Revival Special “Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling” Introduces Transgender Character

Nickelodeon has been digging into its vaults over the last few years to try to reap some extra nostalgia dollars off their classic cartoons. Their animated lineup from the 1990s, dubbed Nicktoons, have garnered such warm receptions from their now grownup audience. Nickelodeon has already a revival of “Hey, Arnold” and a special for “Invader Zim” will be hitting Netflix next week but the latest one to debut was a special for “Rocko’s Modern Life.” And fans were in for quite the surprise.

The special centered around the wallaby Rocko trying to revive his favorite 1990s cartoon The Fatheads, leading him on an adventure to seek out the show’s original creator, Ralph Bighead. However, once Rocko and his friends finally find Ralph, he is now the woman Rachel. Rachel being transgender plays a heavy role in the special about learning to accept change and not cling hopelessly to the past.

The show’s creator Joe Murray opened up to Queerty about why he added in Rachel and how it played greatly into the special’s themes about commenting on nostalgia.

“I wrote in the story that the creator of The Fatheads went through a change in the last 20 years, and it felt like a natural progression of character for Rachel to find herself. Since the whole special is about change, it felt like the only way to go. Rachel wanted to make her transition.”

Joe went on to comment that the inclusion of Rachel didn’t come from either Nickelodeon or Netflix but was in his initial script. Though Nickelodeon was hesitant at first, they warmed up to the idea so long as Joe consulted a discrimination organization to make sure his portrayal of a transgender character wasn’t offensive.

Of course, such inclusion has led to some social media criticism, but Murray also opened up about those criticisms.

“Well, the special was about change, so if anyone had any problem with the idea of change in all its forms, they are missing the point. Change happens. It’s the only thing that is for sure. Acceptance of impermanence is part of my Buddhist leanings. But just as Rocko gets upset that Rachel changed The Fatheads, there might be those that say I changed Rocko too much. But I doubt it. The way Rocko is structured, its designed for you to go along for the ride.”

“Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling” is currently streaming on Netflix.