The “Rugrats” reboot premieres on Paramount+ on Thursday, featuring one major update to the cast of ankle-biters and their parents. If you ask some fans, however, the show’s creators are merely confirming what viewers have already known for years.
The character Betty DeVille, mother to twins Phil and Lil, is openly gay in the new series. She is even voiced by a queer actor, Natalie Morales.
“Anyone who watched the original show may have had an inkling Betty was a member of the alphabet mafia,” Morales said in a statement to The A.V. Club.
In the beloved Nickelodeon series’ original incarnation (which ran from 1991 to 2004), Betty was animated wearing a sweatband and funky jewelry paired with a baggy purple sweatshirt with the female sign embossed over it. In the 2021 update, she has changed the symbol on the sweatshirt to reflect her zodiac sign, which is Gemini.
Morales explained that the queer representation of her character goes deeper than the astrology shoutout.
“Betty is a single mom with her own business who has twins and still has time to hang out with her friends and her community,” she said. “And I think it’s just so great because examples of living your life happily and healthily as an out queer person is just such a beacon for young queer people who may not have examples of that.”
Media representation is a powerful tool for helping people to learn more about their own identities, something that Morales noted can begin as early as childhood on shows as silly and fun as “Rugrats.”
“And yeah, Betty is a fictional cartoon, but even cartoons were hugely influential for me as a kid and if I’d been watching ‘Rugrats’ and seen Betty casually talking about her ex-girlfriend, I think at least a part of me would have felt like things might be okay in the future.”
The fictional character’s coming out was not the revelation the reboot’s creators thought it would be. Just ask the scores of millennials and “zillennials” weighing in on Twitter.