Michelle Obama’s new gay Netflix puppeteer sidekick wants to empower LGBT+ kids
In the new Netflix series Waffles + Mochi, the former first lady is joined by a busybody sidekick, Busy the Bee, to spread information about healthy eating to children across the world. Busy is the manager of Mrs O’s grocery store and appears near Obama frequently in the show.
Jonathan Kidder, the puppeteer behind Busy the Bee, said he wants to use his character to inspire more LGBT+ kids. Kidder is one of children’s puppeteering only openly gay creators.
He told The Daily Beast that he initially joined Waffles + Mochi as an assistant puppeteer to help the show’s small crew on international shoots. But he said the show’s creators asked him to officially join the case as Busy because they felt the bee could benefit from Kidder’s “dry, gay sass” paired against Michelle Obama’s character.
He explained that Busy is not an openly gay bee, but he joked that “all puppets are a little bit gay”. But he said that he hoped to bring more diversity to Waffles + Mochi by channelling his own personality and sexuality through Busy.
“They never said overtly ‘we need you to be as gay as possible please’,” Kidder said. “But I got the sense that they liked that I brought this diversity to the mix.”
He said his job was to let Michelle Obama’s sidekick “be colourful and let my rainbow out through him”
Kidder shared that he struggled to accept his sexuality, and something was comforting in being an out puppeteer performing as a character “whose identity is questionable”. He said, “if I was a gay kid”, he would have “really valued having a character that felt like I felt inside” on a show like Waffles + Mochi.
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Kidder said he would have appreciated seeing a character on a children’s show that was “a little bit more flamboyant, but male” or a bit “more sassy, but also a dude”. He added: “Then learning that the person who played that character was an out, proud gay man, that would have been amazing to encounter as a kid.”
He told The Daily Beast that the children’s entertainment industry does get “concerned about the conservative people”, who usually disapprove of the idea of the LGBT+ community being present in a kids show.
But Kidder said he was more concerned about the “innocent children who are not having their reality affirmed” by seeing someone like them on the TV shows they watch. He argued that kids who “grow up like me” become “fiercely codependent, a total people-pleaser” and create a “false self”.
“That is a very bad thing,” Kidder said. “Let’s stop worrying about the conservative view. Let’s start dealing with the young, innocent human beings who need to just be accepted for who they are.”
The first season of Michelle Obama’s new series Waffles + Mochi is currently available to stream on Netflix. The show features two puppet pals, Waffles and Mochi, who travel the world to discover all they can about food, culture and how to cook with fresh ingredients.
Alongside Obama, Waffles + Mochi also features celebrity cameos from Switched at Birth star Katie Leclerc, Queer Eye‘s Tan France, Common, Lionel Richie, Jack Black and Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo.