Cartoon Closet

ambiguous and double coded cartoon characters

The Cartoon Closet Series 

Part 8: Campy as a Commodity

Additional Articles

Double Reading
ParaNorman and Proving Me Wrong
Krazy Kat and Ignatz
Intended Innuendo
New York Times Reblog
AWN: ParaNorman Reblog
Outing of Fictitious Characters
The Boxtrolls Teaser Trailer
Ratings Raw Data (1992-2012)
Good Luck Charlie, Lesbian Moms, and All That Jazz
Clarence and Changing Gay Coding
Male Duo: Jumba and Pleakley (part the first)
Male Duo: Jumba and Pleakley (part the second)

June 2012

In his 2008 campaign, Obama said that he believed: “marriage is between a man and a woman.” Just 4 short years later he became the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage. In contrast this year also led to the Boy Scouts boisterous reaffirmation of their stance against allowing "open homosexuals" in their membership (as leaders or scouts).

We stand at a cultural cusp, one reflected in our media. When once the Hays code censored any mention of what was considered “sexual deviance,” now there are out and proud characters raising their voices on Prime Time. Characters whose sexuality is just one aspect of their complex, multi-dimensional personhood.

Children today watch a multitude of shows featuring gay plot lines and stars. The popular family targeted Glee features a young gay couple and lesbian couple, a troubled teen dealing with coming out, and a girl raised by gay fathers. Modern Family (featuring a gay couple) airs during timeslots targeting family viewing and The New Normal is a sitcom style comedy that centers on a committed gay couple. The Simpsons featured Marge’s lesbian sister Patty, and American Dad has gay neighbors who adopt a daughter (to give just a few examples). Add on the fact that a recent CBS poll shows 77% of Americans know someone gay, and as of the 2010 Census 250,000 children in the U.S are being raised by lesbian and gay parents.

Despite this, within western children’s media, homosexuality is an unspeakable word. Gay coded characters may be flamboyant or drop punch line hints. Consistent coding of their sexuality might lack the subtlety of an animated red arrow with flashing lights spelling G-A-Y. Yet if pushed for confirmation, studios still shy away from saying the obvious -even as their target audience becomes increasingly discerning.

This is a look at the history of homosexuality in western animation and the changing representation of same-sex desire in children’s media.

*EDIT* March 2013

In the amount of time that has passed since I started this blog series three major things have happened: ParaNorman featured the first out character in a children’s cartoon, the Boy Scouts are discussing lifting their ban(we’ll see what they decide), and the Supreme Court is reviewing two gay marriage cases. We really are at a cultural cusp, and things are changing fast.

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