May 16, 2015

5 Cartoon Couples That You Thought Were Gay, But Probably Aren't

I'm all for subtexts. This blog is about finding gay connections in texts where the writer, director, and fans are all yelling "No, no, no!"  And I've found them in dozens of children's tv shows, from The Flintstones in the 1960s to Adventure Time today.

It's easier to find them in juvenile media, where the heterosexist mandate of ending every story with a boy-girl kiss is not so aggressively policed.  All you need is:

Two characters of the same sex who display little or no heterosexual interest, and have a passionate, intense, exclusive relationship.

Some character pairs have been bandied around for years as emblems of gay subtexts, but unfortunately, they just don't cut it:

1. Batman and Robin (Adam West, Burt Ward) from the 1960s tv series. The Dynamic Duo may have been domestic partners in the 1940s comic books, but by the 1960s they were presented as a heterosexual father and his heterosexual adopted son.

Lack of hetero interest: No
Exclusive: Yes
Passionate, intense: No

It was still fun to watch Robin being a "damsel in distress," threatened by the villain and rescued by "my hero" Batman.

Especially in the first season, before they censored Robin's skin-tight briefs.


2. Shaggy and Scooby, Scooby-Doo.  You already know what they look like, so here's Robbie Amell as Fred in Scooby-Doo!  Curse of the Lake Monster (2010).

Scooby-Doo is multi-generational cartoon/movie series about four teenagers and their semi-sentient dog (the titular Scooby-Doo) who solve paranormal mysteries.  The beatnik Shaggy and Scooby often go off exploring on their own, and jump into each other's arms.  But come on -- it's a guy and a semi-sentient dog!

Lack of hetero interest: Yes
Passionate, intense: No
Exclusive: No.  They're part of a group.


3. Bert and Ernie, Sesame Street.  This one gets a lot of play, including a petition to have the two get married on the air.

But have you actually watched this show?  Ernie is Bert's annoying, tag-along little brother.  Of course they love each other, but there is no passion in their relationship.  And I don't even think that they live together; they are too young.  There must be a parent off-camera somewhere.

Lack of hetero interest: Yes
Passionate, intense: No
Exclusive: Yes

4. Peppermint Patty and Marcie of the comic strip Peanuts have often been envisioned as a lesbian couple (here on a episode of Family Guy).  But in the strip, they are portrayed as heterosexual friends.  Each has a crush on Charlie Brown, as well as other more fleeting heterosexual romances.  And their interactions are neither passionate nor intense.  The only hug I can remember occurs when Marcie's mother makes Patty a skating outfit.

Lack of hetero interest: No
Passionate, intense: No
Exclusive: Yes








5. Bart and Milhouse, The Simpsons, shown here as adults, after Milhouse bulks up.  Certainly the two are inseparable buddies, and Milhouse has many gender-atypical traits.  He's even characterized in his permanent record with the antiquated phrase "homosexual tendencies."  But he has a major crush on Lisa, and Bart has had any number of girlfriends.


Lack of hetero interest: No
Passionate, intense: No
Exclusive: Yes

But don't worry, there are still dozens of juvenile media characters for whom the gay subtexts ring loud and clear.  Let's start with Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick.