It may seem surprising in this liberated age, but here in the West we have a very poor record on portraying homosexuality in animation. Outside of South Park’s Big Gay Al, the Simpson’s Patty Bouvier and Waylon Smithers, the recently-cancelled Drawn Together’s Xandir P. Wifflebottom and Queer Duck – the first animated TV series to have homosexuality as its predominant theme just about the only gay characters you find are in Japanese animation.
Even popular Japanese children’s cartoons have openly gay characters, seemingly without upsetting the viewing public: Card Captor Sakura (a mainstream, nationally syndicated cartoon series aimed at kids under 14) has two gay characters whose sexuality is simply portrayed as being a normal part of their relationship. Sailor Moon, popular with children and adults, had prominent gay characters including one, Zoisite, whose gender was changed when the series was imported into the US to avoid upsetting the moral majority.
Later this year E4 will screen the series Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in the World, which features a range of gay and lesbian stereotypes, including the twink with the sugar daddy, the seemingly-perfect gay couple of the title and a pair of baby-obsessed lesbians. The series may go some way towards redressing the balance in the US, but we’re still seemingly bereft of high-profile gay characters in British animation.
One Bath-based student, Ryan Bradley, is keen to change all that, with the launch of his own eight episode series ‘Pink Face: the Pink Panda Show’.
“The idea of the series is to critique the aspects of gay culture that I find harmful,” he tells me. “I want to challenge and satirise anything that tries to sanitise us in a humorous way. It’s a chat show featuring this horrendously gay pink panda Pink Face which gradually gets more and more horrific to watch. It’s like a car crash complete with clowns!”
The series is about to go live, but the young animator has already been providing space on the net for people with similar ideas, with links to bands and blogs that, in his words: “Refuse to assimilate to the prescribed queer identity.”
Although brand new, his work has not gone unrecognised: Ryan already has an interview set up with Aardman Animation, and he’s keen for Pink Face to carry on and possibly encourage other animators to come out of the celluloid closet. “I really hope that the series will continue,” he adds. “A lot of gay animation is still underground and it would be nice for it to gain more recognition.”
See more of Ryan’s work at www.myspace.com/pinkfacethepinkpandashow
Posted on 27 June 2008 by Darryl W Bullock