In the aftermath of Arthur's same-sex wedding episode with Mr. Ratburn, a moment that shed more light on the lack of LGBTQ visibility in G-rated entertainment, Hulu announced a significant push for more inclusive-storytelling.
This June, the streaming platform will debut the first five episodes of a new kids cartoon called The Bravest Knight, which will be among the first children’s television programs to feature an openly gay main character. Thirteen episodes in total were ordered.
Based on Daniel Errico’s kids book The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, the series features Sir Cedric (voiced by Grey’s Anatomy alum T.R. Knight), his husband Prince Andrew (Star Trek: Discovery's Wilson Cruz), their 10-year-old daughter Nia (A Wrinkle in Time's Storm Reid), and the troll Grunt (Saturday Night Live vet Bobby Moynihan).
The story follows Nia’s journey to become a brave knight while listening to tales from her dad, Sir Cedric, of how he was once a pumpkin farmer who became a knight.
In the first episode, titled "Cedric & the Troll," Nia learns "the proper ways to attempt a tower rescue," while "Sir Cedric recounts the first time he met his troll friend, Grunt, and escaped the clutches of a tricky witch."
The first five episodes will premiere on Hulu this June 21 with a voice cast that also includes RuPaul, Christine Baranski, Wanda Sykes, Teri Polo, Steven Weber, Donna Murphy, AJ McLean, Dot-Marie Jones, Maz Jobrani, and Chance Hurstfield.
Grammy nominee and activist Justin Tranter wrote and performed the theme song to The Bravest Knight.
In terms of LGBTQ visibility in kids programming, Rebecca Sugar, the GLAAD Award winner behind Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, once emphasized the importance of this kind of visibility for LGBTQ youth.
"We need to let children know that they belong in this world," she previously told EW. "You can't wait to tell them that until after they grow up or the damage will be done. You have to tell them while they're still children that they deserve love and that they deserve support and that people will be excited to hear their story. When you don't show any children stories about LGBTQIA characters and then they grow up, they're not going to tell their own stories because they're gonna think that they're inappropriate and they're going to have a very good reason to think that because they've been told that through their entire childhood."
The conversation around this lack of representation came to light again when the season 22 premiere of Arthur revealed Mr. Ratburn to be gay with a wedding between the character and his partner. Alabama Public Television refused to air the episode, deeming it "a violation of trust" between the station and parents.
"Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children's programs that entertain, educate and inspire," APT's Director of Programming Mike Mckenzie said. "More importantly - although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards - parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the 'target' audience for Arthur also watch the program."
As GLAAD pointed out in its annual report card that tracks LGBTQ characters in major studio films, the animated and family-oriented movies aren’t much better: zero characters were counted among the genre from the 2018 calendar.
Streaming destinations, like Hulu and Netflix, are becoming more accommodating platforms for LGBTQ visibility, given the nature of their more private subscription-based services.
According to Hulu, "The Bravest Knight continues Hulu's commitment to connecting with kids and families through bold approaches in storytelling, and continues to be a supporter of LGBTQ content and creators."