I understand not wanting to lose out on the money spent by customers from the religious right or other large groups who may have a problem with LGBT content … sort of. It wouldn’t be my choice to worry about them, but that’s another story. What I can’t wrap my ahead around is the idea that non-straight romance is inherently too sexual for young audiences.
Thousands of cartoons and comics aimed at the youth audience feature straight characters in love; characters actually dating and actually kissing each other. It’s not an issue, obviously. Finn can swoon after Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time; Ash can go gaga over Nurse Joy in Pokémon; you get the picture. Are those relationships too sexual? Are Dipper’s affections for Wendy in Gravity Falls too adult?
–Kate Leth on the lies we tell ourselves.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? This is exactly about appeasing fringe religious/conservative groups and their shrieking paranoia about the “homosexual agenda”. Like if kids see healthy, positive queer relationships on the TV they’ll suddenly turn gay, when the reverse of this has never been true for the entire history of time. (Of course, seeing positive queer portrayals may give queer kids the idea that the feelings they already harbour are perfectly okay. Which, I imagine, anti-gay groups would consider just as awful.)
This is a problem of absence. Because a lot more voices–a lot more loud, powerful voices–are going to start shouting if Princess Bubblegum and Marceline kiss than the voices who complain that they don’t.
This is something that’s changing. Slowly. Too slowly. And part of the push for that change is people speaking out about things like subtexts and queerbaiting as being not okay. Not even just “not enough” but flat-out “not okay”. They were tools from a time when homosexuality was criminalised, and depicting a queer relationship in media would get government attention. That’s no longer the case (in most places most people are probably reading this, and definitely in the places most of this content is being produced). So why are we still doing it?
It’s time to put away the subtext and the subtlety.
It’s time to be bold. For kids and adults both.