Attention, everyone: Salma Hayek is portraying a lesbian on screen, and it’s somehow slipped under your radar. Fair enough; Seth Rogen’s food baby, Sausage Party, probably wins the award for “least likely to have an LGBTQ character that isn’t a horrible stereotype.” I mean, the film’s predominant antagonist is an anthropomorphic douche (people still use those?), and Sausage Party largely follows the unconsummated romance of a horny hot dog/bun duo. But lying beneath this oddball’s grotesque, meaty exterior lies a hidden gem.
Hayek voices Teresa del Taco, a spicy hard-shelled honey from the Mexican aisle. After saving Kristen Wiig’s bun from certain death by the angry douche, Teresa joins Brenda Bunson—as well as her companions Sammy Bagel Jr. and Kareem Abdul Lavash—on their quest for truth. But in a surprisingly verisimilitudinous twist, Teresa cops feelings for her fellow female traveler. This isn’t the most promising start, to be sure: I mean, the lesbian Latina is a taco. But Teresa has a surprising amount of real things to say for a cartoon taco in the year’s crassest picture to date.
The film’s major dilemma is a grocery store-wide crisis of faith. After a jar of honey mustard returns from “The Great Beyond” with the truth about what really happens to food (spoiler alert: it’s eaten), Rogen’s Frank goes on a quest for truth, alienating his gluttonous girlfriend, who prefers to believe that the Gods have her best interests in mind. Teresa is also devout and feels pressure to hide her sexual urges towards girl foodstuffs from those around her and the powers-that-be. Alone with her truth, Teresa must mask her feelings towards Brenda, in a candid portrayal of a queer female character not oft seen in massive summer blockbusters.
Furthermore, Teresa del Taco’s queerness isn’t played for laughs. Sure, she’s a lesbian taco. But, beyond that, Teresa is just one of the gang. There’s even a happy ending for our friend: in the film’s literal orgy of an ending, Teresa gets her wish and gets a chance with Brenda. With the lid blown off their dogmatic edible society, Teresa is free to be who she is.
With critical darlings such as Carol and The Kids are All Right garnering on-screen attention for the lesbian community, it’s easy to dismiss Hayek’s portrayal in Sausage Party as trivial, but it’s not. The inclusion of a queer character in such major summer film (Sausage Party raked in in $33.6 million for its opening weekend, blowing away past projections) is huge, and could even open the door for queer characters to be included in other animated films, perhaps even ones aimed at a younger, less fratty target audience.
Let’s be clear: Sausage Party is far from perfect. There have been accusations against the studio for underpaying its animators, and even more lobbed at Rogen for the film’s cavalier takes on issues such as race and sex. But, regardless of the film’s merit as a classic, or even as a way to spend a lazy summer afternoon, Teresa del Taco is a massive contribution to the normalization of queer female characters on screen. As the great taco herself once said, “Don’t knock it until you try it.”
Sausage Party is in theaters now.