Sociology of Animation: Rocko’s Modern Life

Ever had cabin fever? Here’s what it looks like on Rocko’s Modern Life.

Rocko was not one of the most convincing Australian characters produced by Hollywood, but still – I loved this show so much. Whenever I’m in trouble I find myself wondering: ’Where are you Really, Really Big Man’?


In Queertoons, sociologist Jeffery P. Dennis argues that Rocko’s Modern Life was just one of many 1990s cartoons that depicted same-sex desire. I do not agree with his analysis, because I think Rocko and Heifer were depicted as simply good friends, but let’s have a read regardless:

No other cartoon of the 1990’s portrayed same-sex relationships so overtly, but several presented same-sex desire as an ordinary part of everyday life. On Rocko’s Modern Life (1993-1997), the relationship between twenty-something Rocko — a wallaby — and Heifer — a steer — is often coded as unrequited same-sex attraction. Heifer expresses no interest in women, easily chats with the female knockouts that turn heterosexual Rocko into a bumbling idiot, and never dates; [6] but he becomes jealous whenever Rocko makes a new friend. In “S.W.A.K.”, mailman Heifer keeps “accidentally” thwarting Rocko’s attempts to send a love letter to a girl he admires. In “Yarn Benders”, they takes turns telling a rambling, disjoint fairy tale: knight Rocko sets out to rescue “a beautiful princess,” but Heifer interrupts and becomes the princess; when Rocko tries to steer the tale back to adventurous exploits, Heifer insists that they marry and embark on a honeymoon.

Other cartoons that Dennis sees as having queer undertones includes Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, The Smurfs, Ren and Stimpy, Pinky and the Brain, and Spongebob Squarepants, The Simpsons, South Park, and Dexter’s Laboratory.

If any one out there remembers Rocko’s Modern Life from waaaaaaaaaaay back in the 1990s, what do you think about this queer reading of Heifer and Rocko’s friendship?

Image via: Fanpop!