Through three animated television series, two live action films, and several spin-off programs, Americans have spent more than three decades getting to know Inspector Gadget, the lovable but clumsy android detective. But in all that time, not once has any portrayal of the famed goofy bionic sleuth indicated that he is a gay man – and with times being as they are, well, maybe America is ready for its first gay Inspector Gadget.
In the original series, Inspector Gadget is assisted on missions by his brilliant niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain, as they attempt to foil the plots of the evil Dr. Claw – but how much could we have learned about the gay experience had we had a deeper insight into Gadget’s sexuality? What does it mean to be a police officer with thousands of devices installed in your body to assist in fighting crime when you also like dudes? These are significant themes that the franchise would have the opportunity to explore, but, as with any big change to a beloved cultural icon, there have been some detractors.
Some have argued that not being gay is an immutable aspect of Gadget’s character, while others are wary of the ramifications on how the readings of his actions change if his sexual orientation is explicitly indicated.
“This would change everything, to put it lightly,” says Dr. Leonard Watson, social and cultural critic and Ph.D in gender and sexuality studies at the University of Virginia.
In a straw poll, only 34% of respondents could say they were “ready for/would accept” a gay Inspector Gadget, 26% said they “were not ready/would not accept,” and the remaining 40% asked the pollster to stop waiting for them at their usual bus stop in order to ask them questions.
While it’s clear that Inspector Gadget remains a beloved fictional detective in American culture, it’s undeniable that his relevance is slipping away: only 3% of respondents could name whether they preferred Matthew Broderick’s or French Stewart’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite dim-witted automated gumshoe. The fact of the matter is a gay Inspector Gadget is the cultural moment this franchise – and this country’s culture – needs, now more than ever.
Perhaps the only way for Americans to reconcile what it means to be gay in America and what it means to be a bumbling cyborg detective is to have the actual, everyday experience of seeing a gay person be a bumbling cyborg detective. The future is now, folks – it’s 2018, and perhaps it’s time for us to simply move with the changing tides, and make Inspector Gadget the inept, robotic, gay detective he was always destined to be.