When you consider the areas of the media that have changed over the years to begin to positively represent LGBT+ people, one that has come an incredibly long way is animation. From blink and you’ll miss it references, to outright, realistic portrayals – it really has changed for the better, and in such a short space of time, too.
How? Well, when How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) first arrived in cinemas, many audience members were pleased to find the character Gobber make a passing comment indicating that he was gay: “This is why I never married. This and one other reason.” The writer and director of the film has since stated that the ad-libbed line by actor Craig Ferguson did indeed reference the character’s sexuality. It was a big move for DreamWorks, as he is the first openly gay character within any of the studio’s current films.
That film predates another incredibly big leap forward for LGBT+ representation. In the finale of The Legend of Korra (2014), an animated show aired on Nickelodeon, its protagonist Korra walks off into the sunset to start an exciting new chapter with her friend and ally, Asami. The show’s creators again specifically stated that the two characters’ relationship was romantic, leaving no room for doubt amongst casual viewers. This was, again, an incredibly progressive move by the show’s creators and Nickelodeon, which allowed both young and older viewers to see two brave and kind characters – who just happened to be two women – find happiness with each other.
Things have only progressed from there. Take the recent Cartoon Network hit Steven Universe – already the show has given audiences relationships that have developed throughout the show. They are between four different characters from the same genderless alien species, who use female pronouns. The legendary love between Pearl and Rose, and of Garnet, who is a fusion of a happy and healthy lesbian-coded relationship, between Ruby and Sapphire.
In 2016, history was made on the Japanese anime Yuri on Ice, where the first explicit gay kiss, and relationship, was shown and developed between two of the show’s protagonists, Yuri and Victor. This was the same year that a (presumed) lesbian couple caused a storm in the Pixar hit Finding Dory.
Although we still have a very long way to go before LGBT+ characters are anywhere near to being appropriately represented in animated films, we’re definitely heading in the right direction. Can you imagine young LGBT+ viewers seeing this positive representation on their favourite shows, over the space of a few years, no less? And I for one, can’t wait to see what positive changes are sure to follow in the coming years – because it can only keep getting better from here.
Author: Chloe Smith