‘Peppa Pig’ is among the world’s most famous animated piggies, perhaps best known for her salty phone hang-ups, viral meme status and British accent — one that’s led to American kids speaking and acting like her majesty the queen herself.
But these days her show is making waves for another reason. Since bursting onto screens in 2004, the hit cartoon show introduced its first same-sex couple in an episode titled “Families” that aired Tuesday on Channel 5 in Britain.
Named Mummy Polar Bear and Doctor Polar Bear, the — you guessed it — polar bear couple is introduced when their daughter, Penny, crafts a drawing of the happy family holding hands.
“I live with my mummy and my other mummy. One mummy is a doctor and one mummy cooks spaghetti. I love spaghetti,” Penny says in the episode.
A scene then appears of the three, sitting at a table and slurping noodles. Doctor Polar Bear wears a stethoscope — yes, even at home. Meanwhile, Mummy Polar Bear is clad in a red dress and has the same round, black glasses as Penny.
Though this is the first time their relationship status is directly referenced on the show, the two elder polar bears have made previous appearances.
Doctor Polar Bear was introduced last year in an episode in which Peppa Pig has her yearly health check and hears her heart go “thumpy-dum-thumpy-dum-thumpy-dum.” The whole family is shown in a later episode where Peppa throws a massive party for her pet goldfish.
There’s a brief scene of the two telling Penny to “have a lovely time” while dropping her off — but though one can certainly guess about the relationship, the fact that they’re a couple isn’t addressed.
The award-winning children’s show has been criticized in recent years for not portraying the realities of different families — and instead centering on Peppa’s four-member nuclear family. In 2019, a petition that has since garnered close to 24,000 signatures demanded the inclusion of a same-sex parent family.
“Children watching Peppa Pig are at an impressionable age, and excluding same-sex families will teach them that only families with either a single parent or two parents of different sexes are normal,” the online petition reads.
The popular children’s show is hardly the first to portray same-sex characters. Other examples include Mr. Ratburn and his husband on “Arthur” and lesbian couples in “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” and “Doc McStuffins.”
Still, news of the polar bear moms quickly led to an online discussion, and Peppa Pig began trending on Twitter. Opinions ranged from praise to disapproval to utter bafflement about the buzz.
Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at LGBT rights charity Stonewall, told the BBC that including the polar bears was “fantastic.”
“Many of those who watch the show will have two mums or two dads themselves and it will mean a lot to parents and children that their experiences are being represented on such an iconic children’s [program],” he told the outlet.
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Eric Rosswood, author of “The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads,” thanked the show’s creators on Twitter. “How cool is this?! … Our daughter loves this show and it’s great to see representation.”
Some users hailed “Queen of pop Peppa Pig [for] always advancing LGBTQ rights.” But others accused the show of “going woke” or attempting “box ticking.”
Author Nick Buckley called it “the end of the Peppa Pig phenomenon” in a tweet. “What a shame,” he added.
The online discourse closely mirrored tensions over LGBTQ representation in other child-focused media. A cinema in Oklahoma airing “Lightyear,” Pixar’s “Toy Story” spinoff, posted a warning sign in June about a kissing scene between two lesbian characters.
That month, the same movie was banned from playing in over a dozen Muslim-majority nations. In the United States, clashes have also played out in schools over LGBTQ content in books.
Though Britain’s new prime minister has not yet weighed in on the polar bear debate, Boris Johnson once heaped praise on the show and the theme parks it inspired — even after noting Peppa resembled “a Picasso-like” hair styling tool.
“Who would have believed that a pig that looks like a hair dryer … would now be exported to 180 countries with theme parks both in America and China, as well as in the [United Kingdom]?” Johnson said in last year’s Confederation of British Industry conference.
“I think that is pure genius — don’t you, Peppa Pig?” the prime minister added.