There’s a heartening trend of lesbian representation in contemporary American kids’ cartoons. The most recent and obvious example is the Adventure Time finale, when Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s series-long subtext finally made its way into canon. But the long arc of the medium has been pointing in that direction for a while now, between Legend of Korra ending by pushing the main girls as a couple as hard as they could get away with (Dec. 2014) and Steven Universe’s escalation from eye kisses (March 2015) to full-on lesbian weddings (July 2018).
In Japan, within the yuri genre—yuri referring to any sort of romantic or sexual lesbian relationships—there’s a subgenre called Class S. It’s often described as “romantic friendship,” but perhaps “pseudo-platonic lesbians until graduation” would be more accurate. The focus is on close emotional relationships between schoolgirls—and it is very nearly always schoolgirls—that borrow the imagery of romance, such as hand-holding, writing love letters, exchanging gifts, maybe even as much as a chaste kiss, but never more than that. One-sided lesbian pining with the acknowledgement that one’s feelings will never be returned by the heterosexual object of one’s affections can also fall into this category—Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura is an archetypal example. There is nearly always the implication that these lesbian feelings are just a phase, and the girls involved will grow up to be straight and marry men.
Bushiroad’s BanG Dream has taken the West by storm since it was released in April this year. Based off the BanG Dream franchise that kicked off in Japan in 2015, the mobile game follows the story of five girl bands: Poppin’Party, Afterglow, Roselia, Hello Happy World and Pastel*Palettes. Since its release, the fandom has grown bigger and bigger to the point that it’s now one of the most popular rhythm games on mobile—a crowded market, including titles like Love Live, IDOLM@STER and IDOLiSH7.
Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the finale of Adventure Time.
The only fanfiction I ever wrote was about Marceline and Princess Bubblegum from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. Unlike a lot of my fellow quiet, nerdy friends, fanfiction was never really my thing. I liked television shows and movies, but reading and writing about characters I liked in different, often unhinged scenarios seemed a little odd.
I have something to confess: I love reality television.
This might not be a huge surprise—reality television is a big market in the United States, often filed under guilty pleasures and the “treat yourself” mentalities we cling to in times of chaos. It gives us comfort and lets us take a break from our brains in a way that no other type of media can.
Editor’s Note: This article references the Toei dub of Dragon Ball Super.
Growing up, I identified with the villains in stories. Characters like Scar from The Lion King, Envy in Fullmetal Alchemist and Loki within the Marvel Universe were some of my favorites in the media I consumed, and the list only grew longer as I got older.
It was a few years before I realized why I gravitated towards the “pretty”, flamboyant villains who frequently wore purple eyeshadow: I was gay and nonbinary, and these were often the only mirrors I had when consuming media. They were characters I could connect to with ease.