By Yalena Aguirre
As modern culture begins to grow more acceptance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community, more films are beginning to feel comfortable in portraying LGBTQ+ characters. On February 24, the directors for the Pixar film Onward released the news that one of the characters played in film will be the first openly gay animated character in Disney history.
Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios have had a history of only portraying heterosexual romances between their characters, thus creating stigma around represention of the LGBTQ+ community in animated films. Onward introduced Disney’s first openly LGBTQ+ character, a cyclops police officer named Specter, played by comedian Lena Waithe. The introduction of Disney’s first official confirmation of a character within the community, even though a minor character in the movie, is an immense first step into more open representation of the LGBTQ+ community in films, especially towards a younger, accepting audience. The character Specter is not alone as more minor characters in successful films are being confirmed as part of the growing community by directors. The character Oaken in Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time, Frozen, has been confirmed that he is homosexual who is married and has four children, whom are briefly screened in a sauna in Oaken’s shop. In Disney’s first film about anthropomorphic animals since the 1978 film Robin Hood, Zootopia, directors Byran Howard and Rich Moore confirmed that Judy Hopps’ neighbors in her apartment complex when she first moved in, Bucky and Pronk, are a gay married couple. Finally, in the live action Beauty and the Beast film, the directors confirmed that Gaston’s loyal follower Lefou is indeed gay, which is shown when he and another male patron in the final dance scene in the movie are dancing together.
Even though the confirmed characters only play minor roles compared to their main counterpart, they serve as a crucial catalyst for representation in the LGBTQ+ community. In a society where representation of multiple groups and minorities has been limited until recent times, the occurrence of a character that has been legitimately been confirmed by a major film company like Pixar to be part of the LGBTQ+ community elated members as they now have a character they can look up to. Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) member Freshman Emily Jovel expressed how she is glad that “Disney is finally the LGBTQ in their content.” Jovel elaborated on how the inclusion of the character is important to present to a younger audience so people can express to them that the community is “normal and shouldn’t be looked down upon.” The announcement of Specter being a lesbian in law enforcement created excitement in how Disney is representing both the community and female empowerment in the workplace. Furthermore, the character gives many young audiences the opportunity to have more understanding of the growing community that prides themselves on self acceptance.
Pixar’s Onward held much importance into paving the way for more LGBTQ+ representations in their characters. The introduction of Specter has earned the hearts of many in the community as the animated studios have taken the time to hear the voices of the LGBTQ+ community hoping for some kind of representation in their films. Onward shines light on the LGBTQ+ community as they finally have their voices heard through animated films now and in the future.
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