Cartoon Network knows what it did, and we thank the channel for it.
Imagine seeing LGBTQ representation when we were kids. Imagine watching a simple yet direct and serious conversation confronting racism on children’s programming. And imagine it was done without dumbing down either subject. Well, that’s exactly what Cartoon Network did. And again, we’re thankful.
In this chaotic year where Black Lives Matter protests have been happening all over the country, and most recently in the city of Philadelphia, and Gay Rights have come into question at the Supreme Court of the United States, Cartoon Network has decided to tackle these issues. Specifically, a new tv spot on the channel discusses these topics with its younger viewers.
In the minute and a half long commercial, we see two boys holding hands on a playground. They tell each other, “Hey! When we’re older, let’s get married!” A third child then appears to mock them by saying, “You can’t get married… Black people can’t marry white people!”
First off, it’s great that Cartoon Network handles this situation on two levels. First, the bully character doesn’t even address the fact that the other characters are boys. That acceptance factor is powerful in and of itself. But then, the tv spot transitions into talking about racism.
It’s then that Steven Universe character Garnet appears. Garnet, who is voiced by British singer Estelle and is canonically the merging of a lesbian couple (long story), says, “Kids, don’t be racist.” The video then gets pretty meta. We hear a sudden “cut” and see that the scene was actually a film recording. One child actor then breaks out of character to criticize the cheesiness of their dialogue. “Stuff like this doesn’t actually happen in real life!”
“Are you kidding? It totally does,” another boy says, “you gotta realize, it hurts to deal with racism, and when people act like it’s not real, it makes it feel worse.”
Garnet adds “just because this has never happened to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”
The PSA then ends with the phrase “Don’t deny it, defy it! Be Anti-racist!”
After that, the tv spot refers viewers to a site (crystalgemspeeakup.com) where people can find resources to become more educated on anti-racism.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a true growth of LGBTQ content and representation in kids’ programming. From Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn, getting married to the rise of Steven Universe, the Disney Channel getting its first coming out storyline, and more! Of course, there has been plenty of pushback to this growth of representation. Plenty of conservative parents and parties have expressed outrage at these depictions on kids’ programming. Often, the argument is that sexuality and romance shouldn’t play a factor in children’s shows. Yet, they seem to accept when straight kids date and kiss on the same programs.
In the end, though, tv channels tackling important issues like gay existence and racism is important. Racism and homophobia aren’t innate. They are taught. So, directly combating those problems with a message of anti-racism and LGBTQ acceptance (and not conversion as some conservative parties may argue) is essential!
Thank you to Cartoon Network for creating this short tv spot. We hope it helps many actively fight against homophobia and racism in the future.
The Crystal Gems say BE ANTI-RACIST! You have to acknowledge racism to act against it. Don't be silent, use your voice and privilege to help ✊🏿✊🏼✊🏾✊✊🏻✊🏽💖
— Cartoon Network (@cartoonnetwork) October 27, 2020
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of Instinct Magazine nor its other contributors.