain right-wing theologians, is wholly de-gayed in his urban representations. (Though, unintentionally, could still be seen as even gayer.)
So while there’s an absence of original blinged-out black characters (or, for that matter, non-blinged-out), there’s also a serious lacking in animated gay characters. The difference, though, is that kids expect the current roster of Garfields, Bart Simpsons, and Miss Piggys to be made cool via urbanization, but they would never wear a homo-ized Charlie Brown tee. Of this, we’re certain.
While not hugely popular I have seen various gay Ernie and Bert T shirts as well as gay Batman and Robin images floating around. I once put out a club invite with Peppermint Patty and Marcy in an S/M scenario.
I have a t-shirt from the early 90s that has Bart Simpson in a dress saying “out of the closets, into the streets, man”.
There aren’t enough gay cartoon characters and there aren’t enough black cartoon characters. I agree.
But you even noted yourself: a T-Shirt depicting a gayified Bart Simpson or Micky Mouse probably would not sell. The gay community does not appreciate seeing blatant stereotypes of themselves plastered back to them. For some reason, the African-American community seems to enjoy purchasing clothes with bad black stereotypes superimposed on cartoons. I don’t know why, and if I were black, I certainly wouldn’t buy a thuggish Stewie t-shirt. But the market is there for “urbanized” cartoons, and the market is not there for “gayified” cartoons.
So just because the marketing people decide to “urbanize” cartoon characters to sell to a black customer does not mean that they must “gayify” the character, or else they are homophobic. They are responding to the market.
Why would kids be wearing a gayed up cartoon character? They’re kids afterall, and probably dont know their own sexuality.
It’s different for adults who can choose.
In terms of the Simpsons, and I can speak with some authority on this, owning about 2,500 peices of merchandise, ‘Sampson’ or black Simpsons merch initially came out in 1989/90 and was kinda quietly allowed to exist, but then was pulled in about ’91 as it was thought inappropriate. There is plenty of bootleg Bart tshirts, as a black boy, or Middle Eastern boy etc floating around, especially Bart as a basketball player.
Maybe there is a lack of gayed characters because there is no need to gay them up and slap them on a tshirt. Or no demand.
There are gay representations in The Simpsons, with Smithers, Lenny, Carl and Patty, however Fox and Matt Groening (as the licensee) are unlikely to give permission for gay themed merch. I’ve never seen any official gay items, apart from interviews in magazines.
This surprises anybody why? Lots of young people think it’s cool to be black or to act black including my little brother who wishes he was black. He often tries to sound hip and like many young people, of every race, spends thousands buying every lil wayne CD out there. It’s cool to dress urban. Gay is another issue all together.No one want’s to be thought of as gay therefore how can gay T shirt sell?. People’s attitudes needs to change regarding us LGBT’S.
I can see a line of Porn Simpson Characters , some gay some straight doing a variety of stunts . for adults, of course.
I’m not sure that I ever want to see the development of a line of real or cartoon middle class, suburban gay characters(or course the real ones would be cartoons od straights).
Better to keep it in the porno-sphere .
So many gay man go to great pains to avoid anything stereotypically gay, like wearing “campy” t–shirts. Ironically, the “uniform” of dark colored t-shirts and cargo pants has become a stereotype unto itself that sets off gaydar.
Excuse me…where the fuck did you get the idea that gay equals effeminate?
Any of those characters could already be gay. All you need to do is draw them however you want because guess what sexuality isn’t something visible on a person.
This article is a waste of time.
“This article is a waste of time.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself! This article is one giant MESS!
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