In the Netflix revival of 90’s cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, a trans character plays a prominent role.
And viewers are loving her.
The show follows Rocko — a neurotic wallaby — and his friends Filburt and Heffer as they try to navigate O-Town after spending 20 years in space. They grapple with smart technology and other changes, but Rocko finds himself unable to cope with the fact that his favorite TV show, The Fatheads, has been cancelled. So, he goes on a journey to find the show’s creator, the the long-missing Ralph Bighead.
What Rocko and his friends discover is that Ralph has transitioned to a woman named Rachel and that she has been living alone while she explores her identity.
Series creator Joe Murray has been working with GLAAD on writing the character of Rachel and her storyline since 2016. He explained:
“When I started writing, 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 out who they are and making that courageous choice to go through that chance.”
Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender representation, told Entertainment Weekly that the narrative of “inclusion and acceptance is so needed in our current climate.”
#RockosModernLife will feature a trans character, and our director of transgender representation @NickGAdams worked with @Nickelodeon and @netflix to help them get it right: "This story of inclusion and acceptance is so needed in our current climate.”https://t.co/CGFXcjwFxn
— GLAAD (@glaad) August 7, 2019
“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.”
Social media users were excited about seeing further trans inclusivity and responded positively to Rachel and her story.
#RockosModernLife has a trans character?
We… can't stop screaming.https://t.co/wCju1vz25K
— National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) August 9, 2019
“Growing up, my family would quote the Wacky Deli episode of Rocko’s Modern Life endlessly. It was also my introduction to the concept of TV animation as a job I could have. Seeing that character living happily as herself while I live happily as me, in that industry, is pretty rad.”
Growing up, my family would quote the Wacky Deli episode of Rocko’s Modern Life endlessly. It was also my introduction to the concept of TV animation as a job I could have. Seeing that character living happily as herself while I live happily as me, in that industry, is pretty rad pic.twitter.com/RlFHp1fl5s
— Sam King (@SamanthaCKing) August 10, 2019
@ the trans frog in rocko's modern life pic.twitter.com/wbvWDbeoyC
— Sib (@sibblank) August 7, 2019
I can’t believe no one has mentioned that the new Rocko’s Modern Life Netflix special has a trans character that is actually respected and not used as some cheap “funny” gag. pic.twitter.com/jCnMfNwyCS
— Nima Ayagh (@AyaghNima) August 13, 2019
I'm not saying the new Rocko's Modern Life Static Cling special is perfect or anything but
[ spoilers ]
Wow this is special to see from a cartoon I grew up with ? pic.twitter.com/U8Mbenkv0E
— Good Girl Energy (@Azure_Husky) August 11, 2019
Broke: Buying into the nostalgia for Earth Worm Jim even though Doug TenNapel is a huge fucking Transphobe.
Woke: Rocko's Modern Life creator Joe Murray working with GLAAD to introduce and write a Trans positive story.
— ?R U T H? (@Fatdragonfiesta) August 9, 2019
Of course, some folks were angry about Rachel’s transition, but Twitter was ready for them.
“To the people angry that Rocko’s Modern Life ‘turned Ralph transgender’… This is how it works! Trans people often have an established life before transition and the people who know them are shocked by it! Rachel wasn’t ‘turned’ trans just like real life trans people aren’t!”
To the people angry that Rocko's Modern Life "turned Ralph transgender"…
This is how it works! Trans people often have an established life before transition and the people who know them are shocked by it! Rachel wasn't "turned" trans just like real life trans people aren't!
— Faith Naff ?️??️⚧️?? (@FaithNaff) August 10, 2019
really not looking foward to the “not my rocko” anti-sjw screeching because one of the frog characters in the new movie is trans. rockos modern life was always comedic commentary about… modern life. also frogs can change sex so its p clever & cute. please do not.
— shoe (@shoe0nhead) August 10, 2019
Trans visibility on TV is still quite low — but it’s improving. In 2018 GLAAD noted that there were 26 regular and recurring transgender characters tracked across broadcast and cable networks and streaming services — up from 17 in 2017. Here’s hoping we see more stories like Rachel’s in the future.