It feels like every time two female characters become a couple in a cartoon for children, some people steer the conversation toward (the lack of) gay male characters in animation instead. Specifically, they claim that lesbians and bisexual women are over-represented in fiction compared to gay and bisexual men. In actuality, all kinds of LGBTQ identities are vastly outnumbered by heterosexual and cisgender characters.
As a lifelong fan of cartoons, a number of examples come to mind when others lament a lack of gay and bisexual male characters. They often appear in the same cartoons as lesbian and bisexual female characters: OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Steven Universe, The Loud House, Twelve Forever, etc. No one’s obligated to watch or enjoy the source material, but people act as if they don’t exist. On one hand, I don’t want to derail news about lesbians. On the other hand, perhaps an informative resource could expand the conversation and prevent bad faith in the future.
Before we get to the list, let’s first establish that LGBTQ creators take precedent over fictional characters, whether they’re out and whether they have LGBTQ characters. In observance of Pride Month and in honor of Black Lives Matter, here are ten openly LGBTQ Black people in animation to start with. You can also find this list at the end of the article.
Now, here it is: an article of just what it says on the tin, created to answer “where are the gay/bi male characters?” in good faith. It’s not about gay and bisexual men behind the scenes, the history of queer-coding, or characters in animation aimed at adults. A little subjective analysis here and there, but aiming to mostly state the facts. As such, these are not recommendations or endorsements. This is not a comprehensive list of every single instance of gay and bisexual male characters in children’s animation, either. It is an overview of patterns within the last decade primarily from the United States, with illustrative examples for each category. (Unfortunately, some examples come from cartoons with allegedly abusive creators. The titles have been marked with an asterisk and you can read the allegations here.) It is incomplete without characters outside the Anglosphere (such as Henri and Masato from Hugtto! Pretty Cure), and does not claim otherwise. Feel free to add your own examples via comments, but please don’t frame it as if they’ve been forgotten or erased.
Continue reading “Where to Find Gay and Bisexual Male Characters in Recent Children’s Cartoons: An Incomplete Overview”
Over the last few years, the amount of confirmed LGBTQ characters in animated television aimed at children in the United States has significantly increased. Media for children has additional hoops to leap through when including LGBTQ characters, such as fear of “corrupting” children into queerness or exposing them to “sexual content” of same-gender relationships. We’re currently at a turning point between reliance on subtext for depiction of LGBTQ people (such as under the Hays Code) and more openness about LGBTQ topics, and all the complications that come with it.
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes on Cartoon Network juggles straightforward representation with the more nebulous. As brief as it is, Enid is deliberately drawn riding vehicles with a bisexual pride sticker, the same one Rebecca Sugar used to come out in real life. Lord Boxman and Professor Venomous, the main antagonists of the series, come across as queer in another less direct way. Boxman seeks business partnerships with other supervillains of any gender, given the same weight and imagery as if they were romantic relationships. He eventually joins forces with Professor Venomous, who previously dated a woman. Together, Boxman and Venomous are ostensibly a same-gender couple under the bisexual umbrella. Showrunner Ian Jones-Quartey later confirmed via Twitter that Boxman is pansexual and Venomous is bisexual.
On paper, two major antagonists being queer(-coded) sounds unfortunately like yet another offensive stereotype in cartoons. However, the big picture is much more complex. OK K.O. has queer characters on both the hero and villain sides of Lakewood, and even that hero and villain divide becomes blurred.
The rest of this post contains major spoilers for OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes.
Continue reading “The Voxy Bunch and the Legacy of Animated Queer-Coded Villains”
I intended for AMV Theater to be the articles I would write when I didn’t have other ideas, but now… it’s been almost two years since my last. Maybe it’s a good thing I have enough ideas to keep me from having to fall back on it, but I still believe in sharing the artistry of AMVs. Here is the return of AMV Theater, my series of AMV recommendations.
In honor of Pride Month, all these AMVs feature songs by openly gay or bisexual artists. Their music combined with LGBTQ characters and same-gender relationships, whether or not they’re “canonical,” is a beautiful thing.
Continue reading “AMV Theater: Pride Month”
December 14th of 2018 saw the release of not one, but two monuments in popular culture. One was the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an animated film starring Shameik Moore as Miles Morales. Before the film’s premiere, Sony announced a sequel and a spin-off film in the works. Joaquim Dos Santos has been confirmed director for the sequel. At the moment, Lauren Montgomery is in talks for directing the spin-off. Dos Santos and Montgomery are fresh off their work as executive producers of Dreamworks’ Voltron: Legendary Defender, which had its eighth and final season on Netflix the same day Spider-Verse hit theaters. Audiences met Spider-Verse with critical acclaim, while the same cannot be said for Voltron season eight. Responses ranged from lukewarm to furious. After season seven left some fans frustrated with the death of a gay man of color character and other developments, season eight disappointed many more with the ending (including the deaths of more characters of color).
Voltron and Spider-Verse have more in common than a release date, however. Without getting into spoilers, the plot of season eight and themes of grief bare a striking resemblance to those of Spider-Verse. Not that one ripped off the other, but that they both aimed to tell stories about loss and family. The delicate consideration and authenticity of marginalized characters simply made audiences more receptive to Spider-Verse. If the Voltron showrunners couldn’t carry out something so similar to Spider-Verse with the same praise, how are they supposed to follow it up well?
This post contains spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defender and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Also, a disclaimer: this is not meant as an attack on the showrunners (or any crew member) of Voltron as people. This is a critique of the TV show they produced and their role as storytellers.
Continue reading “What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners”
It’s that time of year again. Karleen and Malia have rounded up their favorite (not necessarily the best) media of the year enough times now it officially has its own tag: Favorites of the Year.
Continue reading “Favorites of 2018”
Neo Yokio, Ezra Koening’s satirical urban fantasy animated series, arrived on Netflix in September of 2017 to mixed reviews. Season one followed Kaz Kaan, a wealthy and recently single exorcist, in his adventures slaying demons and perusing the city of Neo Yokio. With still no second season confirmed, Neo Yokio returned for a Christmas special this month. For a show that dabbled in ideas of class, materialism, and socialism, Christmas is the perfect homecoming. Most animated Christmas specials aired in the United States either focus on the myth of Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus Christ, if not both. Neo Yokio, an anime hybrid of a US Christmas special, is about neither. Pink Christmas looks at the holiday for what it’s become–materialist, self-serving celebration–through the eyes of its fictional wealthy.
This post contains spoilers for Pink Christmas and The End of Evangelion.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Neo Yokio’s Christmas Special for the Ages”
As of this month, it’s been over six years since Motorcity was cancelled. For an introduction to the short-lived Titmouse animated series on Disney XD, see my first retrospective post that answers the question “What is Motorcity?” This time, we’ll be diving into the series proper with the first episode.
“Battle for Motorcity” was originally envisioned as a pair of episodes for a two-part premiere, but was condensed to one episode. Despite the shorter runtime, it artfully and naturally packs a ton of worldbuilding, character dynamics, and future plot points into a single high stakes pilot. In a cyberpunk future where the rich deserted Detroit to build a utopia above it, the young Burners fight to protect the old city from the evil corporation KaneCo. Let’s take a Tour of Motorcity and look at not only the fictional universe and characters, but where “Battle for Motorcity” places the story in the genre of science fiction dystopia and the sociology of economic polarization in Detroit.
Continue reading “Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: Battle for Motorcity”
A retrospective on Disney XD’s short-lived animated series Motorcity has been a long time coming on this blog, half to express how dear it is to me and half to hopefully introduce it to other people. After rewatching it last year with a friend who had never seen it before, I started writing in-depth looks at episodes. I lost steam on the project as I felt I couldn’t do such a wonderful show justice in my analysis, but with the recent possibility Motorcity could return I’m willing to try again.
Before we get into an episode-by-episode retrospective, we first need to ask: what is Motorcity? Whatever happened to it? Why is it relevant again? What made it so special? And what now?
What is Motorcity?
Chris Prynoski had the idea for a cartoon titled Motorcity about rebellious driving in a future Detroit, Michigan where cars are obsolete for over a decade. An action-packed, if crude, proof of concept was produced for MTV following Prynoski’s Downtown in 2000, but was never picked up. Years later, now the owner of the dynamic animation studio Titmouse, Prynoski partnered with the channel Disney XD to finally develop Motorcity.
It premiered April 30th of 2012. The Disney XD series takes place in a futuristic Detroit, owned and operated by the billionaire engineer Abraham Kane, constructed on top of the old city. The dystopian Detroit Deluxe offers safety and sanitation to its citizens, at the unseen cost of personal freedoms such as artwork, fashion, and of course automobiles. In Motorcity, corporations are literally built on top of the people kept out of sight and demonized. The Burners, a diverse gang of drivers headed by their fearless leader Mike Chilton, turn their backs on Deluxe to fight for the people below and dismantle Kane’s tyranny. However, the show is anything but dreary. It’s heart-pounding, vibrant, and hilarious!
Continue reading “Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: What is Motorcity?”
Cartoon Network’s OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes joined the national conversation on gun violence when five new episodes were digitally released weeks after the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. One of them, “Let’s Not Be Skeletons,” features allegorical argument for gun control. The timing was coincidental, as animated television develops over months to years. The episode was actually pitched back in July of 2016, (coincidentally or otherwise) not long after the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
While OK K.O. usually follows the goofy adventure of K.O. on his dream of becoming a hero at his local plaza populated with superpowered humans and non-humans alike, it’s no stranger to social issues. The main conflict rests between a heroic bodega and a villainous corporation, after all. Sometimes it even address issues directly; including climate change in the Captain Planet-based episode “The Power is Yours,” journalism in “Action News” (unfortunately overshadowed by “Let’s Not be Skeletons” when they were released simultaneously), and misogyny in “Second First Date.” However, this post focuses on how OK K.O. explores real world racism, addiction, and of course gun control through its fictional setting in some of its best episodes.
Continue reading “When the Social Issues of Lakewood Plaza Turbo Hit Close to Home”
I saw a lot of films last year. It’s a family tradition to go out and see a movie about once a week. I’ve always treasured it but especially now. It’s been one of my consistent comforts for a year like 2017.
Most critics get their best films of the year list out before the end of the year, but given that I’m not a professional critic, my access and time is a bit more limited, especially when it comes to those that just sneak in at the last minute before hitting wide release in January. Plus, I figured getting out my list a couple weeks before the Oscars would be close enough.
What I’ve realized over the past several years is that media itself isn’t as important, so much as our reactions to it. I don’t just mean big topics like oppression and hegemony, but the easy, personal things. Who did you empathize with? Who pushed you away? What tugged at your heartstrings? What annoyed you? What lingered with you after you left the theater, if anything did at all? Do you still feel like the same person before you experienced it?
The films I list here changed me in some way. Sometimes they gave me new knowledge and sometimes they reminded me of what to hold onto. Each one gave me increased perspective and energy that I hope to bring to 2018.
The ranking here is approximate. I tried to put some films in some kind of order and I have my top favorite saved for last, but really, every film listed here is one that I treasure.
Continue reading “Malia’s Top 11 Movies of 2017”