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Billy Eichner Is Also Tired of Gay Characters Being a “Mystery” in Children’s Entertainment

He doesn't care about whether Bert and Ernie are gay.

billy eichner

Billy Eicher, who’s bringing a new and equally manic version of Timon to life in Disney’s The Lion King, is just as tired of searching for queer representation in children’s media as we are. The actor, while speaking to Buzzfeed, shared thoughts on children’s media and how it is sorely lacking in out gay characters.

“Gay people always had to sort of search for the closeted gay character, because there were no openly gay characters, and we were so thirsty for them. I would love to see a world where we don’t have to argue about, you know, whether what’s his name in Beauty and the Beast is gay or not. I don’t want it to be subtle or a question mark. It just should be gay,” he said.

“I’m not saying that character’s gay, but in the new movies that are made, there should just be existing openly LGBT characters so that we don’t have to keep arguing about Bert and Ernie,” he added. “I don’t care if Bert and Ernie are gay. I want to see actual gay people that are not a mystery. The way to move on from all those debates is to just create openly gay characters in children’s programming and family entertainment. I think we’re on the verge of that. You’re starting to see it happening.”

Eicher is expressing a lot of the frustration that gay viewers have with the lack of representation in an absolutely perfect way. There shouldn’t be a question mark about representation, because then it becomes too easy for someone to deny that it exists, or say it’s up to interpretation. We need textual representation that is completely, 100% baked into the text and clear to audiences who don’t read interviews.

Yes, this includes blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. The mom couple in Toy Story 4 was barely noticed prior to One Million Moms making a fuss about them. LeFou’s “exclusively gay moment” (don’t even get me started), in the live-action Beauty and the Beast, is a barely-there moment that doesn’t register amidst the flurry of the ending. Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie might be gay, but as Eichner says, we don’t care if they are, because we deserve actual queer characters who are not up for debate.

It’s important to make queer characters stand out, because if it’s subtle or left up to the audience to decide, then it’s easier to deny. Homophobes can say, “Nope, that didn’t happen.” Subtlety might be great in some forms of filmmaking, but when it comes to queer representation, it’s the coward’s way out in 2019. We’ve come far enough that we should be able to see a gay character in a children’s movie who is out, and not just a tease.

Homophobia isn’t subtle. Straight characters in children’s media aren’t subtle, either. The cartoon lions kiss in The Lion King, after all, so why can’t we have queer characters who exist just as plainly in children’s media? I guarantee that it won’t ruin any childhoods. It might just make childhood easier for kids who are questioning their sexuality, in fact.

Anyway, this is another reason in a whole line of reasons to love Eichner. Children’s media needs more LGBTQ+ representation, and it’s important that Eichner is using his platform, as an out actor in a Disney film, to address how we need more queer characters in kids’ media.

(via Buzzfeed, image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.