As one of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows on air currently, The Loud House presents viewers with its dichotomous nature right off the bat. While borrowing the aesthetics of a classic fifties comic strip and the sensibilities of a sitcom from the same decade, the energetic family comedy about Lincoln Loud, the lone middle boy adrift in a sea of ten sisters, The Loud House is—unexpectedly—one of the most quietly progressive animated programs in recent memory. Though the show is never explicit in its desire to show the realities of coming of age in America, the way the show subtly explores and subverts standard tropes of animated sitcoms is a breath of fresh air.
How so? Throughout its run, The Loud House has been noted for its incorporation of topics that could never have been featured on a mainstream animated television program designed for younger audiences twenty, or even ten, years ago. Topics like same-sex couples, adoption, fluid sexuality, and the inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities as part of regular interaction pop up frequently in the show, often without comment or judgment from the other characters. Yet, despite the inclusion of themes over the course of the two seasons the show has been on the air, creator Chris Savino believes that every character beat is meant to serve the story rather than act as an independent commentary on contemporary culture.
Thus far, The Loud House has managed to pack in densely-woven stories about the dynamics of constantly evolving norms through the constant balancing of traditional character tropes and modern sensibilities towards representation for all. “We’re telling a story locally, not making a global statement,” Savino told me during the last day of San Diego Comic Con 2017. “The only solution we have is for our characters to resolve their problems from within the family. There is no social commentary as much as it character commentary. When people watch the show, we want them to say ‘That family reminds me of my family.’”
The delicate quest for equilibrium between sitcom archetypes of yore—families that love each other unconditionally, episodes centered on overarching moral lapses and redemptions, and the need for personal or material fulfillment—and an expansive view of the present-day reality of families across America informs the Loud House’s story choices. These differing visions don’t contradict each other, but work in tandem to create a unique vision of the modern American family unit. Indeed, the fact that the Loud House introduced the first gay (and biracial, no less) couple in Nickelodeon history—the fathers of Lincoln’s best friend Clyde—was met with a non-response was groundbreaking: the couple is accepted as a fait accompli, rather than used as props in building up some kind of “special episode.”
Likewise, a second season episode twist presents one of the Lincoln’s sisters as lesbian or possibly bisexual (the show has shown her interested in boys as well) was another revelatory experience because it was treated as such a non-issue. Savino was emphatic that the sexuality of the character is less important that what viewers might think: It’s more about attitude and openness that makes her worth watching. And when the show introduced a character with Down Syndrome during a rare half hour episode, there was little need to justify his existence through a special-episode-esque event. Per Savino: “The whole notion of having a character with a disability came up because we knew that it’s not the disability that makes the character. I knew someone with Down Syndrome growing up in my neighborhood and I wanted to make sure he was represented because he was there in our lives.”
Certainly, it’s not so much the zany antics of eleven rambunctious children (and two equally screwball parents) that bring back viewers each week, though I’m sure that must be part of the formula (the show is really funny and clever). Rather, it’s the understanding that between all the escapades and misadventures, there is a solid, beating heart right in the center of the show: An oasis of forward-looking innocence weathering an ever-battering barrage of darkening news cycles and broader cultural instability. But as Savino told me: “[The Loud Family is] a good family within the chaos. We’re still discovering we can tell stories from every point of view.”
It’s those moments of quiet introspection that set The Loud House apart.
All new episodes of The Loud House air this week on Nickelodeon. Catch up on the series over at www.nick.com/loud-house/