The reboot of a children’s cartoon series will feature a lesbian single mom, making it one of several modern interpretations of children’s shows making overtures to the LGBT community.
“Rugrats,” a children’s cartoon which aired on Nickelodeon for more than a decade before concluding in 2004, was relaunched Thursday in the form of a new series of the same name on the streaming service Paramount Plus. The original “Rugrats” followed a group of toddlers “as they explore the world and beyond from their pint-sized and wildly imaginative point of view,” and the new show will do the same.
While most of the characters from the original series returned for the 2021 version of “Rugrats,” the reboot will have a noticeable difference: Betty, the mother of two of the main characters, Phil and Lil, is now portrayed as a lesbian single mom.
Actress Natalie Morales, not to be confused with the former “Access Hollywood” host and “Today”show news anchor of the same name, voices Betty in the revival. Morales, who is openly queer, spoke about her character in a recent interview with The A.V. Club, an entertainment website.
“Betty is a single mom with her own business who has twins and still has time to hang out with her friends and her community, and I think it’s just so great because examples of living your life happily and healthily as an out queer person is just such a beacon for young queer people who may not have examples of that,” she said.
“And yeah, Betty is a fictional cartoon, but even cartoons were hugely influential for me as a kid and if I’d been watching 'Rugrats' and seen Betty casually talking about her ex-girlfriend, I think at least a part of me would have felt like things might be okay in the future,” Morales added.
As the pop culture website noted, Betty was “married to boring ol’ Howard” in the original series. Despite the fact that she was in a heterosexual marriage, Morales believes that “anyone who watched the original show may have had an inkling that Betty was a member of the alphabet mafia.” In the revival, the character “loves football, owns a café called Betty’s Beans” and “cracks jokes about her ex-girlfriends.”
As Newsweek reported, the inclusion of a lesbian character in the “Rugrats” reboot was “hinted at late last year in an interview that actor Melanie Chertoff, who voices Didi Pickles, gave to the Back to the Bestpodcast.” Chertoff announced that “one of the characters is now a lesbian” and that “some of the characters are of different minority, ethnic minorities, now.” The actress vowed that the revived “Rugrats” was “going to be a much more, I’d say, liberally intended show.”
“Rugrats” is not the only example of a children’s cartoon series reboot to include an LGBT character. Earlier this month, the streaming service Disney Plus announced plans to relaunch the Disney Channel series “The Proud Family” in 2022.
The revived series will feature a new character, a teenage activist with two fathers in a same-sex relationship. As is the case with the reboot of “Rugrats,” the LGBT characters in “The Proud Family” will be voiced by LGBT actors. The LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD has called for the share of LGBT characters to increase to 20% of all television characters by the year 2025.
Even if modern children’s shows do not include openly LGBT characters, the inclusion of LGBT activism in children’s programming has accelerated in recent years. Earlier this year, the reboot of the Nickelodeon cartoon “Blue’s Clues” featured a song called “the ABC song w/Blue,” where the title character, an anthropomorphic blue dog named Blue, introduces the letters of the alphabet to the viewers by assigning concepts to the particular letters to help the children remember them.
“P is full of pride,” Blue declares in the song. Appearing in the rainbow colors that have come to symbolize LGBT activism, the “P” is surrounded by flags representing the different groups within the LGBT community, including pansexuals, transgenders, the intersex community, the asexual community, the gender-fluid community and others. Nickelodeon introduced LGBT characters into its programming in 2016, when a same-sex couple first appeared on the cartoon series “The Loud House.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org