At Huffington Post Gay Voices, we're big fans of children's programming that exposes kids to LGBT identities in casual and fun settings.
Now, another web series is accomplishing this, with the aim of teaching kids tolerance. Called "Robbie The Space Racoon," this is a web series for kids aged 3-7 that focuses on progressive topics within the realm of humanism and feminism. In a recent episode, the show revealed that one character, Roy the Space Cowboy, has a boyfriend.
The Huffington Post chatted with series creator Ryan Lichtenstein about his decision to make one of these characters gay and how we can help end homophobia, racism and sexism by educating kids from an early age.
The Huffington Post: What is the concept for "Robbie The Space Raccoon?"
Ryan Lichtenstein: "Robbie the Space Raccoon" is a show about Robbie, a 7-year-old raccoon girl, who was chosen by the Creatures and Animals Space Administration (a subset of NASA) to travel through the universe on a space ship powered by imagination in order to better understand how animals learn in space. She’s joined by her human and robot crew including:
a. Doctor Sarah Doctor MD.VM.DS. (played by Kristen Henley) -- She’s the ship’s resident doctor/vet/dentist/over-achiever. She takes the role of Robbie’s adoptive space mother. She’s delightfully quirky.
b. Engineer Bianca Reynolds (Quincy Cho) -- The ship’s mechanic and engineer. She takes the role of Robbie’s cool aunt/older sister. She can fix just about anything with bubble gum and paper clips.
c. Roy the Space Cowboy (Greg D. Barnett) -- He’s the ship’s cook and cowhand. He’s from the planet Texas and has a boyfriend named Steve. Steve is a crew member on the Long Distance Relation Ship. Roy just joined the crew, but he and Robbie are already good friends.
d. Sleep Robot (Katie Willert) -- Humanoid robot that helps the crew sleep using her sleep ray or her mouth-mounted white noise machine. She doesn’t quite grasp how human emotions work. She and Robbie learn how to deal with feelings together.
e. Captain Bosco (Ryan Lichtenstein) -- The ship’s captain and pilot. He’s trying to find his brother that he lost in a wormhole years ago. He’s a buffoonish sitcom dad that knows how to operate expensive spacecraft.
f. Robbie The Space Raccoon (voiced by Valerie Vasilas and puppeteered by Susie Shircliff) -- Robbie, short for Robyn, powers the ship with her imagination. The show revolves around her learning life lessons through trial and error.
The show's thesis is that imagination is the most powerful force in the universe.
Why did you decide to include LGBT representation within this kid's program?
I included LGBT characters because I thought it was weird no one was accurately depicting children’s lives. Kids grow up in a world where LGBT people are allowed to raise them. LGBT people are allowed to teach them. LGBT people are allowed to be on TV for adults. Children should have media that accurately represents their lives beyond the heteronormative movies and television currently made for them. Kid books are doing a good job of bridging these issues, but with visual media, anyone can understand it.
Why is it important to you to change the world through kid-friendly videos about tolerance?
I’m a cisgender, hetero white dude from an upper middle class background. I’m the cuddly mascot of privilege. I can choose to be an aloof jerk that drives a moderately priced sedan, or I can try to do good with my life. I choose good. We make these for whatever balance is left on my Discover Card (not much). I think a lot of the world’s problems can be solved if we teach kids the right things from a young age. Homophobia, racism and sexism are taught. I can undermine that. The great thing about YouTube is the worldwide reach it has. I can show people being tolerant in places like Russia and Uganda. We’ve actually gotten a few views from Russia.
Check out the episode "Homesick" above or head here to see more "Robbie The Space Raccoon."