Pride month’s come and gone but, who cares! It’s always prime time to watch queer-themed TV. Round up the end of your 2022 with some wholesome (and maybe not so wholesome) animated shows!
Adventure Time (2010-18), Cartoon Network
Adventure time does not only have queer characters like Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen, but it also has a wide range of queer subtext, particularly around ways of recognising other forms of kinship, shaped through community and friendship. The show also portrays the nuances of being a hero as as something beyond mere supreme power and courage all the time, and takes its time to offer lessons in consent, trust, and caring for others. The creators had to wait almost a decade to showcase a same-sex kiss between two of its characters, but the follow-up series explored more of its queer nuances.
Steven Universe (2013-19), Cartoon Network
Probably the best show on this list, Steven Universe deals with themes of intergenerational trauma, chosen family, love, colonisation, mental health, and identity. It does this through the coming-of-age story of Steven, a young person who’s comfortable with both their masculinity and femininity. There are lesbian couples, queer romances, queer songs to dance to, and Rebecca Sugar’s vision for the show is so phenomenal that people of every age will love this show absolutely. Moreover, there’s a follow-up show and a movie! Which are equally awesome. It even features a queer wedding, complete with songs and dramatic entrances of family members!
Banana Fish (2018)
Banana Fish (one of the only two anime on this list) is perhaps the darkest show on this list, owing to its exploration of themes of crime and sexuality, but it also points to the precarity of queer lives and how people – and men specifically – in power abuse their authority to further oppress and marginalise others. The heart of the show is a budding romance between Ash and Eji, two young boys with vastly different upbringings and backgrounds, who still find a common space to grow and heal with each other.
The Dragon Prince (2018 – present), Netflix
Set in the fantasy world of the continent of Xaldia, The Dragon Prince served as an atonement of Netflix’s treatment of its queer characters in the past. It’s a leading show with diversity among queer characters but isn’t necessarily progressive, yet, at the same time, puts forward progressive messages.
The Legend of Korra (2012-14), Nicklodeon
A spin-off to Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra changed the landscape for queer representation in animated shows, particularly for shows aimed at children and teens. It’s also one of the first shows to cement a same-sex relationship as part of its leading story.
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes (2017-19), Cartoon Network
Another groundbreaking show which features a queer wedding, the show is based on Jones-Quartey’s pilot Lakewood Plaza Turbo.
She-Ra and The Princess of Power (2018-20), Netflix
For a series whose way was paved by Steven Universe and whose finale has been dubbed as “the gay agenda”, She-Ra and the Princess of Power is absolutely queer in every aspect imaginable. Adding to this, the show’s team also had a number of queer, trans, and non-binary members.
The Owl House (2020 – present), Disney Channel
Perhaps, the bravest step that Disney has taken in queer representation, this animated show features the network’s first transgender or non-binary character. However, its run has been controversial to say the least.
Craig of The Creek (2018 – present), Cartoon Network
This Cartoon Network Show cemented the network as one of the leading platforms for queer narratives through its diverse cast and a record number of non-binary characters, following in the footsteps of Steven Universe.
Sailor Moon (1992-97), ABC
The oldest show on this list, it portrayed a same-sex romance in the 90s. However, under heavy censorship, the homosexual characters’ genders were changed, and the same-sex romance of Uranus of Neptune was bitterly boiled down to close cousins in the English dub.
Castlevania (2017-21), Netflix
Riding the success of the massively popular video game franchise, Castlevania gave us another iconic queer vampire character after Marceline from Adventure Time. Alucard is sexy, charming, great with words and swords, and is overall a queer, angsty icon with daddy issues.
Baymax (2022 – present), Disney+
Everyone’s favourite hugger is back and has been already highlighted as delightful reintroduction to the Big Hero 6 franchise. Baymax marks a rare moment for Disney, for its representation of queer characters not steeped in conservative notions of morality and ‘family-friendliness.’
Disenchantment (2018 – present), Netflix
Another Netflix show with elements of fantasy which has a bunch of queer characters and narratives which should get all queer audiences excited.
Arcane (2021-present), Netflix
While Arcane is one of the standout shows of 2021, it also features a cute and adventurous queer romance between two of its leading women, which had every queer person shipping them hard.
Dead End: Paranormal Park (2022 – present), Netflix
Another Netflix addition, this animated series has been called “delightfully queer” and is particularly noted for its racially, gender, and sexuality-diverse cast. Also, it’s a great example of what happens when we give queer creators the freedom and the resources to create art.
Bojack Horseman (2014-20), Netflix
While Bojack Horseman is known more for dealing with themes around mental health which are darker in nature than other animated shows, its peculiar representation of asexuality has struck a chord with the audience who absolutely love it and relate to it. Particularly, the supporting character Todd’s sexuality, which doesn’t define his whole life but does impact the way he sees the world, which is a fresh take that doesn’t delve into stereotypes about the queer community.
Bigmouth (2017 – present), Netflix
Although it made a few missteps at first, it actually improved on it’s representation of queer adolescence, which marked a shifting resonance with the audience.
Spongebob Square Pants (1999 – present), Nickelodeon
A queer sponge living in a pineapple house next to his friends and neighbours who are also family is the gayest thing. But when Spongebob finally came out in 2020 and marked the iconic Nickelodeon character as canonically queer, that was a moment of celebration all over the world.
Harley Quinn (2019 – present), HBO Max
I mean, Harley Quinn romances Poison Ivy in this adult comedy dark superhero television and is there anything else we can ask for? Moreover, their relationship has been described as a slow burn that only grows more in intensity and warmth over the episodes. Another major strongpoint was that the show defined the notion of ‘queerbaiting’ through centering of authentic queer narratives.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (2020), Netflix
Another watershed moment for queer representation in media targeted at children, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts extends the conversation around being superhero and queer.
Honorable Mentions: Netflix’s Q-Force (2021) was a fun show as well, but it received mixed to negative reviews because it played into stereotypes that the community is trying to fight, and was subsequently canceled. TNX’s Pokemon (1997 – present) is also queer thanks to icons Jesse and James, however, it’s the queer pokemons that steal the show. Lastly, Alex Hirsch’s Gravity Falls (2018-20) is also a fantastical, critically acclaimed show with multi-generational appeal and some storylines featuring queer characters.
Which other queer animated shows we missed? Tell us in the comments!