Cartoon Network And Its LGBT Characters
Cartoons have come a long way since I watched them when I was a little kid. Programs like Adventure Time introduced quirky characters whose development included self-love, the importance of friendship and a lot of encouraging ideas. When Clarence premiered, I knew I was going to love the show. The titular character is a fun, naive kid who has a lot of love to give. His eccentric way of thinking has won over friendships, with even his friends getting accustomed to his habits.
Eventually the show introduced a gay couple in a minor throwaway moment. To be fair, my first thought was “holy shit, there’s a gay couple on a cartoon show in the middle of the afternoon.” The greatest part of it is…it may have been a slight joke but it wasn’t at a gay person’s expense. There was no “look a stereotypical homosexual” joke; it was a teacher waiting for a blind date and she got excited at the prospect of someone coming but was disappointed to find out the guy was seeing another guy.
It was also amazing to watch Clarence‘s Jeff freak out over potentially losing a cook off; his two mothers enlisting Clarence in encouraging his best friend to participate in an event he fears he’ll lose. From an earlier episode from season one, you couldn’t tell who Jeff’s parents were since a family photo was obscured. When “Jeff Wins” premiered, I was ecstatic that his two moms were like any other couple on the show, encouraging their kids to do their best. Sometimes, even when you introduce a storyline with LGBT characters, you may get the usual disparaging dramatic background. That didn’t happen in Clarence.
A few months ago I started watching Steven Universe, simply because I couldn’t find the remote. Eventually I even recorded several episodes to watch on my days off, ultimately loving its characters and how the Crystal Gems used female pronouns. In “The Return,” Estelle‘s gem character, Garnet, was presumed to have been destroyed. The following episode, “Jail Break,” revealed that Garnet was a fusion of two gems: Ruby and Sapphire. The pair’s fusion is a display of their love for one another, with Garnet being the physical embodiment of their love.
After rejoining, Garnet is ecstatic about Ruby and Sapphire being together and sort of comes out to Steven, apologizing for never telling him she was a fusion. Steven reacts in the cutest manner, asking if he made an impression on the two, to which Garnet happily reply the fused lovers loved him. As the episode continued on, Garnet fought Jasper — who ultimately believes fusions are weak, alluding to those who disregard homosexuality and refuse to accept it — all while singing about how her fusion makes her a stronger person. I learned a very important lesson from watching that episode and true to Estelle’s lines, “I am made of love.” The only thing that matters is that I accept myself and fight for myself.
I’ve loved Cartoon Network since I was a young boy. I’ve seen cartoons come and go, with LGBT individuals and story lines being introduced as I grew up. I’m twenty something years old and I am still in awe of how networks are encouraging love for one another, specifically showing kids to accept others. Two decades ago you wouldn’t have seen this kind of acceptance and diversity on television in the middle of the day. Now I can come home, turn the TV on and see a physical embodiment of two lesbians in love or a kid with two moms. And I think that’s great.