Welcome to the fourth in my series. In the other posts, I talked about LGBTQ+ representation and journeys in TV shows and movies, characters in video games, and contemporary people in TV shows. In this post, I’ll be describing another form of media — animation. I personally don’t watch many animated shows compared to live-action shows, but my child does, and I do like the recent Disney movies. In this article, I’ll be talking about animated works that have LGBTQ+ people in them.
I’ll start with a Disney animated series that I’ve probably watched too many episodes of — Doc McStuffins. Doc McStuffins is a popular TV series, where Dottie “Doc” McStuffins is a doctor for her toys. There are many great things to say about this Disney series, such as how the main character is an African-American girl who is a doctor. The series also teaches many good values to children (and perhaps adults who watch it with their kids). The typical episode structure is that Doc McStuffins encounters a toy that has some illness or issue, and she first diagnoses what is wrong. Then, with the help of her toys, they restore the sick toy back to health.
In a Season 4 episode titled “Emergency Plan”, Doc McStuffins helps a doll family with their emergency plan during an earthquake. Besides teaching kids the valuable lesson of an emergency plan, this particular episode also featured a doll family that had two moms. There wasn’t any special attention given to the family, since they are just another family, but it was excellent to have LGBTQ+ representation in the series, especially this Disney series has a huge viewership. It is great for kids to see that there are many different types of families, and for kids with two moms to see their family being represented in the show. There was much praise for this episode from the LGBTQ+ community, but also backlash from other groups. I think that it was commendable for Disney to do its part in normalizing LGBTQ+ people and families in society.
Now we venture away from already-out Disney characters, into more speculative territory. Namely, Elsa from Frozen. Frozen was initially based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. Elsa was meant to be an evil queen with snow monsters, and Anna (who wasn’t Elsa’s sister in the original writing) would convince Elsa to save Arendelle from a massive avalanche caused by the two-faced Prince Hans. The main villain was always intended to be Hans, which would be radically different from the typical fairy tale trope of an innocent young woman battling an evil older woman, and a prince coming to save the day.
How did Elsa and Anna become the popular royal sister pair that many children (and adults) love? The short answer is Let It Go. Let It Go was supposed to be evil Elsa’s villain song, but the songwriters wanted to show Elsa as a conflicted person who embraced her power. And from there, the story was changed so that Elsa was Anna’s sister.
Let It Go was released to the public ahead of the movie, and was a resounding success, eventually winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2014, and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2015. There are many reasons for the song’s success, such as its catchiness, and possibly because the lyrics can be applied to almost anything. One big debate that occurred, at least online, was whether Let It Go is a coming-out song for LGBTQ+ people. Whether or not that was Disney’s intention, Let It Go has become something of an anthem for LGBTQ+ people.
Besides the song itself, there is a character in Frozen that is likely to be gay — Oaken the shopkeeper. Oaken introduces his family to Anna and Kristoff, and show another man and some children. While Disney has not confirmed or denied Oaken’s sexual orientation, it is good to have some LGBTQ+ representation in the movie. Also, the story of Frozen can also be viewed from the lens of a LGBTQ+ person’s life. Magic in fairy tales can be a metaphor for being a LGBTQ+ person, e.g., being different and/or being outcast, and the metaphor also applies to modern-day tales such as the X-Men. Elsa is a strong female character, and she has no suitors in the film, nor does she show any interest in a romantic relationship with anyone. Some fans have suggested that perhaps Elsa is a lesbian, and have called on the writers and directors to make it canon. Idina Menzel, who plays Elsa, and Frozen writer and director Jennifer Lee, have left it open as to whether Elsa will have a girlfriend in Frozen 2.
When the teaser trailer for Frozen 2 was released, fans scrutinized it, and latched onto a brown-haired female character that was briefly shown, as possibly being Elsa’s girlfriend. However, some have said that she’s probably not Elsa’s girlfriend, but her mother when she was younger. While we won’t know for sure until Frozen 2 is released this November, it is a movie that I’ll definitely want to watch with my family.
Moving away from Disney, I’ll now talk about other animated shows with LGBTQ+ people. The Dragon Prince is an ongoing animated series by Netflix, which is set in the fantasy world of Xadia. I didn’t watch too much of this series, but my child liked it, so I presume that it’s a good show. One aspect of the series that I did like was the revelation that Queen Aanya has two moms. Also, the storylines in the series are generally more complex than “regular” children’s series, so I enjoyed that aspect of it as well. People are seldom purely good or purely bad in real life, and this is reflected in the complex characters and motivations in The Dragon Prince.
When I proposed the idea of this blog series, I received many suggestions from friends, of which a number were animated works. I have recently been watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which is a reboot of the 1985 series She-Ra: Princess of Power. She-Ra (the reboot) was produced by Netflix in 2018, and has 20 episodes so far.
In She-Ra, the princesses are strong, capable, and independent. They don’t have any male suitors or princes, which is a welcome change from “typical” tropes about princesses. In the finale episode of Season 1, the princesses Netossa and Spinerella are shown to be in a romantic relationship. Also, one of the main characters is Bow the archer. Bow is a close friend to Adora (who is the alter-ego to She-Ra), and Glimmer, and the trio frequently travel together in their quests. Bow’s family with his two dads is shown in the finale episode of Season 2. In these “reveals”, the romantic relationship between the Netossa and Spinerella, as well as that between Bow’s dads, are never questioned and taken as a matter of fact and perfectly normal, which is an excellent portrayal of LGBTQ+ people and relationships. All in all, She-Ra is a wonderful children’s series not only because of the normalization of LGBTQ+ people and families, but also the great storyline and lessons it portrays.
Another children’s animated series involving magic, that I have seen a lot of, is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. My Little Pony is also a reboot of an older series, and has generated a number of movies and spin-off series as well. My Little Pony focuses on a stable cast (pun intended) of a number of ponies, namely: Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight Sparkle. My Little Pony teaches children many valuable lessons about friendships and life, and there has been a strong interest in the show not only among children, but some adults as well. As part of Pride Month this year, the series introduced a lesbian couple, in Episode 12 of Season 9, titled The Last Crusade. Aunt Holiday and Auntie Lofty are a romantic couple that appeared previously in a book, and this is their first time airing in the animated series. I’m very glad to see that My Little Pony is also introducing LGBTQ+ characters into the series, especially since it is such a popular series.
While I’ve only discussed children’s animation in this article, there are also plenty of other animated works that portray LGBTQ+ people. I received many recommendations from my friends, but only had time to watch some of them. Some of the other animations that I’ve seen, or were recommended to me, are: Arthur, Gravity Falls, My Hero Academia, Sakura Trick, and Steven Universe.
Besides TV shows, movies, video games, and animation, there is a wide variety of media out there with good representation of LGBTQ+ people. I’ve also written a piece on contemporary LGBTQ+ people in shows. I highly recommend spending some time experiencing (watching, reading, listening, etc) the different forms of media. I had started this blog series with only a subset of media that I covered, and I’d like to thank my friends for their recommendations and suggestions. I’d also like to specially thank my friends and family, especially Kaylee and Sarah, who helped to proofread and improve my writing!
I hope you enjoyed this blog series, and have a happy Pride Month! 🏳️🌈