As part of Pride Month, celebrated long-time children’s show Sesame Street recently introduced a married gay couple and their daughter to viewers in an episode titled “Family Day.” It was the first time in the show’s five-decade run that such a family was depicted. “There’s all kinds of families,” Frank, one of the fathers, noted. “But what makes us a family is that we love each other.”
Although Pride Month has wrapped up, there are many options available throughout the year for families interested in introducing their kids to LGBTQ+ representation in children’s entertainment.
Age range: 2 upwards
Title: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Where to watch: YouTube, Netflix
Elevator pitch for parents: It may look like an ad for the toy, but the show offers a thoughtful exploration of friendship.
Elevator pitch for the kids: A cartoon series about cute little ponies!
When they were much younger, my kids used to watch the My Little Pony series when they went over to their cousin’s house, since we didn’t have Netflix at the time. I thought of it as harmless fun and never paid much attention to the actual storylines. After all, my kids didn’t own any of the toys, and I figured they understood that actual horses don’t live in a cotton-candy world.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to read a think piece about the cult around the show and how it empowered many young women. The key phrase “Friendship is magic” is actually an ethos that creator Lauren Faust used to complicate the idea of cutesy cartoons for girls. Although the show originally didn’t overtly showcase LGBTQ+ representation, its earnest message that friendship means accepting one another has led fans to interpret some characters as being queer.
Age range: 4 to 8
Title: Pop’n’Olly/Queer Kids Stuff
Where to watch: YouTube
Elevator pitch for parents: These British and American LGBTQ+ videos offer age-appropriate information.
Elevator pitch for the kids: Songs! Cool crafts! Puppets! Have fun while learning about social justice.
It wasn’t until I started researching for this column that I came across these YouTube channels offering all sorts of relevant information in a fun and engaging manner that will appeal to young people. In fact, some of the lessons offered by creators Olly Pike and Lindsey Amer give adults a way to talk about LGBTQ+ issues with their own peers.
I appreciated the simple ways in which Ollie and Lindsey explain concepts such as “privilege” based on someone’s identity, or the history of the word “queer.” Besides educating young people, it offers adults a way to engage in the conversation as well.
Age range: 9 upwards
Title: Steven Universe
Where to watch: Cartoon Network, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
Elevator pitch for parents: The show won a GLAAD Media Award and Peabody Award.
Elevator pitch for kids: It’s a story about a half-human, half-alien kid and his adventures.
This animated sci-fi TV series developed for Cartoon Network has been praised for stealthily inserting an intelligent narrative into a seemingly simplistic fantasy world. Steven Universe is a coming-of-age story about a young boy whose father is human and mother is a Gem, a magical humanoid alien. Steven lives with an adopted Crystal Gem family in a fictional town called Beach City, and has many adventures with his human friends. He also helps the Crystal Gems protect the world.
The cast of oddball characters lend a humour and sweetness to the series that explores themes of family, love and healthy friendships. The show’s creator, Rebecca Sugar, has talked about how the show was inspired by her brother, with the intention to “tear down and play with the semiotics of gender in cartoons for children.”
Age range: 10 upwards
Title: First Day
Where to watch: CBC Gem
Elevator pitch for parents: This Australian drama series has been critically acclaimed for its sensitive portrayal of a transgender girl.
Elevator pitch for the kids: The first day of school can be challenging for anyone.
This limited-run series from Australia follows the story of Hannah Bradford. Over the course of four episodes, we learn that Hannah is a transgender girl who is going to a new school. She has to navigate not just the jitters of the first day as a new student, but also face the challenges that come with living as her true self.
The series stars Evie Macdonald in the role of Hannah, the first transgender actor to be cast in the lead role for an Aussie TV series. Writer-director Julie Kalceff has said that with this series, she wanted to increase the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community and tell an uplifting story of empowerment.
Age range: PG-13
Title: Love, Simon
Where to watch: Disney+
Elevator pitch for parents: It’s a sweet teen romance, featuring a closeted gay lead.
Elevator pitch for kids: It’s a charming teen rom-com.
High-school senior Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) seems to have it all. He’s got cool parents (played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel), great friends Nick, Leah and Abby, and a not-entirely-annoying sister, Nora. But he’s struggling with his identity. He knows he’s gay, but can’t seem to come out to his parents or friends.
Then he starts communicating online with another closeted gay student at his school who goes by the handle “Blue.” Eventually, as Simon starts to develop feelings for Blue and tries to find him IRL, friendships get complicated. Simon is forced to come out and deal with the resulting fallout. Based on the YA novel Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the film offers a charming spin on the typical teen rom-com.
If you have more suggestions of notable children’s programming for Parents’ Picks, send them along to email@example.com.
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