‘Queer Planet’ takes a look at the animal kingdom through a Pride-colored lens

The expected conservative media quadrants lashed out at “Queer Planet,” a Peacock documentary about queer behavior in the animal kingdom, which, in terms of getting attention, already represents a kind of win for the NBC-owned streaming service.

Yet the Pride month-themed special does represent an intriguing wrinkle on the nature documentary – providing more depth and nuance than the occasional headline about “gay penguins” – while adopting a playfully irreverent tone that seeks to make the material more accessible than what viewers have come to associate with, say, Sir David Attenborough’s body of work.

While casual viewers of nature fare will likely be familiar with the aforementioned penguins and the extremely sexual bonobos, “Queer Planet” casts a much wider net, incorporating footage documented in the wild about coalitions of male lions, giraffes (“super queer,” says biologist Antonia Forster), flamingos, dolphins, hyenas, bighorn sheep, macaques, and more.

There’s even a section about clownfish, with a researcher noting the males can change gender, suggesting wryly that the dad in “Finding Nemo” might have easily become a mom after he was widowed.

Actor Andrew Rannells gets into the spirit with his narration – which begins by noting that nature is “more queer than you could possibly imagine” – as do some of the academics interviewed.

The most interesting aspect of “Queer Planet,” though, is how the Victorian mores of early scientists, beginning with Charles Darwin (“He was of his time,” Forster notes), informed and influenced the way they addressed – and for the most part, ignored – evidence of queer behavior in animal populations, writing them off as dominance displays or aberrations.

“Biological reality explodes the Victorian heteronormative myth,” says author/naturalist Bradley Trevor Greive.

At its core, “Queer Planet” is indeed pushing a political agenda, making the case that criticism of LGBTQ+ communities on moral or religious grounds occasionally – and erroneously – cite survival-of-the-species issues to bolster those arguments. Seeing various animals engaging in what the producers call “unconventional sexualities” indicates that humans aren’t necessarily outliers in that regard.

The producers and interviewees appear to have anticipated and perhaps relished the notion that the doc’s very existence would provoke pundits like Fox News’ Tomi Lahren and groups like the conservative Media Research Center in advance of its premiere, with the latter describing it as a “documentary” in quotes, and Pride Month as “the weeks-long onslaught of LGBTQ propaganda force-fed to weary Americans.”

Yet in this golden age of nature documentaries unleashed by technological advances and the appetite for streaming content, “Queer Planet” deserves credit for trying to connect those dots back to our lives in a somewhat different way.

As for the naysayers, the beauty of the modern media environment is such programs needn’t be all things to all people. To the extent “Queer Planet” leverages those political and cultural dynamics to let detractors help promote it, Peacock looks like a pretty savvy bird.

“Queer Planet” premieres June 6 on Peacock.

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