Netflix’s Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling to Feature a Trans Storyline
The cult 90s cartoon is returning to television.
The 1990s are enjoying quite the revival: Friends is a huge hit on Netflix, FX is making an American Crime Story about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and now Nickelodeon’s beloved cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life is getting its very own reboot on Netflix.
Rocko returns in Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, a 45 minute special that picks up 20 years after the cult series ended, when Rocko, his friends Heffer and Filburt, and his trusty dog Spunky, were launched into space. After 20 years flying around the galaxy, the gang crash lands back in O-Town, only to find that the world has changed in their absence. Rocko and friends must contend with modern technology, while Rocko seeks out his long-canceled favorite show The Fatheads.
This leads to them tracking down Rachel Bighead, the creator of the series and the estranged daughter of Rocko’s neighbors the Bigheads. Rachel was formerly known as Ralph in the series, but has since transitioned.
Series creator Joe Murray said of the storyline, “When I started writing [Static Cling], I really started latching onto the idea of change and how society has changed and what’s gone on in the last 20 years and the development of our characters and how they would react to change … It felt natural, because it was not only about change, about somebody finding who they are and making that courageous choice to go through that change.”
Murray worked closely with GLAAD on the storyline, and Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender representation, said of the film, “Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling tells a beautiful — and hilarious — story about accepting change … The younger characters accept Rachel immediately; recognizing she’s still their friend. And while Rachel’s father is slow to accept change within his own family, even he realizes that loving your child should be unconditional. This story of inclusion and acceptance is so needed in our current climate.”
Static Cling won’t be the first kids program to explore trans representation and gender. Steven Universe received critical acclaim for its queer and trans representation with several characters, most notably Stevonnie. Amazon’s Danger & Eggs also featured a trans character, voiced by trans activist Jazz Jennings.
It’s a fitting addition for Rocko’s Modern Life, which was always an envelope-pushing show that never shied away from deeper themes. Season four’s episode “Closet Clown”, in which Ed Bighead tries to hide his secret identity as a clown, was a thinly veiled storyline about coming out. The series, which aired from 1993-96, was also unafraid to tackle social satire via Conglom-O, a mega corporation that owns the town. The series also featured plenty of adult humor and innuendo, making it one of the 90s edgier cartoons (and paving the way for adult-oriented series on Adult Swim).
Rocko’s Modern Life was a perfectly bizarre little nugget of 90s nostalgia that felt ahead of its time. It will be exciting to see how the series has changed, and whether or not there is still an audience for the adventures of a neurotic little wallaby.
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling hits Netflix August 9th.
(via Entertainment Weekly, image: Netflix)
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