representation matters

WATCH: New Netflix show for pre-schoolers features a non-binary bison

Bison Fred in Ridley Jones
Bison Fred in Ridley Jones (Image: Netflix)

There’s a new pre-schoolers animated show coming to Netflix next week. Ridley Jones centers on a 6-year-old girl who lives in a treehouse inside the Museum of Natural History with her mother and grandmother. At night, the museum’s exhibits come alive. This includes a bison named Fred, who is non-binary.

In the first episode, Fred’s gender is touched upon when lead character Jones asks another character, Peaches the monkey, if Fred is, “a she or a he?”

“I don’t know. They’re just a Fred,” replies Peaches. “Cool,” says Ridley.

The character of Fred is voiced by Ezra Menas, who is also non-binary. Menas previously voiced a non-binary character in a recent Pride episode of DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: A Little Wild. Iara Nemirovsky voices Ridley, while among the rest of the cast is Jane Lynch, of Glee fame.

Ridley Jones has been created by Chris Nee, who previously made Doc McStuffins. She told AP that she was inspired by her love of classic 80s movies like Star Wars, The Goonies, and Indiana Jones in coming up with Ridley.

Nee said she was determined to “push the boundaries of representation” with the inclusion of Fred in the show.

“In many ways, Fred is playing out a lot of things that I felt as a gay kid growing up in the `70s and the ´80s.” She said the way trans and non-binary people are treated today reminds her of attitudes toward gay men when AIDS arrived.

“You might be at a moment of finding your true self, which is a very joyful thing, at a time when you’re looking at the news and are very aware there are factions of the country who really hate you.”

(Image: Netflix)

Asked whether she thought a pre-school audience might be too young to understand Fred, Nee told AP, “It’s just actually what’s happening in the world, and we’re reflecting it. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to change that, and it is going to mean that we’re not being as supportive as we can be to the kids who are going through these things.”

The six-episode Ridley Jones debuts on July 13. It’s unknown whether it’s a coincidence or not that it’s on the eve of Non-Binary Awareness Day (July 14).