Cartoons with LGBTQ Characters
Nowadays, we as media consumers crave equal and diverse representation of each community, whether it be from a person of color, religion, or gender/sexual preference. It’s no longer satisfying to see a default type of character on the TV or big screen and expect to be able to identify with him or her. While we are seeing more racially diverse characters slip into the common fold, we still lack representatives in the who are openly part of the LGBTQ community.
Yes, adult cartoons like Family Guy and American Dad see more gay characters than racially diverse ones, but they are usally there to create funny anecdotes concerning their sexual orientation. But what about cartoons for younger audiences? As we already know, or will find out, Japan has no problem adding a character from the LGBTQ category. In America, however, the very thought seems taboo despite writers’ best efforts. But some have managed to slip through networks’ prudish cracks and create a special place in our hearts.
The Hub’s SheZow is probably the first American cartoon show since Bugs Bunny that features the protagonist as a cross-dresser. The basic premise of SheZow is this: 12-year-old boy named Guy finds his late aunt’s ring that magically turns him into the legendary superhero, SheZow. As the heroine, Guy utilizes all the colors and gadgets typically associated with the female gender.
“I set out to create a comedy in SheZow, not a political statement,” says creator Obie Scott Wade. “While the character of Guy does learn many things about himself by becoming SheZow, the main focus is on responsibility and less on gender.”
If you can get past the endless amounts of lame puns, SheZow is pretty darn funny. Like Wade said, there’s very little emphasis on Guy dressing as a woman once the viewer gets past initial shock in the first episode. After that, one almost forgets the quirky social stigma of a cross-dressing kid and enjoys the simple fact that SheZow is a superhero comedy.
ParaNorman was clearly targeted to kids. Well, kids who can handle their s**t. If they can handle kiddy-level horror, then you can likely bet they can handle an openly-ish gay character like Mitch. You don’t quite realize Mitch is gay until the very end of the movie when he nonchalantly says, “You’re gonna love my boyfriend. He’s like a total chick flick nut!”
This outraged some parents. There was even mention of some families wanting a refund after
watching the entire film that revelation. If kids had more of a voice on the internet, what would they have said about this revelation?
South Park is many things, and becoming a mouthpiece for the creators is definitely one of them. There are several gay characters other than the ones pictured above (Mr. Slave and Big Gay Al) like Mr. Garrison and Stan’s gay dog. Everyone in South Park is going to be subject to absurd stereotypes, and the gay characters are no exception. However, no one can say that these guys have ever been ostracized throughout an entire episode without the townsfolk learning something valuable about the LGBTQ community in the end.
Ah, Nuriko. We first meet this celestial warrior as a member of Emperor Hotohori’s harem. Only…Nuriko was known as Korin, and everyone thought he was a woman. Nuriko is mischevious, happy-go-lucky, a little spoiled. The origin of Nuriko’s cross-dressing comes from the pain of losing his younger sister, Korin, when they were kids. Dressing as a woman and adopting his sister’s name was a way for him to keep her by his side. He’s also a little bit in love with Hotohori, but it goes largely unrequited.
There are three characters in Cardcaptor Sakura that are a part of LGBTQ: Touya and Yukito, and Sakura’s best friend Tomoyo. In the anime, Touya and Yukito are first seen as very close friends, but they later realize and declare their feelings for each other. Clamp describes the two as a “soul pair,” meaning that they’ve always been meant to be together no matter in what universe they drop them.
As for Tomoyo, she declares her love to Sakura practically on a daily basis, but Sakura always thinks she is referring to platonic love rather than the romantic kind. Unrequited love aside, Tomoyo content supporting her friend through whatever crisis she finds herself into next.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
The relationships in this anime are…complicated. The basis of the story revolves around Utena, a tomboy who aspires to become a prince, to love and protect the weak, just like the one who saved her several years prior. In defending her friend’s honor, Utena accidentally becomes “betrothed” to the Rose Bride (Anthy) after winning a duel against a student council member. Her feelings for Anthy throughout the series are incredibly complicated. Here you have Utena, who is already so different from the other girls because she is not traditionally “feminine.” She is attracted to the opposite sex, but she can’t allow their wanting to mold and sculpt her into someone more socially acceptable. Enter Anthy. She couldn’t care less what kind of person Utena. This alone allows Utena to be more open and be herself around Anthy. The struggle is this: she’s already so different in so many ways, does she have to become even more of a “weirdo” in this way as well?
To solely focus on Utena and Anthy’s relationship alone is doing the series a disservice, for the entire show is queer.
Every student council member dueling for Anthy has his or her own adversity to overcome. One such example is Juri, who was irreparably hurt after her romantic love for her straight (girl) friend went unrequited and eventually lost to a boy. This made her closed off and cynical towards societal views on queer love. Then Utena comes along. Her openness about her feelings and aspirations in becoming a “prince” are an affront to Juri, for she believes that the world can only respect and accept you if no one knows your “flaws.”
Honestly, we can go on and on about every single character in this series…
There are tons of LGBTQ characters in Sailor Moon, though you would never know it if your only contact with the series was the American dub. The most prominent ones are Kunzite and Zoisite (the latter was changed from a man to a woman in the dub), Sailor Uranus and Neptune (changed to extremely close cousins), and the Starlights.
There’s a reason Americans have never seen a dubbed version of Sailor Stars. The last season prominently featured three sailor soldiers who were men transforming into women. Throughout the season, Seiya (middle) was in love with Usagi/Serena. The two went on dates, there was an episode where Usagi and friends accidentally see Seiya naked… Among other things, the whole series seemed too strange for Americans already steeped in their own beliefs on sexuality, so it was never dubbed.
Just in case you weren’t already made aware, Hulu and Viz Media plan to rectify all of that with the subtitled release of all 200 uncut episodes of Sailor Moon (including Sailor Stars).
It’s easy to assume Princess Bubblegum and Marceline used to be friends back in the day. Then something happened that fizzled that friendship, making them bitter towards each other. We thought we had the two all figured out, that is until Season Three’s “What Was Missing” episode aired. To open a door to retrieve their precious stolen items, the gang has to sing about the truth. Marceline steps up to the plate and sings “I’m Not your Problem.” For most of the song, Marceline sings about how despising someone is alright, but then ends up admitting she despises this person because she wants them to like her and she can’t explain why. Is this a case of subtext rising to the top?
The Mary Sue stumbled upon a leading description on Adventure Time’s YouTube channel that hints at something more:
“In this episode Marcelline hints that she might like Princess Bubblegum at little more than she’d like to admit. Maybe a little more than Finn? Do you see where I’m going with this? …What do you think about Marcelline and Bubblegum getting together? Does that leave Finn out in the dust? Or is it just adorbz?”
Batman the Animated Series
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn first teamed up in Batman the Animated Series. It was a start of a beautiful friendship that continues even now in the comics. Their relationship at first can be interpreted as very “Thelma & Louise.” They somehow manage to support each other emotionally, effectively balancing each other’s brand of crazy. As time went on, their pairing took on a more queer tone, something that the LGBTQ community took to quite well. When together, Ivy supports and encourages Harley to realize her own potential. As a result, Ivy, in turn, is a bit more compassionate towards humans than she used to be — before Harley, Ivy more or less shed her own humanity in favor of her precious plants.
Now that Harley Quinn has her own book in the New 52, she and Ivy are reunited. Based on what we’ve seen so far, their relationship may finally be on its way to the next step.
It was never, ever allowed to be explored in the television series, but according to Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman, Lexington is confirmed to be the gay member of the Manhattan Clan.
“We didn’t plan it from the beginning,” said Weisman in an interview, “We didn’t say, ‘Okay, here’s the big heavy-set character and here’s the gay character.’ Over time, we learned more about the characters. And towards the end, it occurred to us that Lexington was gay but that he didn’t know it.”
Of course, Lexington’s sexuality was never explored in the series because it ended after a short third season. That and the networks would never have let them do it. It’s only now being touched on in the comics with his connection to a character named Staghart.
Speaking of Greg Weisman, you may have watched his latest cancelled television series called Young Justice. For a Saturday morning cartoon, this show took on some rather mature themes in relation to its teenage cast, namely relationships. But there was one element you may not have noticed due to the fact that Cartoon Network doesn’t want anyone talking about it. Ol’ Weisman continues to fight the good fight in slipping in as many diverse characters as he’s allowed in his TV shows, a gay character being one of them.
In a Q&A forum, he answers in reference to Aqualad not necessarily being the token black character. He then ends his response saying, “I also believe we have differently oriented characters in the series, even though we’re not allowed to mention it out loud. (And just to be sure, I checked to see if we were allowed, and got a no answer. Everyone seems to want to get there, but we’re not there yet.)”