There are many out there who believe that animated television shows are the best they have ever been, especially those aimed at children and young adults. Within these shows, representation for LGBT characters has dramatically increased over the past few years. However, when looking into these depictions, I noticed that in them, especially for shows aimed at younger audiences, the LGBT representation was more greatly seen in female characters.
It seems that recently, it has become more acceptable for older audiences to enjoy animated television shows. I, to an extent, am one of those people. Shows like Adventure Time, The Legend of Korra, and Steven Universe are all aimed at a younger audience, but have brought in older viewers due to some of the more adult themes and topics addressed within them. They also have another feature in common. They all feature female or female coded characters who are or were once in a lesbian relationship. This can be seen in Ruby and Sapphire in Steven Universe, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time, and Korra and Asami in The Legend of Korra. The latter two shows depictions were slightly less transparent, more so using subtext to get across the romantic relationship that was later confirmed by the creators of the shows.The characters mentioned were very important characters in terms of the shows’ story lines, and can be seen as a great win for LGBT representation. It does raise the question, however, of where the male gay characters are within children’s media.
They are not totally absent. They appear within some children’s shows such as The Loud House, Gravity Falls, and Clarence. In these shows however, the gay characters are much less prominent compared to their female counterparts, appearing only sparingly within the numerous number of episodes.
The next logical question would be why this appears to be the case. Why are female LGBT characters featured more prominently in children’s media? I believe there to be two main reasons.
The first reason being that the majority of children’s television shows, and television shows in general, still have male leads. This delegates female characters to more minor character positions, and underlying homophobia would allow a minor character to be in a gay relationship more so than a main character. The second reason, I believe, is that gay males and in turn gay relationships are viewed as innately more sexual than female same-sex relationships, which would lead the creators of shows to include them less in order to keep their shows more kid friendly in terms of the general public’s opinion.
So, while LGBT representation overall is greatly improving in all forms of media, even children’s, this discrepancy shows some of society’s still underlying homophobia, especially directed at gay men.
This report from GLAAD shows some research on representation of many different identities across all forms of media, if you care to read more.