Most gay children probably don’t realize they’re gay, but if they’re anything like I was at age 5-14, they knew exactly what kinds of TV they cared about. And for those of us who came of age in the ’90s, Nickelodeon was truly the ne plus ultra of kid programming. The orange-splashed network routinely featured characters who were self-possessed, unashamed, and totally weird. That’s the gay kid hallmark right there. Join us as we revisit nine particular characters who thrilled me and many others during the glorious ’90s.
Angelica Pickles from Rugrats
The bossiest brat in the playpen happened to be the funniest female cartoon character to appear on TV, let alone Nickelodeon, in years. When three-year-old tantrum expert Angelica debuted on Rugrats in 1991, she reclaimed Lucy Van Pelt’s callous humor for little kids everywhere. She was both diabolical and insufferable, and what self-respecting gay child can’t relate to that?
Shelby Woo from The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo
While I enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown books and applauded the titular gumshoe’s platonic relationship with his partner Sally, I really loved Nickelodeon’s underrated whodunit series The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo for its intrigue, solvable cases, and no-nonsense heroine who wore overalls. Shelby was a nosy intern at a detective agency who always volunteered to help her boss Detective Heinlein on tough cases, and she was both smart and clumsy, thereby making her the ultimate outsider. Perhaps best of all, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo was one of the only shows of the ’90s, along with Margaret Cho‘s All American Girl, to feature an Asian-American lead actress (Irene Ng).
Judy Funnie from Doug
Doug was a coming-of-age cartoon series that every kid knew and loved in the early ’90s, but it took a rare breed of homosexual half-pint to appreciate the teenage pretension of Doug’s sister Judy. She forced her family to pull over during a road trip so she could visit “Blithe Field,” an area where one of Judy’s favorite poets found her muse. She wore sunglasses inside, scoffed at everything, and boasted the middle name “Anastasia.” She growled, “Mother!” to her mother. Doug, move over: Time for a series where Judy speechifies every episode and calls everyone bourgeois a hundred times.
Eliza Thornberry from The Wild Thornberries
Just as Tomb Raider became popular, Nickelodeon unleashed a brace-faced adventurer who, with her documentarian parents, explored African jungles, wildlife, and rivers. Eliza, the Lacey Chabert-voiced heroine, could even talk to animals. While Eliza isn’t as brassy as the other dames listed so far, she was real enough to adore. And who wouldn’t love the offspring of a red-haired whackjob voiced by Tim Curry?
Brad from Hey Dude
To this day, I’ve never heard of another female Brad, and that’s what makes the sneering character on the Bar None ranch all the more special. She didn’t tolerate loser lovermen like Ted, and she always looked fantastic. Mr. Ernst, give this eye-rolling broad a raise!
Danielle Atron from The Secret World of Alex Mack
Just a refresher: The Secret World of Alex Mack is a about girl who gets doused accidentally with a chemical called GC-161, and soon she founds out she can turn her body into water and move objects telekinetically. It’s crazy. But crazier yet is Alex Mack’s nefarious adversary Danielle, a woman who runs the plant that made the chemical. Danielle Atron is the beginner’s introduction to Sigourney Weaver‘s character Katherine Parker from Working Girl. Evil, in control, and clad in a vermilion blazer. Perfectly bad.