We all know by now that representation matters. Proper representation and diversity in children’s books, TV shows, and films is proven to have positive effects on those who may feel different or strange, showing them that they are not alone and giving them a character to relate to and see themselves in.
The popular Paw Patrol spin-off show, Rubble & Crew, introduced a non-binary character to the animated cast, highlighting the importance of acceptance and respect for gender diversity to a young audience.
The character, named River, is a skateboarder and photographer who’s new to the town. River was created by nonbinary author and activist, Lindz Amer.
Amer shared the news of River’s arrival to Builder Cove in an Instagram post earlier this month.
“If you’re in the mood for a Saturday Morning Cartoon then YOU SHOULD WATCH MY EPISODE OF RUBBLE & CREW!! It’s officially out in the world and that means I can talk about it!!” they wrote.
“I got to write an episode of Rubble & Crew (the construction spin off series from the Paw Patrol franchise) 👷🚧🔨 They brought me on to consult on the first nonbinary character—meet River!!—for the PP universe and write their episode, talk about a bucket list item.”
They continued, “I wanted to write a nonbinary character that was aspirational and incredibly cool, someone for the pups (and kids at home) to look up to. They found an awesome non-binary actor (@cihang_ma) to voice River and I’m so so happy about how it turned out. Swipe to peep River’s 🏳️⚧️ kicks! 👟Gotta get that pic! 😉🛹📸💫”
While many applauded the progressive move, others were not thrilled with River’s appearance.
The National Catholic Register, for one, is “warning” parents about the character, saying that the “progressive movement” is “trying to destroy the American family.” Cringe much?
“The new character River loves to ride a skateboard and take pictures. The character doesn’t come out articulating words like ‘non-binary’ and touting transgenderism. Terms like these aren’t tangible to children, let alone most of the general public still grappling with the ever-growing LGBTQ acronym,” blogger Alyssa Murphy wrote.
She somehow lands smack dab in the middle of the point while simultaneously missing it all together.
River’s character and identity is incredibly subtle. They do not use any sort of language or actions that would imply they are non-binary — not even “they/them” pronouns are used. The smallest hint of River’s identity lies in the socks and shoes they wear, which are similar to the colors of the trans flag.
It’s all so understated, and yet, the backlash is fierce.
All of Amer’s recent Twitter replies are flooded with tweets from conservatives accusing them of being a pedophile and a groomer.
But transgender activist and journalist Erin Reed got in on the Paw Patrol spin-off controversy in a report on Substack.
Reed explains how much representation for the LGBTQ+ community in media matters, writing: “The Internet and Television Association has observed that over the past two decades, the shift towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals can be largely attributed to positive portrayals on TV.”
“By introducing this level of representation to children’s shows, we foster conversations about embracing differences, ensuring that children begin to cultivate a robust sense of self-worth from a young age,” Reed added.