Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - What do we tell the kids? Children’s TV struggles with LGBTQ characters




What do we tell the kids? Children’s TV struggles with LGBTQ characters

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A new study by analysts Dubit found that only seven per cent of children’s shows airing or streaming in the UK had LGBTQ characters and ‘not a single episode had same-sex parents’. PIXABAY

What do we tell the kids? Children’s TV struggles with LGBTQ characters

Once upon a time in children’s television land frogs were kissed but princesses only ever married princes.

Now Prince Charming might just as easily ride off into the sunset with another man, as happens in the hit new Hulu cartoon series, The Bravest Knight, while the Disney Channel has just had its first gay romance in its live-action tween show Andi Mack.

Programme makers are struggling to better reflect the world young people are growing up in, with the first tentative steps to embrace non-traditional families and LGBTQ characters.

But even as experts warn that it is key for children’s well-being to see their reality mirrored on screen, the backlash against some of the first wave of gay characters has been sharp.

Earlier this year the Alabama affiliate of the US public broadcaster PBS pulled the same-sex wedding episode of its popular animated show Arthur in which the teacher Mr Ratburn marries his “special someone”.

‘We can’t not talk about it’

Yet Nickelodeon introduced a bi-racial gay couple into its The Loud House three years ago, and two female characters married without much fuss on the Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe cartoon last year.

While The Bravest Knight received critical plaudits, a fierce battle has raged on its Facebook page between its critics on the religious right in the US and its liberal defenders.

The Canadian show’s producer Shabnam Rezaei said she embraced the debate.

“That is how you make progress. If they want to attack us that is great if they can be transparent about their feelings and reasoning. Let’s have that conversation.”

But she warned that the basic issues of gender and diversity won’t go away.

“Everyone is figuring this stuff out. I don’t know that anyone has the answers,” Rezaei said on Sunday at MIPJunior, the world’s biggest gathering of children’s TV makers in the French Riviera resort of Cannes.

“But to not want to talk about it, to want to keep people in the dark, to shove it under the carpet, we know that is the wrong thing to do.

“That is what causes self-hate and suicides,” Rezaei added, saying Hulu has donated $50,000 to the suicide prevention charity, The Trevor Project, after the new show raced to its 50,000 streams target in four days rather than four months.

‘Kids not born prejudiced’

Iranian-born Rezaei admitted that “there are whole parts of the world I do not pitch to”, while a Middle Eastern producer told AFP that it was just not possible to broach such sensitive subjects in most Muslim countries.

Many Asian networks are also resistant to storylines that include LGBTQ characters or blended families, while Helsinki-based producer Thatcher Mines said the anti-gay “propaganda” law had led to a wave of “self-censorship and worse” in Russia.

Kenya also controversially banned a whole slew of children’s cartoons in 2017, claiming they were “deliberately designed to corrupt moral judgement” and pass “bizarre messages intended to promote the LGBT agenda in the country”.

A decade before, US conservatives had similarly questioned the sexuality of SpongeBob SquarePants.

However, a new study by analysts Dubit found that only seven per cent of children’s shows airing or streaming in the UK had LGBTQ characters and “not a single episode had same-sex parents”.

British producer Sallyann Keizer, who produces diverse programmes for pre-school and older children for the BBC, said “children are not born with prejudice”.

“And there’s a lot of academic research proving that. They are just beautiful vessels.

“As producers and entertainment people, we have a massive responsibility” to be inclusive and make minority groups less invisible, she added.

Young Belgian director Charlie Dewulf, who has come out as bisexual and non-binary, said that “we have to put shame aside and allow children and adolescents to recognise themselves” on screen.

“When I was small I had to watch adult films to see people like myself and I was afraid my mother would catch me,” the 25-year-old said.

“Everybody is moving forward on this. It is going to change with our generation,” she added.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from