This summer, after the release of Disney Pixar’s Brave, a certain angry subculture of internet bloggers exploded with a hatred as fiery as that central characters glorious red hair, after either “some liberal” suggested something “shocking” about the films central protagonist, or “some conservative” felt it was their duty to protect the innocent minds of all “god’s children” and warn people about this scary slippery slope society is “obviously” undertaking. That something, if you are unaware, was the mere suggestion that maybe; just maybe, the central character Merida was… wait for it… a lesbian. Gasp. I’ll give you a little time to recover…
Now, personally, as a gay man, I doubt that Merida was in fact intended to be a lesbian… and if she was intended to be Pixar’s first gay character, I am particularly disappointed at the end result. However, the outrage I witnessed, scrolling down the endless comments pages got me angry, and made me upset, and frankly made me want to do a Wall-E and jump on the next rocket ship off this planet. (If you’re under the impression that the world fully embraces LGBT people, reading comment pages under such articles will bring you speeding back down to earth).
What would be so wrong with Disney or Pixar including an openly gay character in one of their (many) films? In fact, isn’t it a little odd that the great Pixar, the people at the forefront of the animation world, the people who’ve been sharing with us mature and somewhat adult stories for years (The Incredible, Wall-E, Up,) haven’t even explored this idea yet? Maybe you’d expect it from Disney… but Pixar. I find that strange, especially considering just last year they were part of many celebrities who uploaded an “It gets better” video to YouTube.
I would make the argument that it’s these films produced by Disney over the last century, and Pixar, over the last 20 years that only add to many gays, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people growing up thinking they are “less than”, or weird. And it’s this attitude, this lack of media representation, particularly aimed at younger children that undoubtedly causes these kids to grow up hating themselves, and in many cases, causing that kid to take his or her own life.
It does get better… but why should we have to wait until we are adults for this to get better. Why can’t it be better now?
I’m not saying Pixar and Disney are solely to blame for this, in fact, I am a huge Pixar and Disney fan… I just wish for a little more from them. Many people in the world mistakenly believe (and I wouldn’t want to, and am not speaking for all LGBT people) the hateful lies spouted by ignorant, middle aged straight men and women that being gay is a choice, and that the liberal media is trying to “turn their children gay”. As a gay man, I can tell you, that being gay wasn’t my choice… and for as long as I can remember, I’ve known deep down who I am. (Blah, blah, blah… believe me, I’m as sick saying this as you are having to listen to it.) But guess what, I grew up obsessed* with Disney and Pixar, to the point that from the age of five, having just watched “Toy Story” in the cinema, it suddenly became my dream to one day work for them, and to this day, I still have the very same dream. If I was gay, and I constantly watched films portraying almost exclusively straight love stories about princes and princesses who fall in love… then why would including a gay character suddenly make all the kids gay… maybe LGBT Disney and Pixar films would have actually made me straight. (They wouldn’t, because I was born gay, like straight people are born straight… and that’s kind of the point).
**(Before you say it, no, it was not the obsession with Disney that “made” me gay. I was also obsessed with Power Rangers. Maybe it was the Power Rangers???)
The biggest argument against this so called pollution of children’s innocent minds, the argument which made me the most upset, was that (imagine this spoken in Helen Lovejoy’s voice) “there is simply no place for sexuality in films aimed at children. Somebody, please, think of the children”. This argument sounds kind of logical (maybe) until you remember that straight sexuality has existed in these films since the very first Disney feature, “Snow White” and in pretty much every film since then. Sexuality is not sex. I am not arguing that two men should have sex in a Disney film. I am also not arguing that a man and a woman should either. But when all these conservative adults are “thinking about and protecting the children”, whose thinking about the gay children?
Is the idea of a story about a Princess falling in love with a woman really all that controversial? Is anyone under the impression that kids these days don’t know what gay people are??? “The Simpsons” has had gay characters for years. It’s common place for TV series nowadays to include at least one gay character. Have that many children really never seen an episode of “Modern Family” or “Glee”?
Should Disney and Pixar have to pander to homophobes forever? Disney used to pander to racists, until 1967’s “Jungle Book” featured Disney’s first non-white characters. Back in the 60’s, people would have been outraged at the idea of Disney showing interracial couples, but Disney eventually got over this prejudice by making 1995’s “Pocahontas”. One of Disney’s most successful films critically and commercially of all time was “Beauty and the Beast”… a film, essentially, about bestiality. I don’t remember there being much fuss made about that movie when that came out (granted, I was only one) but I’m pretty sure conservatives consider bestiality much, much, much further down that “slippery slope” than homosexuality (at least I really hope so).
Whatever side of this argument you are on or whether or not you will want off of this planet when it happens, LGBT protagonists (hopefully not antagonists) will eventually appear in Disney and Pixar movies. The only real question is when, and why has it taken so long? I’m sure had they had complete freedom to do so, many people at Pixar would have liked to have made Merida gay. I’m also sure Ellen DeGeneres, voice of “Finding Nemo’s” Dori, wouldn’t be opposed to making clear to the audience in the “Finding Nemo” sequel set to hit cinema screens in 2016 that her character was intended to be a lesbian. (Seriously… did you really imagine Dori would end up with Marlin. There’s a reason those two fish never “hooked” up).
I just fish… sorry, wish… that when that day finally comes (fingers crossed for 2016) all the LGBT kids that that film will have a positive effect on, also won’t have to listen to all the Bill O’ Reilly’s out there preaching that civilisation is coming to an end. It’s upsetting that there is no Blue Fairy to make that wish come true, because guess what, the Blue Fairy exists in the Magic Kingdom, and as of yet, gays don’t exist there. Hey, they’ve only just discovered African Americans.
So Pixar, Disney, please, “won’t somebody please think of the children”. Because, as a Disney/Pixar fan I can tell you that though, “You have a friend in me”… we are not quiet BFF’s quite yet, and I’d really like to come back down to earth now.
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