Top 50 LGBTQ TV Characters: The Honorable Mentions
Being a gay adult means that I’m now equipped to reevaluate the media of my youth, a time period of my life wherein I was convinced I was as straight as the hosts of American Gladiators because I didn’t even know being gay was an option (but I really should’ve after spending so much time watching gladiator-themed content).
But that’s the whole point! Now that we’re fully aware of the wide spectrum of sexuality and gender expression, we can go back and reclaim the all-ages characters of our youth as queer icons of our present. Bert and Ernie, Peppermint Patty and Marcie, Velma, Ursula, Snagglepuss-icons, one and all! And now thanks to Hulu, I’ve unearthed a pillar of my own gay identity: Templeton from Charlotte’s Web.
That trash rat is a gay icon and I am here to sing his praise! Templeton was a subliminal role model for every gay guy that grew up in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s (Charlotte’s Web had a long lifespan on home video).
We didn’t know it at the time, but we were watching (or rather listening) to a gay icon at work, inserting a whole lot of queer sass into a story that… okay, actually has a lot of queer overtones? Seriously, the farmers have no use for the runt pig until he starts stunting and his team crafts an uplifting message of self-love to bolster his image. Wilbur is every Instagram gay clawing his way fame via a carefully crafted public persona. Why must he be radiant and terrific in order to exist? Why can’t the pig just live?!
It’s clear that Templeton’s a gay icon from the moment he speaks, as he’s voiced by the legendary Paul Lynde. As RuPaul exists today the hardworking life of the party, so did Paul Lynde 45 years ago… except Lynde wasn’t allowed to actually be gay. He had to have that voice and that wit but couldn’t be open about his identity. Being an exemplary gay essentially paid his bills, but he still had to have a TV wife on his short-lived chat avenue sitcom.
Even though Lynde was as closeted as Templeton, he still infused his snarky barnyard critter with so much big gay energy that I have no choice but to add him to the queer cartoon character pantheon. Let us count the ways!
Templeton is resourceful AF and turns trash into treasure (and also into dinner). He thrives on the scraps society leaves behind and uses his cunning to get what he wants.
He has a healthy back-and-forth with Spider Debbie Reynolds, which is what so many gay man born in the 20th century wanted for themselves at one point or another. He carves out a truly, uniquely gay role for himself in the movie’s plot, as Charlotte sends him foraging through trash in order to find the right words to weave over Wilbur’s head. Like, Templeton is essentially working in public relations and social media marketing a solid 40 years before influencer culture happened!
But seriously, he proudly proclaims that he prefers to spend his time “spying, hiding, and eating” which, honey, if that doesn’t describe every gay man over 30…!
The most sobering point of comparison comes at the end of the film, though, when we Templeton re-emerges with a partner (presumably female because this was 1973) and four babies. But just like so many gay men of the era, even Lynde’s own character in The Paul Lynde Show, Templeton got himself a beard in order to scrape by in a society built to otherwise exclude him. I hate that Templeton has to play the game, but at least he’s playing to win.
Nowadays, though, there’s no reason to keep Templeton in the closet. This rat is ready to represent for all the trash-loving gays who come up with quips that make heads turn. I salute you, Templeton, you gay icon and fearless rat qween.