Animation as a Vehicle for Social Discussion

 In A thought

Jack Halberstam, a trans queer theorist, devoted his entire book titled The Queer Art of Failure to discussing the way children’s television shows and animated films have provided a space for communication about social aspects not normally spoken about in non-children’s media (excluding the news, which does not discuss rebellion and subversion of norms anyway).

An important argument posited by Halberstam in one of the early chapters of the book covers the fact that cartoon creators often load their shows with social issues and their intentions for doing so. One may read into this decision by animators and conclude that they are doing this because it is impossible to talk about this anywhere else, or one may conclude that these animators are covering these topics (such as gender identity and sexuality in Steven Universe: Future) because children are the people who need to understand these aspects of the human condition more than adults who have already made their minds up about the world. The minds worth sculpting are the minds tuning in to Cartoon Network (for the most part, of course, as adults like cartoons as well).

It is important to understand that rebellion is alive in animation, especially the animation involving matters of love, togetherness, “fighting the good fight,” and learning about who you are. These are things I did not see much of when I was a child watching whatever cartoons were coming on (with the obvious exception of SpongeBob SquarePants), and the children of today are lucky that Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe, was able to air the first animated lesbian wedding ever shown on Cartoon Network.

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