Back at the Barnyard: A Step Towards a Better Tomorrow

Back at the Barnyard: A Step Towards a Better Tomorrow

Jessica Burger, Writer

Many of us are familiar with the popular cartoon cow, Otis, who stars in the movie Barnyard and spin-off television series Back at the Barnyard. The show is set on a quaint farm and follows Otis and his barnyard buddies on their crazy antics. It is certainly easy to see how the Barnyard franchise appeals to young people as the humor is bizarre and childish. However, looking past the bathroom jokes, one will notice that Otis was not born a male. He bears a large bright pink udder, a feature only a biologically female cow would have, with great pride.

At first, it was assumed that Steve Oedekerk, the mastermind behind Barnyard, had mistakenly drawn the character with udders. In a now deleted Los Angeles Daily News article titled “Udder nonsense,” Oedekerk claims he is aware that male cows do not have udders but he feels that they add a comedic element to the characters design, saying “I’ve always thought cows are kind of funny animals–and udders are funny.” His knowledge of bovine anatomy leaves one possible explanation: Otis the cow is transgender.  To claim that female anatomy and the concept of being a transgender individual is “comedic” is medieval, however, there is a lack of representation of trans people in Hollywood. A positive portrayal of a trans character–despite the fact that it is a cow–is definitely a step in the direction of ending the stigma that surrounds transgender individuals.

The backlash that inevitably comes along with presenting such a controversial character to the world is apparent in an article published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled “Barnyard,” the movie– a milk dud.” The author, Samantha Bennett, voices her disdain for the cow’s choice to live a life true to himself. “I cannot accept a bull that is evidently at some point going to need to be milked.” Bennett then contends children are impressionable and should not be exposed to such “misinformation.” This kind of thinking is harmful and closed minded. The transgender community is not “misinformation,” rather, they are lucid human beings with legitimate thoughts and feelings.

Hiding the concept of being trans from children only encourages oppression and ignorance. In July of 2017 Laverne Cox, a prominent transgender actress, tweeted in response to President Donald Trump’s plan to exclude trans people from serving in the military. The actress admits, “Marginalized folks have often found ourselves at odds with systems which seek to subjugate and erase us.” It is important for young children to understand and accept trans people so they can contribute to a better tomorrow that will ultimately ameliorate the issues that plague the transgender community.

Acceptance begins with characters like Back at the Barnyard’s Otis. By seeing many different sides of Otis children are able to relate to him thus being taught that trans people are not second class citizens. Oedekerk may have intended on creating a zany gender-confused cow but what he really made is a figure that could promote equality and allow children to become more tolerant of those that are different from them.