Always a pleasure getting to catch up with drag performer and mutant fanatic D’Manda Martini, especially when we’re talking about everything from ‘3 Ninjas’ to the beauty of the walkman, but in our chat, we also got into ‘Bébé’s Kids.’ Growing up no one other than the other two Black kids in school knew what that movie was, so I was surprised and happy that D’Manda brought it up because if you didn’t already guess, that is one of – if not my absolute favorite thing about 1992 for a multitude of reasons.
We didn’t live in the city, but our town very much resembled where Bébé and her kids lived. We knew people who struggled to keep their fridges full, those who had a pile of unpaid bills, and plenty of parents who left their kids unattended. Hell, there would be moments in my life when my brother and I were basically just that but I think what got us through was being able to eventually look back and laugh while calling ourselves “Bébé’s Kids” when those moments did occur. Trauma makes for quite the sense of humor.
While this movie was rated for kids several years older than I was at the time, my mom didn’t care. I think in hindsight, this white/Spanish woman wanted to just show her mixed Black kid people that looked like her. Whether or not my mom was #representationmatters before the internet took off, I’m not sure – but that’s what I like to believe. That, or she saw a cartoon and thought, that’ll shut the kid up. Hmm, knowing my mom – it was probably the latter. Anyways, the movie was on in our house quite regularly as we found it to be one of the funniest things ever. It fit in nicely with the comedy style we liked given that we were dedicated Fox viewers and leaned towards things that were a little more offbeat as a family.
My mom would tolerate the cheese of TGIF, but she was more a Conner than a Tanner.
As a movie though, ‘Bébé’s Kids’ wasn’t like anything that I’d seen before and most certainly haven’t seen since. It starred Black people (that didn’t turn into frogs right away), and at the core of the story was not just this budding romance but a group of Black kids. Let’s be honest, in animation Black kids are usually invited – but for a very long time, it’s been just one. ‘South Park’ would go on to shine a light on this by creating Token (later revealed to be Tolkien). Just think, Franklin in ‘Peanuts,’ Vince in ‘Recess,’ Susie in ‘Rugrats’ and many more. So seeing more than one Black kid on screen in a movie where they’re really just having this grand adventure at a reckless theme park was definitely a moment in animation that we can’t and shouldn’t overlook.
Even though it eventually was when it was initially released. It didn’t even make double digits at the box office and we can all probably guess why that is but we won’t get into that. Thankfully, since then ‘Bébé’s Kids’ has been able to become a cult classic among many because, in the world of animation, it’s a standout that helped pick up where ‘The Adventures of Fat Albert’ left off years prior and then went on to lay down a solid foundation for everything from ‘The Proud Family’ to ‘The Boondocks.’
And all because a man named Robin would do just about anything to impress a woman.
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