Children’s cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is introducing a same-sex couple in an episode airing this coming weekend. That’s reason to celebrate—even as it comes halfway through the show’s final season, following a long tradition of many children’s shows only including queer characters right before they end.
In “The Last Crusade,” an episode written by Nicole Dubuc, young pegasus Scootaloo’s long-absent parents finally appear, reports Taimur Dar at ComicsBeat. Earlier in the episode, though, Scootaloo and her friends meet with Scootaloo’s current caretakers, Aunt Holiday and Auntie Lofty, whom Writer/Producer Michael Vogel confirmed (in a 2017 tweet) are a couple. Vogel had this to say about the couple and the show’s fictional land of Equestria when the ComicsBeat coverage came out yesterday:
— mktoon (@mktoon) June 10, 2019
Alas, the show will be ending later this year. Many other children’s shows, too, have only included queer characters right before their finales. As I wrote last year in a longer piece for Xfinity on LGBTQ children’s media, Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra showed the female protagonist having a romantic relationship with a man at one point in the series, but in the last scene of the last episode (2014), she and her female best friend gaze into each others’ eyes, and the show’s creators later confirmed their newfound romance. Similarly, Disney XD’s Gravity Falls revealed in the last episode (2016) that characters Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland were a couple. And Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie guest-starred a two-mom family three weeks before its last episode in 2014. Things weren’t too different on the big screen. In 2012, ParaNorman gave us the first gay character in an animated film—but again, we don’t learn he’s gay until right before the end. The point may have been that his gayness didn’t matter as much as the rest of his character, and that’s valid—but it felt a bit like it was played for the surprise factor. Disney took the same approach to its 2014 live-action feature film Beauty and the Beast, which director Bill Condon said would have an “exclusively gay moment.” It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, though, when villain LeFou dances with a man for a couple of seconds near the end of the film.
Still, Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins and PBS Kids’ Arthur, for very young children, as well as the Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe and Nickelodeon’s The Loud House, for slightly older kids, have shown queer characters and each look set to be around for more seasons. And Hulu has just announced the first children’s series to center on a family with same-sex parents. Yes, some folks are still objecting to such inclusion—but I do sense that things may really be shifting.
“The Last Crusade” will air this Saturday on Discovery Family but has already aired overseas.