An animated web series launched this week that explores issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens in an unconventional way.
"McTucky Fried High" is the brainchild of filmmaker, illustrator and activist Robert-Carnilius and tackles a range of issues relevant to queer youth. Slated for a five-episode run, the web series will hit topics such as coming out, extreme diets, being genderqueer, bullying and sexting -- all through the use of animated food as characters.
The first episode premiered on Jan. 26 and can be viewed above. The Huffington Post chatted with Robert-Carnilius this week about his vision for the series and what viewers can expect from the remaining four episodes.
The Huffington Post: What is the concept for this series? Who is the target audience? Robert- Carnilius: Simply put, "McTucky Fried High" is an animated comedy following an ensemble of teen foods who navigate sexuality, gender identity and high school politics. Although it's a show everyone can enjoy, it's geared towards teens and young adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning.
How do you aim to combat issues like gender identity, bullying and coming out through this project? While there are a lot of dramas that deal with these issues, there aren't many in animations that do -- especially for teens. Unlike other cartoons and animations where the characters remain the same throughout the series, the characters in McTucky Fried High grow, change, and learn -- well, most of them do anyway. Additionally, each episode focuses on different characters to diversify the topics and points of view we cover. By having dynamic characters and engaging stories, we hope to re-contextualize these issues in a ways that are funny, thought-provoking and easy to digest.
Why is a series like this important? It really hurts and troubles me to see homeless LGBTQ youth and teens driven to suicide by their parents, religion and societal pressures. I was a suicidal and depressed gay teen and I remember having to sneak and watch the two shows that had a token gay character and/or storyline. I guess I was looking for some kind of validation of my existence outside of myself. This was one of many experiences that taught me the importance of healthy visibility and diversity in media.
The sad truth is that while there is more visibility for the L and G in LGBTQ, our presence in media as a diverse and rich community still demands growth reflective of that diversity. I think a series like this is important not only for visibility of LGBTQ teens, but I also think it could be a fun, light-hearted way for parents and teachers to see issues their teens and students may be facing in order to better understand them, communicate with them and help them rather than forcing them to conform to societal norms.
Why do you think the medium you are employing is so crucial to reaching teens today? A lot of cartoons and animated films feature humanoid characters because they're often easier to identify with. These types of characters provide an interesting way for the viewer to engage while being able to provide commentary on human behavior and social constructs and then flip them on their head. Additionally, the ways stories are told is changing. Sometimes a five-second Vine or three-minute YouTube video can be more inspirational and influential than a multi-million dollar blockbuster movie. With this in mind, I felt it was crucial for "McTucky Fried High" to be accessible in both form as well as the format it was presented.
What do you hope viewers will take away from this series? The conversations around the issues "McTucky Fried High" covers are already happening. I hope the series will be another tool towards inclusivity and healthy representation for the LGBTQ community. Along with the brand of humor, animations, characters and stories, I hope viewers are encouraged to be who they are and challenge the status quo. I also hope they are inspired to be ever-active in the fight for equality and justice.
Check out the first episode of "McTucky Fried High" above.