I don’t know how many of you keep up with Archie Comics, but you may know that they have an openly gay character. Well, that character, Kevin Keller, shared an on-panel kiss with his boyfriend. This brings up an important question: Why aren’t there more openly gay children’s cartoon characters?
Here’s a few arguments that I’ve seen and heard against LGBT representation in cartoons with kids as its primary demographic:
1. It’s inappropriate! This is a classic argument for the types who love to preface any homophobic statement with, “I have a bunch of gay friends!” Honestly, I don’t really think this argument makes much sense on principle. Kids have witnessed cartoon characters kiss ever since they watched their first Disney movie. Those characters just happen to be straight. So why would two characters of the same gender doing the same thing be any more inappropriate? Well, I’m guessing that it’s because they’re viewing gay people as so inherently sexual that children watching two women and two men sharing a chaste little smooch will pervert their innocent little brains. Pfft, give me a break! Kissing is kissing, we’re just more socialized to see a man and a woman as “normal” and anything else as different and confusing and–you guessed it–inappropriate. Maybe if kids were more exposed to open affection from people of the same gender in the media at a younger age, they wouldn’t even question the kiss as anything out of the ordinary!
2. It’ll confuse kids! Kids are naturally confused about everything. They’re confused about why they have to take baths and why they have to eat vegetables and why they have to wear pants in public. And let’s be honest, confusion about eating veggies lasts through teen years, too. If a parent’s job is to, you know, teach kids things then why is it so ridiculously difficult to explain that men can like men and women can like women? Why do we think that cartoons depicting people flying or breathing under water makes more sense than the existence of people who don’t think that their assigned sex matches up with their gender?
3. It’s a distraction! Why should a character being gay be any more of a distraction than a character being straight? A romantic sub-plot is a distraction no matter what the sexual orientation of the characters are, so I don’t buy this.
If we want to be more progressive with our approach to LGBT issues, then why not start with making sure that kids have a more open mind as early as possible? What if we grew up watching Ariel fall in love with Princess Erica instead of Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid? What if those dudes from The Road To El Dorado ended up falling in love? I know that I’m not the only one who could have seen something a little deeper in that relationship, right?
Some of my female friends who ID as gay or queer were always more attracted to female cartoon characters than male ones as kids. What if they could actually see their their feelings validated and reflected on screen instead of treated as something that is so odd and different as teens and adults?
Cartoons have such a formative impact on our childhoods. I mean, how many of you still talk about some of your favorite cartoons? I still watch cartoons, and so do plenty of other teens! That’s why it’s so important for people to see themselves in the media they consume, especially kid and teen demographics. When we don’t see people who are like us, it is so easy to feel alienated.
LGBT characters have a place in cartoons. Instead of being so worried about scarring children for life by depicting a same sex kiss, we should be concerned about making children, teens and young adults never see an important part of themselves in the cartoon characters that they love.
What do you think about having more LGBT friendly cartoons? Do you think it is necessary or unimportant? Tell us in the comments!