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LGBTQ+ Representation in Children’s TV Shows

LGBTQ+ Representation
Over the past decade, there has been a shift in small-screen animation. There is more representation in children's cartoons, which are more overt

Throughout history, LGBTQ+ representation and characters have been excluded from TV animated shows or children’s cartoons. Some of these shows featured more subtextual representation, aka queer coding, for certain characters, but that’s about it.  

Over the past decade, there has been a shift in small-screen animation. There is more representation in children’s cartoons, which are more overt. 

This article will explore some examples of LGBTQ+ representation in children’s cartoons and provide statistics about queer characters in these shows.

Stats for LGBTQ+ Animated Characters

An article from Insider provided an in-depth analysis and statistics for LGBTQ+ animated characters. They found that LGBTQ+ characters, in general, increased each year gradually, with a peak in 2019. 74 newly debuted or confirmed LGBTQ+ characters during that same year, the highest number in their findings and possibly in the entirety of animation history.

In addition, researchers at Insider discovered a 222% increase in LGBTQ+ characters from 2017 to 2019 in a new series or confirmed by showrunners of a series that recently ended.

How Diverse Is LGBTQ+ Representation on Children’s Shows?

The Inside report analyzed how LGBTQ+ characters in kids’ animation were represented via gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and ability.

It was determined that cisgender human or human-hybrid women and nonhuman women comprised approximately 39% of the characters.

Trans characters were the least visible representation, with only four confirmed trans women, one trans man, and one trans nonbinary character.

Agender, genderfluid, trans, non-binary, intersex, and other gender-non-conforming characters as a whole were represented in 13 shows (approximately 21% of the characters).

In addition, the report determined that children’s animation usually doesn’t directly identify sexual orientation. As a result, about 45% of the characters in Insider’s database were unknown or undetermined.

Among those confirmed, 50 were gay, and 49 were lesbians.

Are you a fan of LGBTQ+ television? Check out our article, The Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Shows of 2022.

When it comes to asexual characters, there was only one officially confirmed character: Peridot, a crystal gem from “Steven Universe.”

For racial identification, approximately 60% of the human or human-hybrid characters in the database could be identified. The findings included 70 characters identified as people of color, and 72 were white.

When it comes to disabilities, there was minimal representation. For example, only 23 characters (8.8% of the database) identified as having a disability. The most common included characters with blurred and low vision.

Confirmed LGBTQ+ Characters and Content

Here are some of the most well-known LGBTQ+ characters in animation to date: 

Steven Universe

According to Insider’s database, “Steven Universe” had the queerest representation, primarily because the show features a cast of nonbinary humanoid aliens.

Some consider Steven Universe to be the queerest kid show on TV. The series revolves around the adventures of Steven and his adopted family of warrior aliens, the Crystal Gems. This show represents that most of the gems are queer. In addition, Steven Universe discusses topics like homophobia, anxiety, and domestic violence, in an approachable way for children to grasp.

Arthur

Arthur was a long-running children’s show that spanned over 25 seasons. The premiere episode of its 22nd season, “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” revealed that the beloved teacher is gay and showed his wedding to his husband, Patrick. 

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has many incredible queer characters. Of course, She-Ray is queer themselves. In addition, during its second season, it was revealed that the character Bow had two dads. The show also showed Adora and Catra confessing their love to each other and featured a kiss.  

SpongeBob SquarePants

There was much to be revealed during Pride Month 2020 from Nickelodeon. They tweeted rainbow-colored portraits of their network’s LGBTQ+ actors and characters. These included Michael D. Cohen, the trans actor from Henry Danger, Korra, a bisexual hero from The Legend of Korra, and finally, officially confirmed SpongeBob SquarePants’ status as a long-running iconic queer character.

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated

Even after the show was over (running from 2010-2013), in July 2020, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated co-creator Tony Cervone admitted that Velma was meant to be a lesbian. 

According to Cervone,” Velma in Mystery Incorporated is not bi. She’s gay. We always planned on Velma acting a little off and out of character while dating Shaggy because that relationship was wrong for her, and she had unspoken difficulty with the why. I don’t think Marcie and Velma had time to act on their feelings during the main timeline, but they are a couple of post-reset.”

Peppa Pig 

“Peppa Pig,” a cartoon show for preschoolers, recently introduced its first same-sex parent family after 18 years. 

This revelation comes from a short scene where Peppa’s classmate Penny Polar Bear starts talking about her two mommies and what makes them unique.

In addition, as Penny draws a picture of her family, she says: “I’m Penny Polar Bear. I live with my mommy and my other mommy. One mommy is a doctor, and one mommy cooks spaghetti. I love spaghetti.”

However, this moment was mixed among viewers. Many people were happy with the inclusion; however, some did not support the addition of same-sex couples.

Adventure Time

This show started as a series of strange shorts but has evolved into more complex plot points, with Finn and his dog brother Jake. This show has represented LGBTQ+ characters through Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, with other queer mentions throughout the series. 

In Summary 

Even though we still have a long way to go, there is much more LGBTQ+ representation in children’s shows. This representation will be life-changing for the next generation of young, queer children.

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