North Texas Daily

LGBTQ representation in children’s media is essential

LGBTQ representation in children’s media is essential

LGBTQ representation in children’s media is essential
October 23
17:30 2020

Straight people can get very creative when trying to stigmatize progress. Some of their favorite arguments against the inclusion of LGBTQ characters in children’s media include those that frame representation as a recruitment tool, or imply LGBTQ identities are inherently sexual in nature. What even moderates and straight liberals fail to understand is incorporating diversity into children’s media is essential not just for representation’s sake, but for the sake of instilling empathy in impressionable young viewers.

When consuming media, girls, LGBTQ kids and children of color are often asked to put themselves in the shoes of white, straight, cis-male protagonists. White, gender-conforming male children are not expected to do the same for people outside of their own demographic. This can and has contributed to a trend of people with these privileges not bothering to try and empathize with the experiences of marginalized individuals, a trend reflected in their inability to identify themes in mainstream media meant to critique their behavior.

Not only do straight white men deliberately go out of their way to avoid consuming diverse media, but they also, perhaps less intentionally, fail to absorb messages meant for them that would challenge their perceptions of themselves and their conduct if they were to do so. “Breaking Bad” is very clearly a cautionary tale about toxic masculinity, but the general takeaway from its target audience of straight white men seemed to amount to either “that’s badass” or “I hate this female character for telling her husband not to sell meth so I should send the actress that plays her death threats.”

“Rick and Morty” and “A Clockwork Orange” are also great examples of how your level of literary comprehension depends on whether or not you learn from the media you consume. Rick is a character whose ingenuity came at the expense of his sobriety and his family, yet some “Rick and Morty” fans have proudly (and ironically) proclaimed themselves more intelligent than people who don’t watch or don’t like the show.

“A Clockwork Orange” cynically bemoans the fact that no amount of technological innovation has been able to curb man’s violent tendencies, but many men seem to view it as a celebration of said tendencies, which is more than a little disturbing, considering the sheer amount of graphic sexual assault scenes in the text.

Society’s coddling of straight, cis-white men is responsible for this phenomenon. Media has especially become an extremely formative part of our society. By feeding into the conservative delusion that LGBTQ people, people of color and women don’t exist or only exist to aid their less disenfranchised friends, media breeds another generation of people who do not know how to put the experiences of others into perspective.

Even more obvious a consequence is the impact of all this on those whose universals are not catered to. My parents are not homophobic, but they are straight, and so, did not think to teach me about the existence of gay people when I was younger. Therefore, my only exposure to the LGBTQ community came in the form of homophobic jokes in children’s shows and the deliberate exclusion of healthy LGBTQ relationships from them. These constants led to me struggling with my identity and not coming out until I was 17 because the media I had been exposed to taught me to dehumanize myself.

Luckily, right-wing efforts to prevent the inclusion of LGBTQ characters in children’s media have been mostly futile. “The Legend of Korra”, “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” and “The Owl House” are just a few examples of kid’s shows with LGBTQ protagonists, two of whom are people of color.

This actually stands in contrast to the general lack of LGBTQ protagonists in mainstream adult media, which is maybe why so many LGBTQ adults gravitate toward kids shows and fan bases. Perhaps it’s because we never had that growing up.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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  1. Cagedfox
    Cagedfox October 24, 14:15

    Great article. Truly wished I had a show like She Ra when I was growing up.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mad
    Mad January 17, 22:15

    Great article, and so relevant!

    Reply to this comment

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