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Rainbow Reflections- How LGBTQ characters transform Children’s media

Key Takeaways:

  • Children’s media is a crucial point of reception which shapes a narrative in terms of gender identities in children.
  • Media is an important tool to encourage inclusivity through representation of queer characters.
  • Used as a tool for queerbaiting and adding negative connotations to queer characters, the media needs positive portrayal of queer characters to break the stereotype of “tragic queer”.

Recent times have come to witness media as a surging platform that contributes to the shaping of a narrative in the minds of consumers. The heterosexual quotient and connotations of abnormality surrounding queer media have led to the shaping as well as the persistence of a prejudiced mindset. Children’s media holds a crucial place in such discussions. If represented in a positive light, the queer representation can have positive effects. However, underrepresentation as well as poor representation can lead to opposite effects.

Source- Mombian

The representation of queer individuals in the media has come to fit certain brackets which promote stereotypes. “The most common portrayals of LGBTQ+ subjects in popular media tend to be white gay men of a certain age, socioeconomic status, and gender identity” (McInroy and Craig 34). Queer representation in children’s media also tends to fit them under the subjects who work as “comic relief” or “tragic queer”. While the representation in terms of queer individuals being the violent subjects has reduced, their representation as “victims of violence” in adult or children’s media persists.

BROADENING THE CHARACTERS OF SCOOBY-DOO WORLD- WHY DOES CHILDREN MEDIA NEED LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION?

Media, due to its consumptive nature, becomes a point of comparison for children. They tend to model their behaviour and get fascinated by the qualities of the characters that are similar to theirs. LGBTQ+ representation, hence, becomes important, especially in an accepting and positive light to put forth the idea of a child’s feelings being acknowledged and validated. 

 If done correctly, media representation in children’s media can encourage a view wherein queer characters aren’t the sight of suffering; and the positive representation can transform into a source of comfort and pride. The positive representations help children become more comfortable in their identity and appreciate the identity of others around them. The noticeable absence of queer characters from children’s media puts forth the view of the invaluable existence of varied identities. Further, the tragic queer motif in children’s media reduces them to a subject that has to be either victimized or villainized, implying the absence of happy endings for such characters.

DOES DISNEY DANCE TO QUEER BEATS? QUEER CHARACTERS IN TODAY’S CHILDREN MEDIA

Disney, a few summers back, aired Gonzo-Rella, an episode under the show- muppet babies. When young muppets decide to play “royal ball”, Gonzo puts forth his wish to wear a dress. But the word of Piggy contradicted as the royal handbook asks the boys to wear the clothes of a knight. Disheartened, Gonzo accepted the conforming gender role and decided to fit into the hetero-norm. The show breaks the cycle by introducing Rizzo, Gonzo’s friend and ally, as the fairy Ratfather who fulfils Gonzo’s wish and turns him into a secret princess. Upon revealing to Piggy that Gonzo is Gonzorella, he says- “You all expected me to look a certain way,” Gonzo said. “I don’t want you to be upset with me, but I don’t want to do things because that’s the way they’ve always been done either. I want to be me.” 

“Steven Universe” was another such series in children’s media that portrayed same-sex relationships on television media. Steven was built as a character who broke the stereotyped norms made for a male. Queer joy was portrayed through the relationship between Steven and Connie who made Stevonnie. Stefanie is a character in the history of Children’s media who had a femme physique and facial hair, going by the pronouns they/them. The finale of the first season witnesses a lesbian couple- Sapphire and Ruby who gave birth to Garnet who was portrayed as the living embodiment of love.

Source- NCTA-The Internet and Television association

Conclusion

Children’s media, in the form of visual, written or other media, has a huge impact on the social conditioning and psyche of children. LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media, hence, is crucial so that children are provided with a range through which they can choose and resonate, characters in which they can confide and seek comfort in. characters which encourage their choices.

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