Dead End: Paranormal Park Is A Spooky, Fun, And Super Queer Adventure

Dead End: Paranormal Park is so delightfully queer. Its aesthetic is dripping with rainbow stylings and deliberate homages to LGBTQ+ identities that come together to create a warm, comforting, and spooky animated adventure that already has me smitten.

While I still haven’t forgiven Netflix for cancelling shows – many of which were queer – over the years and failing to help them find an audience, the streaming giant has produced several shows that seek to further representation and give diverse creators a platform to shine. Heartstopper, First Kill, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Sex Education are just a few originals that have spread their queer wings to stand for something.

Paranormal Park fits right alongside them, and will no doubt become a source of joy for so many young viewers on the long road to finding themselves. If the company only stopped producing comedy specials for Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle we might actually be onto something. But enough about that – back to cartoons!

Created by Hamish Steele, Dead End: Paranormal Park follows Barney, a trans man who finds himself at a weird crossroads in life. He’s finally embracing his true identity, but remains grounded by a family that continues to doubt who he is or can ever possibly be. He seeks refuge, yet wants to foster relationships with new friends now that he’s no longer hiding in the closet. With that comes the consequences of leaving people behind, and failing to acknowledge your own shortcomings that might push loved ones away.

One sombre evening he decides to apply for a job at Paranormal Park, failing to realise that the interview process is a smokescreen for him to be possessed by an ancient demon on the down low. Pretty sure I’ve still had worse job interviews. Fortunately, our hero isn’t alone, he’s accompanied by a shy, passionate, and nerdy girl called Norma Khan who is more than happy to ease away the pressure with her passion for the park history that surrounds her.

She’s a neurodivergent POC lesbian whose identity folds into the narrative, but never once feels like something to lean upon. Both of these lead characters are meaningful, nuanced, and layered personalities who I quickly fell in love with across the first two episodes. Largely because I couldn’t help but see myself in everything they represent, whether it be Norma’s habit of hyperfixation or Barney’s struggle with accepting his identity in the face of a familial culture that for years has sought to confine him. Even if deep down they really do care, and it’s more about facing our own insecurities in the face of progress.

Norma’s mother is naturally clingy and wants the best for her while also hoping to ensure no harm ever comes to her daughter. As a queer neurodivergent kid, I was used to being singled out as someone who needed to be protected or cared for, babied in a way that would inevitably hold me back. Norma struggles with that too, never wanting to disappoint her mother or place unwarranted pressure on her shoulders. The same goes for Barney, who would rather build a new life in the confines of a theme park instead of facing the music.

Even beneath all the animated hijinks, I can empathise with their plight, and Paranormal Park does a beautiful job of exploring these character arcs alongside sharp comedy, adorable romance, and so many creative ideas from the first two episodes alone. I’m eager to see where the narrative goes and how it continues to delve into queer representation and the challenges that come with falling in love with who you are. Barney has already been forced to question his ingrained prejudices when he falls out with his dog – oh yeah, I forgot to mention there’s a talking pug named Pugsly – and is compared to his seemingly transphobic grandmother when he isn’t willing to admit that people are capable of change.

Small life lessons like this are thematic layering to instances that involve saving the park from a parade of misunderstood zombie mascots who don’t want to eat people alive, they merely want a big ol’ hug and to sign autograph books. It’s so fun, imbued with a queer passion that is never once afraid to make people feel seen. I also admire how the primary animation studio stems from the UK, and how representation like this stands proudly in the face of systemic transphobia that our government and media have shown no signs of abandoning. We won’t stand for it and will keep pushing for change, even if it’s through shows like this that let younger generations know that it’s okay to be different.

I’ll have more to say on Dead End: Paranormal Park when I’ve gotten through all the episodes next week, but animation lovers shouldn’t let this fall under their radar. It feels almost rote to say that we need more shows like this, but we always will as we continue to live in a world that’s content with putting queer people in danger, or using them as political punching bags. It needs to be normalised, it needs to be clear, and it needs to be proud of everything it sets out to accomplish. Paranormal Park is all those things, and that rules.

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