The Nickelodeon classic Rocko’s Modern Life will be making a return on Netflix via a forty-five-minute special this week titled, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling. The show’s special will not only bring back the old gang within the Rocko world, but will introduce an existing character as transgender.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, series creator Joe Murray confirmed that the character of Ralph, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Bighead from the original show, will have a major trans arc and will now be referred to as Rachel.
Fans of the classic show will remember Ralph as the son of Rocko’s neighbors, the Bigheads. The relationship between the child and parents was the focus of a few episodes with Ralph. In episode 14 “I Have No Son!,” we are introduced to Ralph, who is estranged from his father due to the pursuit of his passion for writing. In that episode, Rocko finds out that Ralph is the creator of his favorite show “The Fatheads.”
This is key because in Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, both Ralph, now Rachel, and the show “The Fatheads” are key plot points to the special. Rocko’s friends Filburt and Heffer have been flying around in space for the last 20 years. When they finally return to Earth they notice there has been quite a bit of changes. One of the big changes is that “The Fatheads” is no longer on air. Rocko will seek out Rachel, who is working in a Fatheads-inspired ice cream truck in order to get the show back on the air.
Murray told EW:
“When I started writing [Static Cling], I really started latching onto the idea of change and how society has changed and what’s gone on in the last 20 years and the development of our characters and how they would react to change. It felt natural, because it was not only about change, about somebody finding who they are and making that courageous choice to go through that change.”
Murray detailed that he wanted to ensure the story would not be “watered down” after Nickelodeon approached him about returning to Rocko:
“It has to be the story that I want to do and not watered down. I was concerned about that. I wanted it to be as strong as the show and as much satire and as much social commentary as we could do in the times that we live in now.”
As to why the show will appear on Netflix instead of Nickelodeon Murray believed it had to do with reaching viewers who might not watch Nickelodeon anymore.
“The original idea was that it was gonna be on Nickelodeon. I don’t want to second guess what was going on through the minds of Nickelodeon, but they did the Hey, Arnold! special and then the nostalgia aspect, I don’t think they felt like they were hitting as many viewers as they could have with the Hey, Arnold! special [in 2017] and I think that’s when they started saying, ‘I think there’s more viewers out there who maybe don’t watch Nickelodeon anymore. They’re out of the demographic, maybe we can find a way of reaching them.’ And that’s when they reached out to Netflix, and Netflix was excited about it, from what I hear.”
EW also revealed that the GLAAD’s director of transgender representation consulted on the upcoming special. (Related: GLAAD Goes After Marvel and DC for Lack of LGBT Representation)
Adams told EW:
“Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling tells a beautiful — and hilarious — story about accepting change. The younger characters accept Rachel immediately; recognizing she’s still their friend. And while Rachel’s father is slow to accept change within his own family, even he realizes that loving your child should be unconditional. This story of inclusion and acceptance is so needed in our current climate.”
“When I read the story outline, I was happy to see that Rachel’s gender was treated as a non-issue by Rocko and his friends, and that Rachel’s father finally realized that he loves and supports his daughter. I worked with the show’s creators to ensure that Rachel was drawn in a respectful way, so that her femininity wasn’t a joke. We also talked about how to portray the moment Rachel reveals her transition to the boys so that it wasn’t sensationalistic. From story outline to storyboards to animatics, to the final show, Nickelodeon kept GLAAD updated every step of the way.”
EW reports that Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling “story line marks a strong push for more trans visibility in G-rated entertainment, which continues to grow its inclusion of LGBTQ characters.”
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling premieres August 9th. The special is currently categorized on Netflix under LGBTQ Comedies.