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Rocko’s Modern Life Netflix special will feature a trans storyline

The special explores change on all levels

Three anthropomorphic animals — a wallaby, a cow, and a turtle — stand on a sandy background. They are Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt of Rocko’s Modern Life. The outline of someone’s face and hair can be seen in the right corner of the screen. Netflix

The upcoming Netflix special Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling will not only end the series’ decades-long hiatus, but will also prominently feature a trans storyline, Entertainment Weekly reports. The storyline will be explored through the character of Rachel, the creator of Rocko’s favorite television program.

The special follows the adventures of Rocko and his friends Filburt and Heffer after they return to Earth after 20 years floating around in space. They have to grapple not only with new technology, but also with the reality that everything around them has changed, from their friends to their favorite TV programs.

In a quest to get his favorite TV show, The Fatheads, back on the air, Rocko attempts to track down Rachel (who was known as Ralph in the original series) after her parents lost track of her when she set out on a journey of self-discovery. He finds her living out of a Fatheads-inspired ice cream truck and tries to persuade her to return to O-Town.

“When I started writing [Static Cling], 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,” series creator Joe Murray, who voices Rachel, told EW. “It felt natural, because it was not only about change, about somebody finding who they are and making that courageous choice to go through that change.”

In writing the storyline, Murray was clear that he didn’t want it to be watered down. Rocko’s Modern Life was never one to shy away from inserting commentary, but in the ’90s had to do it in more understated ways. In one episode that was clearly a coming out allegory, a character had to hide his identity as a clown from a town of ... clown-haters. Times have changed, and Nick Adams, GLAAD’s director of transgender representation who consulted on the show, described Rachel’s storyline as both “beautiful” and “hilarious.”

The inclusion of a trans character in an all-ages series is notable given the current field of LGBTQ representation in kids programming. With series like Steven Universe and Andi Mack leading the charge, there’s been a steady increase in queer characters in kids shows over the past several years. However, there are still few transgender characters in kids shows, with the most prominent examples being Steven Universe’s Stevonnie, who is canonically nonbinary and intersex, and Amazon’s Danger & Eggs, which has since been canceled but featured a trans character voiced by trans activist Jazz Jennings.

Static Cling was originally supposed to air on Nickelodeon, which Murray says was supportive of the new storyline. It wouldn’t have been the first LGBTQ-inclusive program for the network — Nickelodeon series The Loud House includes multiple queer characters and was nominated for a GLAAD media award. However, the network sold the rights to both Static Cling and fellow revival Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus to Netflix in May.

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling hits Netflix on Aug. 9.

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