Why LGBTQ+ Characters Should Be Included in Children’s TV

Sophie Robinson

After 18 years of production and years of petitions calling for a change to the heteronormative family narrative of the children’s show Peppa Pig, its creators have finally introduced a same-sex couple. Many people have celebrated this as a landmark moment in the pursuit of LGBTQ+ education for children, however others have voiced discontent towards this decision. Sophie Robinson delves into the importance of including LGBTQ+ characters in children’s television.

In 2019, a campaign was launched calling for the creators of Peppa Pig to include a same-sex couple. Those who produced the initial petition claim that “Peppa Pig is not just for entertainment, children are inevitably learning from it too”, and that in more than 250 episodes of the show at that point, none included LGBTQ+ representation.

This petition has since received almost 24,000 signatures, with comments from supporters praising it as a “realistic and essential” change to the show, and commending the lessons it will teach children about supporting people who identify as LGBTQ+.

Many were happy to see the change implemented into one of the most recent episodes of Peppa Pig, within which a character called Penny says “I live with my mummy and my other mummy”, which is followed by a scene where the family sit to eat dinner together. Those who oppose the decision, however, have taken to social media to voice their concerns.

One Twitter user wrote: “It’s enough that young adults choose…to mess around. But to now force it on kids? @peppapig is a disgrace”. Besides the blatant homophobia, one thing this user fails to acknowledge is that heteronormative ideals have been portrayed to pre-school aged children for years, with nuclear family models including ‘mummy pig’ and ‘daddy pig’. However people opposed to LGBTQ+ representation rarely say that heterosexual norms are ‘forced’ onto children. Why then are LGBTQ+ relationships any different, or any worse than straight relationships? This is a prime example of straight privilege, as children who have heterosexual parents are constantly represented on television without any subsequent backlash.

It’s unfair to say that LGBTQ+ representation ‘forces’ anything upon children

People have been making the argument that this episode is so called “sexual indoctrination“, as showing same-sex couples to their child may influence their sexual orientation, a notion which is rooted in homophobia. It’s ludicrous to say this considering previous generations, such as ours, were brought up predominantly with heterosexual representations in children’s TV, however the amount of people coming out as gay has increased regardless.

Therefore, it’s unfair to say that LGBTQ+ representation ‘forces’ anything upon children as their sexual orientation and gender identity is something they cannot control, and is certainly not influenced by TV programmes. This movement is about making people feel comfortable about coming out as who they are, not forcing them to be something else.

A member of the far-right Italian political party who won at the most recent Italian general election has called for the state broadcaster, Rai, not to air the episode with the lesbian couple. A spokesperson for the Brothers of Italy party, Federico Mollicone said that it would be “unacceptable” to air the episode in Italy.

We have seen this censoring of children’s media in the past, as recently as this year with the release of Disney’s new animated film Lightyear.

The show should also represent single parent families, blended families and adoptive families

The film initially showed a kiss between a same-sex couple, which was then reportedly removed from the final cut until an open letter was sent by Pixar employees to Disney’s leadership saying that the executives had censored “overtly gay affection”.

Despite the kiss scene being reinstated by Disney, it has since been censored or banned in many countries such as UAE and Indonesia due to its LGBTQ+ content, meaning that children are not getting access to accurate representations in the media they’re consuming, making the decision to include a lesbian couple in Peppa Pig all the more important to changing people’s perceptions.

Other viewers of the recent episode of Peppa Pig have accused the show’s creators of selective representation, with one Twitter user saying: “@peppapig rushed to air an episode about gay couples. What about single parent homes?? What about blended families??” I think this is a valid point about representation, as the show should also represent single parent families, blended families, and adoptive families as well as LGBTQ+ ones, however these are all separate issues from people’s demand for LGBTQ+ representation.

These underrepresented families are equally important and should be portrayed in future episodes of the show, a promising possibility as the Peppa Pig creators are beginning to progress in their representation of realistic characters for their young audience. But I don’t think it’s right to criticise the creators’ decision to include LGBTQ+ representation because it’s a step in the right direction for the future of children’s television.

Create an oppurtunity for parents to speak openly to children about sexual orientation and gender identity

It’s so important that we continue to include LGBTQ+ characters in the entertainment material for children. This is something that will create an opportunity for parents to speak openly with their children about sexual orientation and gender identity, ultimately creating a more welcoming environment for those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and will continue to have positive consequences for future generations.

Sophie Robinson

Featured image courtesy of Per Pettersson via Flickr.com. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article video 1 courtesy of Peppa Pig – Official Channel via youtube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

In article video 2 courtesy of Pixar via youtube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

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