I See Gay People: “Whip It,” “Hannah Montana,” and Metaphors for Homosexuality

The intentional LGBT-themed kids movie of the summer, I believe, was Pixar’s Up.

In it, we meet a tropical bird whose rainbow-colored plumage always sets him apart from his surroundings. Russel, the tag-along vagabond Boy Scout, names the bird “Kevin,” leaving us to assume he’s male. Late in the film, Russell discovers that Kevin is a mom: he has a flock of babies. To make matters worse, Kevin is being hunted down by the film’s villain (and his pack of freakishly obedient dogs).

There are a couple of reasons I think Pixar intended Kevin to represent either a lesbian (a boy who looks like a girl) or a transgender male (who is, in fact, male, but is able to reproduce). 1) He’s cloaked in a gay pride flag. 2) There’s no specific reason, plot-wise, for the audience or Russel to be confused about Kevin’s gender. 3) Up was conceived during the height of the Prop. 8 debacle in California. 4) Pixar’s films are notoriously symbolic.

In The Pixar Touch, Andrew Stanton confirmed that Finding Nemo has an underlying Christian message that was influenced by his faith. And Jan Pinkava revealed that Ratatouille was formulated as a metaphor for coming out of the closet.

The Bible vs. Fan Fiction

So, there are homosexual themes in purportedly heterosexual films; what’s the big deal?

Well, according to Psychology Today‘s Jeremy Clyman, the big deal is that movies provide escape, which he argues is the primary purpose of entertainment.

About Whip It, he says:

We … have a subtextual discussion about lesbian sexuality in a way that satisfies unmet lesbian needs without explicitly communicating to the public that this is happening. The misery of concealable stigma is addressed, the theme of sexuality is activated and the threat of heterosexual sexuality is diffused.

In short: Lesbians in the audience can leave the theater feeling uplifted, while straight people in the audience can leave without feeling threatened.

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