Sonic the Hedgehog has always been a goofy cartoon animal with a penchant for ’tude. But with his leap from video game protagonist to video game protagonist and star of a pair of extremely popular films, we’re seeing how his fast-moving persona can affect people.
In a live show for the Dead Eyes podcast (where comedian Connor Ratliff tries to figure out why Tom Hanks fired him from Band of Brothers), Nicole Byer appeared on stage with fellow comedian Ben Schwartz, the movie voice for Sonic.
Byer, in a joking but sincere way, talked about how the Sonic movies made her cry multiple times. Not necessarily because of the plot, but because Sonic made her — someone with ADHD — feel seen.
“Sometimes I feel like I move too fast to make real connections,” said Byer. “And I just love that Sonic wanted a friend and got a friend, and now I’m crying now. I love Sonic.”
Schwartz then proceeded to talk to Byer in character, telling her about how he wants to go fast just like she does. And how his friendship to Tom — also known as The Donut Lord — gives him someone to just be himself around.
Happy Birthday #Sonic! You've come a long way since I played you on the Fernandez's Genesis in 1991! I'm so proud to be a part of your history. To celebrate, here's a clip from @connorratliff's Dead Eyes Live show where we found out @nicolebyer is an enormous Sonic fan. pic.twitter.com/8hxfN6kbZI— Ben Schwartz (@rejectedjokes) June 23, 2022
The entire clip (posted by Schwartz on Twitter) is shockingly sweet for being a panel of comedians talking about a fake, blue rodent with superpowers. But it serves as a powerful reminder of what characters like Sonic can mean to people.
Sonic doesn’t necessarily have ADHD in the movies, but it’s easy to make the comparison if you’ve ever known someone with ADHD — or, like in Byer’s case, you have it yourself. Seeing not only what Sonic is able to accomplish in spite of his high-energy “gotta go fast mentality,” but also because of it, makes for powerful on-screen representation.
What’s even better is that these movies are aimed at kids — kids at the age where they’re potentially getting in trouble for being “overactive” already. And what Sonic does is give them a character to whom they can relate and make a connection. He gives them hope and acknowledges that not only are they not alone, but that they’re also not broken.
Dismissing characters like Sonic or other fictional cartoons is an easy mistake to make. But these characters matter because they act and sound like real people. And their popularity can help validate those who’re constantly told by teachers, co-workers, or even family members to be less “animated.”