Kenya’s Film Classification Board this month banned a total of six animated cartoons, including Adventure Time and Steven Universe, from airing within the country because they were judged to be “pro-gay.” In a statement defending its action, the KFCB claimed that the shows “are intended to introduce children to deviant behaviour.”
The other banned cartoons are The Loud House, The Legend of Korra, Hey Arnold, Gravity Falls, and Clarence. The shows aired on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network–although some like The Legend of Korra have long since ended their run anyway.
As a report from South Africa’s Channel24 pointed out, in many cases it appears that the KFCB “did a basic desktop Google-search to find possible justification for a ban on the shows.” For instance, KFCB said Hey Arnold got the axe because the main character’s “grandpa had a dick for a head”–a non-canonical bit of trivia that features in the overactive imaginations of nostalgia bloggers.
In the cases of both Gravity Falls and The Legend of Korra, creators revealed only after the shows had completed their runs that some characters were gay or lesbian respectively. The Loud House and Steven Universe, on the other hand, proudly feature LGBTQIA-identified characters–and have already been censored in the past. A same-sex flirtation between Steven Universe’s Ruby and Sapphire was edited out when the show aired in Sweden last year, and an episode of The Loud House that introduced one character’s married dads was not distributed in sub-Saharan Africa by Viacom’s regional subsidiary–meaning that the entire series is now banned in Kenya due to an episode that never aired there in the first place.
Due to the fact that satellite distributors in the region serve multiple countries, the KFCB’s ill-considered decisions will be felt by viewers well outside Kenya’s borders, as Channel24 explained:
Either the whole channel must be completely blocked and be made unavailable in the affected country, or the content deemed offensive on the TV channel must be removed from the linear broadcast schedule.
Since there’s only one similar channel feed for more than one country, this means that the content is taken away not just from viewers in the country affected, but from millions of DStv subscribers right across several African countries….
Channel24 has the complete list of KFCB’s justifications for banning each cartoon, as well as a point-by-point debunking of said justifications.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.