With Peppa Pig and Lightyear introducing same-sex couples, let’s take a look back at the rise of queer visibility through animated works

BY KATE STRONG, IMAGE BY CHANNEL 5

I have always loved animation, even as an adult I find myself tuning in to the latest Disney movie or Netflix animation and I’ve been delighted to see the increased amount of LGBTQIA representation in this media. 

Just this week it has been announced that Peppa Pig will introduce a same-sex pairing to its cast of animal characters. Penny Polar bear, Peppa’s latest friend, has two mummies. They make their first appearance in an episode titled “Families” where Penny draws a family portrait, explaining that she has two mums, one is a doctor and one cooks spaghetti. Two years ago, an online petition was made which received over 24,000 signatures asking for same-sex parents in Peppa Pig. The creators of the petition hoped the inclusion would help normalise same-sex families.

Pixar made the same move with their recent release, Lightyear, by including same-sex parents. I can’t applaud this film enough for how they stood for their character, Alisha Hawthorne, Buzz’s best friend and fellow space ranger. We are given more than just a queer kiss scene from her, (which is amazing in itself) we get to see her fall in love, get married and start a family. Alisha Hawthorne is an incredibly strong female character and is a driving force in helping Buzz become the hero he is. She’s a character that gets a lot of respect from others for her intelligence, bravery and loyalty.

Another show that has fantastic queer representation is Disney’s The Owl House. For me it was the first time I’d ever seen an intentionally non-binary character in a show being referred to by they/them pronouns, which made my heart soar. For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows Luz, a self-assured girl who ends up in a realm full of magic and witches. Despite not having magical powers herself, Luz is keen to learn to be a witch from her powerful outlaw mentor, Eda. Along the way Luz falls for Amity Blight a teen witch. The creators of the show have confirmed Luz to be bisexual, making her Disney’s first bi lead. Season two introduces Disney’s first non-binary character, Raine Whispers, who is voiced by non-binary actor, Avi Roque.

All these shows are recent, one of the first animated shows to take the leap and bring LGBTQIA representation to our screens was The Legend of Korra, which ended with its lead female protagonists entering a relationship. The show was a spinoff from Avatar: The Last Airbender, both shows had been praised for their ability to put dark subjects like war into a story easy to follow by a younger audience, while still being light and entertaining. When the show was added to Netflix it broke streaming records, showing that the passionate fanbase hadn’t forgotten the ground-breaking show.

Since then, many other shows have aired, aimed at a younger audience, that shine a light on queer love. Growing up, I was obsessed with Adventure Time, I loved the chemistry between Princess Bubblegum and Marceline. The show had always hinted that the two had a deeper connection than what was revealed, causing many fans to ship the pair. When I found out the show I’d watched from childhood was ending in 2018, I was distraught, however that feeling didn’t last long. The creators gave us the conclusion so many fans longed for. In the last few moments, Bubblegum and Marceline rushed together to share a relieved kiss after the ultimate battle, concluding a relationship that had been teased over five years. It clearly showed how views of portraying same-sex couples had changed over the shows eight year running. Even though they weren’t explicitly lovers for most of Adventure Time’s duration, they still gave representation to many lesbian and bisexual viewers.

These two shows paved the way for what we have now. Following their airing, Steven Universe had an episode which included a lesbian wedding and She-Ra And The Princesses of Power introduced a trans male character alongside other LGBTQIA characters. With every animation we are seeing bolder representations of the community, with studios seeming to hold back less. What’s more, younger animators who have grown up with shows such as Legend of Korra are taking the reins, so we can only expect to more wonderful representation in animation. I can’t wait to see what this media brings next!

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