Anyone remember on June 24th when I first started my Cartoon Closet series? I wrote:
Characters in children’s cartoons don’t just default straight, they can’t be LGBTQ. Their options are straight, or asexual/non-sexual.
And up to this point, it has been true, there has never been an out gay or lesbian character in a western children's cartoon. There have been intended gay/lesbian characters but they are always shrouded in innuendo or hints (or some guise of humor) that can easily be dismissed.
And a few weeks later I followed with this post:
Despite this, within western children’s media, homosexuality is an unspeakable word. Gay coded characters may be flamboyant or drop punch line hints. Consistent coding of their sexuality might lack the subtlety of an animated red arrow with flashing lights spelling G-A-Y. Yet if pushed for confirmation, studios still shy away from saying the obvious -even as their target audience becomes increasingly discerning.
Guess who just proved me wrong?
Haven’t heard of them? Educate yourself (that's what the interweb is for). They are the stop motion studio that brought Niel Gaiman’s Coraline to vivid life, and recently released to theaters ParaNorman.
No, winking or nudging needed, this character is explicitly stated to be gay. Yes, it’s totally canon. He has a boyfriend.
This isn’t reveled until the end of the movie, and hinges on an ongoing joke where Norman’s sister, Courtney is constantly hitting on him, and he continues to be oblivious. When she finally asks him out at the end, Mitch misunderstands that she is asking him on a date, and assumes she wants to hang with him and his boyfriend (which also implies that he’s totally out and thinks she knows).
This movie is a kid’s horror PG (perfect for Halloween), and pokes fun at tropes we are familiar with in R-rated horror. Perhaps that’s part of what makes it feel so fitting a movie to own the title of “first out character in a kids cartoon” because horror movies (even during the Hays code) were one of the few genres that regularly pushed the boundaries on sexuality, gender norms, and sexual orientation (albeit in a often exploitative way…unlike this movie). .
Do I recommend Paranorman? Yes! And not just because of Mitch, or because I love stop-motion, but because it is a genuinely fun, funny, family movie - and it's about time we had another good movie to add to the kid's horror genre.