On October 6th, the Children’s Media Association hosted an exceptional panel on the topic of LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media. Host Lindz Amer began by introducing the speakers: Shadi Petosky (Executive Producer of Danger and Eggs), Noelle Stevenson (Creator/Show-Runner of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) and Rebecca Sugar (Creator of Steven Universe).
The first part of the panel consisted of examining leading characters of shows with LGBTQ+ representation and the second focused on the motives and themes behind these shows. Shadi spoke on the importance of shows including varied character identities early on so that it’s easier for kids to understand different motives of queer characters. Noelle’s experience on She-Ra showed her the importance of not only building up to major events like a kiss between characters, but also the importance of interweaving mutual love throughout the show. Rebecca continued by explaining the importance of authenticity as the root for storytelling, as personal stories are always more appealing. She mentioned works such as The Simpsons and Peanuts as examples of works that draw inspiration from relatable situations that were probably personal to the writers. Having a work reflect the ideals and traits of the author is something Rebecca also explored, specifically during her work on Adventure Time, while writing the character Marceline. Creating this authentic content that is open and inviting allows people to feel a connection to the struggles of feeling different.
The discussion continued towards the root cause of why some people are scared of LGBTQ+ work. Rebecca spoke on the inherent root of bigotry behind this mindset, and explained how asking ‘why’ to these people reveals their prejudice. On the other hand, the speakers were delighted to speak on certain instances in which they have interacted with supporters of their shows. Noelle spoke on how great it is to see the reactions and joy of the viewers during big moments. She spoke on the types of shows she used to watch as a kid and how she supports creators making content that exposes more real life topics to younger audiences. Shadi and Noelle also brought up how excited they are when they notice a LGBTQ+ topic character or theme pop up in media they enjoy. Noelle brought up the character Captain Phasma from the newest Star Wars movies, who was interesting to her because of the ambiguity of the character’s gender.
The final portion of the event was a Q&A where the speakers were able to share advice and hopes they have for the future of LGBTQ+ content. Rebecca spoke on the priority of teaching empathy and understanding for the younger generations of their audience. The need for supporting artists is ALWAYS an issue, and Rebecca hopes that all creators can identify the spots where they need help and then strive to find help for it. Noelle passionately spoke on the need for us to be advocates for people who want to tell their personal stories, since some of the most genuine and engaging stories might not have a way to be told. For creators, Noelle emphasizes that persistence is key and that there will always be another format available for you to tell your story. Shadi explained the positive effects of LOUDLY supporting the shows and creators you like, because that is how they enter a realm where people can have access to their stories.