The return of the Nickelodeon children’s cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life will feature a transgender story arc, according to the series creator.
Since his 1990s series went off the air at kid’s network Nickelodeon, creator Joe Murray has now admitted that the original show featuring a clown who hid his clowning profession in a town that hated clowns was an allegory for a gay person’s coming out.
“We were still playing by the rules, so to speak, and still trying to interject those situations,” Murray told Entertainment Weekly.
Now, in the follow-up that will air on Netflix, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling will take a more explicit turn with a new transgender story, Murray says.
The new character, Rachel, will be the daughter of the previous character, Mrs. Bighead. The story will find Rachel estranged from Mrs. Bighead and working in an ice cream truck.
“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,” Murray told EW. “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.”
As the magazine notes, this series is part of a “strong push” to add transgender and gay storylines to G-rated shows in an effort to normalize LGTBQ characters for America’s young audience.
Nickelodeon also became directly involved in encouraging LGBTQ stories by asking the gay advocacy group GLAAD to get involved in the series’ production, the magazine reported.
Still, the show will air on streaming service Netflix instead of Nickelodeon.
“The original idea was that it was gonna be on Nickelodeon,” Murray explained. “I don’t want to second guess what was going on through the minds of Nickelodeon, but they did the Hey, Arnold! special and then the nostalgia aspect, I don’t think they felt like they were hitting as many viewers as they could have with the Hey, Arnold! special and I think that’s when they started saying, ‘I think there’s more viewers out there who maybe don’t watch Nickelodeon anymore. They’re out of the demographic maybe we can find a way of reaching them.’ And that’s when they reached out to Netflix, and Netflix was excited about it, from what I hear.”
Netflix began streaming Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling this week.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.