It’s been a month since a popular children’s show featured a character coming out as gay.
It happened on Wizards vs Aliens, a show initially created to fill the gap of the Sarah Jane Adventures after the tragic death of Elisabeth Sladen.
Of course, after this, the show had to come to an end. Russell T Davies apparently had plans for character Luke Smith (played by the rather attractive Tommy Knight) to come out in the show’s future, which would have made him the first openly gay character to ‘come out’ in a kid’s TV show. In such an established and well loved show amongst all ages, this would clearly have been a wonderful storyline. Not only was he due to come out, but a lover was also on the cards. This would have provided an incredible and ‘heroic’ role model for youth across the country.
Whilst I am young enough to remember Sarah Jane, I somehow dragged myself away from watching CBBC before the days of Wizards vs Aliens in 2012 (just about – we all still love a Tracy Beaker marathon every now and then). Because of this, I’m not really down with the kids when it comes to their TV any more.
And then I came across this. Russell T Davies decided to end the latest series of Wizards last month with lead character Benny coming out to his best friend Tom. As someone who has never watched the show, I instantly connected with the character and felt like I’d always been watching it after this scene. In it, we see the lead characters discussing dates and Benny struggling to reveal his sexuality, saying he’s the “equal and opposite” of straight best friend Tom. When Tom doesn’t get what he’s saying, he says “I’ll go on a date one day, just not with a girl.” This is followed by a truly beautiful scene in which Tom reacts positively, asking Benny why he didn’t say before. Benny replies with “It’s the sort of thing you say at the end of the world,” and Tom adds “You can say that sort of thing any day of the week.” Wonderful.
This one scene is going to be huge game changer for kid’s TV. Despite being set in some fantasy land, it was incredibly realistic and perfectly scripted. For the first time ever on kid’s TV, it really teachers youngsters about bravery and acceptance and hits them directly with how okay it is to be LGBT or have LGBT friends. The BBC are doing a truly fabulous job with coming out scenes at the moment and I’m very curious as to how this storyline will play out in the next series.
It has left many fans wondering if we’ll see Benny coming out to his parents on screen. I imagine they’ll cover this very gently and very positively, as featuring homophobia similar to what Johnny Carter is facing from his mother in Eastenders at the moment could easily be detrimental to a young mind. It would give a sense of a realistic possibility, of course, but will provide young gay teens with a proper role model and to look up to and be inspired by in their own journey no matter what. If characters in their favourite shows can be out, why can’t they?
When I was first exploring my sexuality about 7 years ago, I think my main issue was that there just wasn’t anyone for me to look up to and see myself in. I was quite old before my time and have watched soaps for most of my life, but even they didn’t feature characters that I could really relate to. Children’s TV most definitely didn’t feature any openly gay teenage characters. It didn’t feature homophobia either. It didn’t mention anything to do with being gay at all, as far as I can remember. This made the coming out process so much more difficult. Knowing no other gay people in real life and then seeing none on TV is a very real situation for many youngsters. With minds that can be so easily influenced, it makes you feel like an abnormal outcast and gives you no reason to come out and be yourself.
Benny really shows how far we’ve come as a country in the last few years. It’s amazing that we’ve gone from a place where tons of people would complain about gay characters in ‘adult’ shows/soaps to a place where kid’s TV features them. One character might not seem like much and it would be incredible to see a few more appearing soon, but it’s still a huge step forward for the country and hugely influential. There’s such a need for wonderfully talented actors like this at the moment.
It’s not clear whether CBBC received any complaints because of this plot, but if they have, they’ve done well in not mentioning them and fuelling the homophobic fire of those sad enough to think gay stories are wrong. By keeping quiet about any that may have been made, they’re effectively suggesting the complaints are irrelevant. And they are. Every parent and friend should be able to accept and love someone for who they are and every teen should be able to come out without fear. I’m confident that with the amount of coverage the beeb are giving the LGBT character at the moment, along with the first gay marriages this year, 2014 will be a great year for people lacking confidence to finally come out.