They’re here, they’re queer – just let them have happy endings!

February is LGBTQ+ history month in the UK, so what better time to reminisce over queer cartoon characters who’ve appeared on our screens?

There are a lot of fantastic LGBTQ+ cartoon characters out there! Some are visibly queer, and this gets celebrated on screen; others are simply queer-coded, or their queerness is more of a footnote at the very end of the series.

Let’s take a look at times cartoons celebrated their queer characters, versus times they lowkey failed them.

1.

Out and proud: Marceline and Bubblegum in Adventure Time


Cartoon Network

What happened: Their relationship was hidden for a while, partly because Marceline and Bubblegum broke up many years ago. They got back together with a last-minute series finale kiss, but it only confirmed what the writers had been hinting at for years. 

Why it was great: I count this as a good one because the relationship was as heavily implied as the writers were allowed to make it, and it makes sense for exes to avoid talking about their past. We also got a whole wonderful episode about their relationship in Adventure Time: Distant Lands.

2.

Deserved better: Korra and Asami in The Legend of Korra


Nickelodeon/Nick.com

What happened: There were zero hints to their relationship or queerness in the show, so it was surprising for many when they held hands at the end. Their story was continued in the comics, where the relationship was confirmed.

Why it was disappointing: As much as people loved seeing Korra and Asami get together, their romantic relationship kind of came out of nowhere, and we never got any build-up to it. The comics did a lot to rectify this, but unfortunately, not everyone knows about that.

3.

Out and proud: Ruby and Sapphire – aka Garnet – in Steven Universe


Cartoon Network

What happened: They’ve been a couple for millenia (5,750 years and eight months to be exact), living as a fusion named Garnet for most of that time. But after getting some bad news and doing some soul-searching, they decide to get married because, in Ruby’s words, “This way we can be together even when we’re apart!”

Why it was great: They were the first same-sex couple to propose and get married in a mainstream cartoon – I love that for them! Their relationship was also established from the very first moment we met them (although Garnet being a fusion was a bit of a twist at first). They’re basically the ultimate OTP.

4.

Deserved better: Pearl in Steven Universe


Cartoon Network

What happened: Don’t get me wrong – Pearl got all kinds of character development, and the show never shied away from celebrating its queer characters. However, Pearl spent thousands of years pining after Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond, and she repressed a lot of things because of it. She also became complicit in a lot of war crimes out of pure devotion to her problematic fave.

Why it was disappointing:  Even though she learned to let go of the past, it felt like she never fully moved on from her old boss – she even flirted with a human who looked just like Rose. It is implied that Bismuth has a crush on her, but there’s no confirmation on whether they ended up together.

5.

Out and proud: Spongebob Squarepants in Spongebob Squarepants


Nickelodeon

What happened: Viewers have long suspected that the camp little sponge man was queer, but creator Stephen Hillenburg actually confirmed Spongebob is asexual way back in 2005. Real-life sea sponges are asexual, and Hillenburg avoided love interests for Spongebob because he believes the character is “too innocent” for a relationship.

Why it was great: This was another great step for representation in cartoons. Spongebob being ace makes sense for his character, since he’s usually more focused on wacky antics and Krabby Patties than on relationships – although ace people do date if they want to! 

6.

Deserved better: Rainbow Dash and Apple Jack in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic


Discovery Family

What happened: The show pulled an “and they were roommates!” in the series finale, showing the ponies discussing chores, thereby implying they live together, but never confirming whether or not they were together together. It’s heavily implied that they are, but it looks like we’ll never know.

Why it was disappointing: They’d already shown Scootaloo’s lesbian aunts in the same season (and the comics), so probably weren’t restricted in showing queer relationships. It’s also worth noting that some viewers were unclear on whether the aunts were sisters or a couple in that episode, but writer Mike Vogel had confirmed the comic characters’ relationship on Twitter years earlier.

7.

Out and proud: Luz and Amity in The Owl House


Disney Channel

What happened: They had an implied crush throughout season one (plus an iconic dance scene), then became actual girlfriends in the second season. The Owl House creator Dana Terrace has since confirmed that Luz is bisexual and Amity is lesbian. 

Why it was great: There were no attempts to hide the girls’ feelings, and seeing two main female characters be openly romantic felt like a huge step. They make a super cute couple, and I can’t wait to see more of them in the second half of season two. They’re honestly magic sapphic couple goals (try saying that three times fast)!

8.

Deserved better: Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland in Gravity Falls


Disney Channel/Disney XD

What happened: The bumbling officers were very affectionate throughout the show, but their relationship wasn’t confirmed until the very end. In the series finale, while threatening any dissenters with tazers, they declared, “We’re mad with power… and love!” 

Why it was disappointing: Show creator Alex Hirsch actually fought really hard to have LGBTQ+ characters in Gravity Falls, but implied that he was blocked by Disney. It’s sad that the network didn’t support him in making the relationship canon, but Alex did confirm their relationship during a Charity Draw-A-Thon (at the 2:04:40 mark).

9.

Out and proud: Mr Ratburn in Arthur


PBS (PBS Kids)

What happened: In the season 22 premiere episode, “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone”, Arthur’s teacher marries a man named Patrick. Many viewers were delighted, especially since the relationship was never presented as “different” or “outside the norm”.

Why it was great: Same-sex weddings on children’s TV (and TV in general) are scarce, so it was wonderful to see Mr. Ratburn’s special day. Mr. Ratburn’s relationship and sexuality had never been mentioned in the two decades of the show, so the writers clearly made a conscious choice to include some gay rep, which was fantastic to see!

10.

Deserved better: Future Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons


Disney

What happened: In the season 23 episode “Holidays of Future Passed”, a future version of Lisa is seen with multiple girlfriends in family photos, eventually settling with Milhouse. This suggests that she’s polyamorous and bisexual, but generally speaking, the future episodes are considered non-canon.

Why it was disappointing: Not only was this not canon, but both the executive producer and Lisa’s voice actor have hinted at her future identity, but not confirmed anything, which is a real shame. Plus, making her marry the guy who keeps asking her out no matter how much she says no was just a letdown.

11.

Out and proud: Harley and Ivy in Harley Quinn


DC Universe

What happened: Now this one is complicated, because Ivy is engaged to Kite-Man throughout season two. She first kisses Harley while escaping Bane’s prison pit, and then they hook up at Ivy’s bachelorette party. Harley falls in love with Ivy, who wants to go through with her wedding to Kite-Man. Eventually, she reciprocates Harley’s feelings as they escape the police, Thelma and Louise style. 

Why it was great: Even though they have a rocky start, there was no attempt to censor their relationship. The writers clearly took inspiration from the comics, where Harley and Ivy are an iconic duo who even get married in Las Vegas. They’ve always been one of my favourite comic couples, so I was delighted that their relationship made it on screen (cheating on your fiancé is still pretty bad, though).

12.

Deserved better: Bucky and Pronk in Zootopia


Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

What happened: All we learn in the movie is that they’re Judy’s loud next-door neighbours who argue a lot. However, Pronk’s voice actor Jared Bush confirmed that they’re husbands, and they also have the same surname in the credits.

Why it was disappointing: They could’ve had a throwaway line to confirm the relationship as romantic, as opposed to them being roommates, but with Disney’s history of obfuscating LGBTQ+ characters, guess that’s hardly surprising.

13.

Out and proud: Adora and Catra in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power


Netflix

What happened: Yet another last-minute series finale kiss, but the whole show was very camp – there were multiple queer characters. including Bow’s dads, power couple Spinnerella and Netossa, and non-binary trickster Double Trouble. On top of that, the show’s plot pretty much centred around Catra and Adora’s ~complicated~ feelings for each other. They went from best friends to enemies to lovers over the course of the series.

Why it was great: In this case it made sense why their relationship wasn’t revealed earlier, since they spent a lot of time trying to kill each other and treading the fine line between love and hate. They make a great couple when they aren’t fighting to the death! And all the queer rep in the show was wonderful to see. Non-binary showrunner ND Stevenson really did the Lord’s work with She-Ra.

14.

Deserved better: Shiro (and his husband) in Voltron: Legendary Defender


Netflix

What happened: There was zero mention of Shiro’s sexuality until the final season, when the tragic loss of his lover Adam was suddenly added into his backstory. We barely learned anything about Adam, and then there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Shiro’s wedding to a new guy in the finale. 

Why it was disappointing: Shiro’s backstory was a mystery for a long time, and only mentioning Adam in the final season meant the storyline was way too rushed. We also found out nothing about his eventual husband; it felt like they threw in a wedding for a “happy ending”, but it came off as an empty gesture.

15.

Out and proud: Marshmallow in Bob’s Burgers


Fox

What happened: She’s a recurring character who becomes a close friend of Bob and the Belchers, regularly helping them out and generally being cool. Even when she’s not a big part of the episode, Bob always greets her with “Oh hey, Marshmallow.”

Why it was great: Marshmallow is unapologetically herself and always willing to help Bob out of whatever shenanigans he’s gotten into. She quickly became a fan favourite, giving sage advice while serving lewks. Having a recurring character who’s a trans woman character is another great example of representation, normalising queer characters in media. 

16.

Deserved better: Juleka and Rose in Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir


TF1/EBS 1

What happened: These two have a really adorable bond, so fans have suspected they were together since the beginning of the show. They’re extremely close best friends who constantly embrace and even kiss (on the lips while akumatized, on the cheek, normally). However, they’re consistently labelled as friends and not in a relationship.

Why it was disappointing: Writer Thomas Astruc has strongly suggested on Twitter that Juleka and Rose are together, but that the show could be censored in some countries if that was referenced in an episode. I guess that’s understandable, but without onscreen confirmation, all the hinting just isn’t the same. I hope things improve because they’re so cute together and they deserve the world!

17.

Out and proud: Todd Chavez in Bojack Horseman


Netflix

What happened: Bojack’s best friend and one-time roommate is originally resistant when someone suggests he’s asexual, but he gradually explores and becomes comfortable with his sexuality in season three. He ends up in a happy committed relationship with Maude – another asexual character – in season six.

Why it was great: Asexuality is still very underrepresented in the media, so many have applauded the inclusion of an ace main character in the show. Bojack Horseman has always dealt with important topics, including addiction and depression, really well in my opinion – Todd’s story is another example of them doing justice to an often misrepresented and disenfranchised community.

18.

Deserved better: Marc Anciel in Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir


TF1/EBS 1

What happened: Astruc confirmed on Twitter that Marc is part of the LGBTQ+ community, but didn’t specify the character’s identity. Marc is based on Astruc’s friend Hope Morphin, who is genderfluid and bisexual. His name is a play on “arc en ciel”, which is French for rainbow. 

Why it was disappointing: This character’s queerness is all very vague and has never been mentioned on the show itself. Astruc’s fear of censorship could be the reason, but he’s also had the opportunity to share Marc’s specific identity on Twitter, and hasn’t. I personally feel that the show is big enough to defy anyone who would censor it without it getting pulled. It’s also implied that Marc is dating Nathaniel (and I ship it), but just like Rose and Juleka, this isn’t 100% clear. 

19.

Out and proud: Jackie and Chloé in Star vs. the Forces of Evil


Disney XD

What happened: Jackie is Marco’s longtime crush who he finally starts dating in season two. But in season three she realises that Marco is more focused on Star and amicably breaks up with him. Jackie then goes to study abroad in France, where she meets Chloé. They return to Echo Creek together so Jackie can show Chloé around, as the latter had showed her the sights of France.

Why it was great: Jackie’s character develops a lot from initially being “the love interest”, and it was great to see her discover her sexuality and find a happy relationship. This show also featured Disney’s first same-sex kiss, when multiple same-sex couples smooch in the background as a love song plays at a concert. 

Are there any other queer cartoon characters whose stories you either loved or wished were better? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t miss Sam Claflin in the new rom-com Book of Love from BuzzFeed Studios, available on Sky Cinema!





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