Laika’s ‘ParaNorman’ Presents First Openly Gay Animated Character

Laika's 'ParaNorman' Presents First Openly Gay Animated Character

When it debuted on August 17, Laika's stop-motion animated zombie comedy "ParaNorman" might just have made history–in perhaps the quietest way possible.  In a small, almost thrown-away moment towards the end of the movie, one of the film's supporting characters mentions his boyfriend, and in doing so, became the first openly gay character in an American animated feature.  (Mild spoiler alert: this post contains a couple of "ParaNorman" references that you might want to hold off on until you've seen the film.)

Norman Babcock, the protagonist of "ParaNorman," teams up (albeit not willingly) towards the beginning of the movie with Neil, an eccentric, chubby kid who's as much of an outcast at school as Norman is.  When Norman sneaks out of the house on a night that his parents go out to dinner, his ditzy sister Courtney looks to Neil for help, along with Neil's brother Mitch, a jock with a chain link tattoo on his bicep and a character design so stylized his hugely muscular torso looks like it's from a different body than his tiny waist.

Also, Mitch is gay.  But for most of "ParaNorman," we don't know that.  All we know is that Mitch doesn't much outperform Courtney on the ditz scale–when he football kicks a zombie's head away, he reacts not with distress but amazement that he has punted it as far as he did–and when he reacts with disinterest to Courtney's romantic advancements, we chalk it up to his over-muscled chest and under-developed intellect.

And then, after the day is saved, and Courtney asks if Mitch wants to see a movie, he says sure, saying Courtney's going to love his boyfriend, who's totally into chick flicks.  "ParaNorman" doesn't dwell on the moment at all, which is in itself perhaps an accomplishment. In this film, the gay character is decidedly unstereopyical in his gayness, and his sexuality doesn't merit more than a single line.

And yet, "ParaNorman"'s gay character doesn't really seem to be getting a lot of press, or much at all, to be more precise.  Aside from a few articles on right-wing, conservative websites (this one talks about a friend who saw the film "in a 'red state' and reported that 'you could hear the gasps in the theatre from parents' at the unexpected line"), Mitch Downe the gay jock hasn't been that big of a deal.

Is this a good thing?  Who's to say?  Maybe it's a sign of how gays and lesbians are simply part of the mainstream these days for most Americans. "ParaNorman" certainly espouses no particularly political perspective on its gay character, and isn't making a statement.  But when Pixar featured its first female protagonist in "Brave," and Disney its first black princess in "The Princess and the Frog," people saw fit to mention it when they wrote about the films.

"ParaNorman," like Laika's other film "Coraline," isn't really trying to be mainstream.  But by including a gay character that is either 'Mitch' or 'the jock' before he's 'the gay character,' it may just be the most subversively mainstream animated film we've seen in a while.

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Comments

Niko

"Homosexuality is an inorganic human function." –a noted atheist

And I agree. It's simply a sexual perversion. To attempt to normalize sodomy with their media shows their NAMBLA-like agenda. Duh. Homosexual males have the highest suicide rate (by far) and the highest rates of HIV infection (again, by far). Fact.

Christian

if they were planning a Gay Mitch the whole time, we at least deserve to know "WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THERE HEADS" and "DO THEY HAVE ANY BRAIN"

Justin

What an awesome movie. Every kid should see this movie – they are going to be a part of a new generation that loves and accepts homosexual people for who they whether you religious devotees like it or not. The world is changing for the better and it would be the best for all of us if you just took the quick exit out. Comprende?

Justin

What an awesome movie. Every kid should see this movie – they are going to be a part of a new generation that loves and accepts homosexual people for who they whether you religious devotees like it or not. The world is changing for the better and it would be the best for all of us if you just took the quick exit out. Comprende?

Tony

Disgraceful. This is what you get when the nation's moral authority (Word of God) is continually attacked. The lies of homosexuality are based upon the lies of men, which in fact are void of any solid moral foundation. This nation is lost and will come under judgment.

Mitt Romney

it's actually a good movie it has a good moral in the story. and it's kinda sad too. you can apply this movie to the real world. except, we can't go back from the dead to say we're sorry and that we are wrong and bad. like what the zombies did. but in the real world we shouldn't judge people who are different from us like the gay people. and in the film norman was considered to be a freak and he was an outcast in school and even in his own home but there are also other people who stood by him. but after what happened everyone started to understand him and accept him. and the gay part was actually funny it sounded like a punchline because the mitch dude was just dumb and you might think he just said something stupid. my friend actually brought her 2 nephews with her but they seem to not care.. and many kids actually didn't care about it. if they did understand and if they did ask a question i think you already failed from shielding your kids to those things before you actually seen the movie. i think little boys don't actually give a crap about it it's usually the girl. but, there's nothing explicit in the movie no kissing scenes and stuff. but adults will have the most laughs than the kids. yeap. this movie is just awesome. AWESSOOOOOOOME!

Anon

Not all animation is for children. Example: Fritz the cat Peoples? The animation was good and the genre was delightful. The movie suger-coats nothing, going so far as the depict the world as being just misunderstood and that there are no good/bad guys, just people. The character was written as a stereotypical jock but you should have expected something. I mean, the whole movie preaches acceptance. ESPECIALLY OF THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT! Also, Why are people bring pedophiles, Necrophiliacs, and everything else to the table? That is wrong. And you know why. . .CONSENT. That is the biggest thing involved in this. There must be consent involved. All of the "OTHER" that shouldn't be here doesn't say anything about that. And people who want to start whining about it can just stuff it. Toodles Y'all

Anon

I thought Bill the Krill from Happy Feet was the first gay animated character… I mean, seriously, he cried for him in front of a heart shaped hole in a rock, saying, "Bring back my Will!" and also suggested adopting baby krill with him.

Astro

can someone explain why your belief in magical, invisible friends should be forced on me or anyone else? i respect your right to believe whatever is right for you. but your religious beliefs are not mine.

Anonymous

I usually like Tim Burton's movies, but this is just sick! What the hell are queers doing in children's movies? Seriously. I'm sure the people of NAMBLA & Rent-A-Boy will love to show this to their adoptive children who they molest.

I wonder what will be the next devious behavior Hollyweird will try to normalize? Necrophilia? Bestiality? Pedophilia?

Alonso Duralde

People who think this character is "inappropriate" for a children's movie are clearly hung up on the idea of gayness as being about sex rather than about love, and it's their own problem, not the movie's. As for reporting on it, I had considered mentioning it in my review, but since it's an eleventh-hour gag, I was afraid it might constitute a spoiler.

M

Big Gay Al was pretty open about his homosexuality in the South Park movie.

garciamr

I didnt think it was appropriate to put gay characters in the movie. Just because more people are coming out that they are gay, doesnt make it right. Its not normal, and shouldnt be shown as such. Kids dont need to be seeing thoses things.

Vanessa

Kudos to the developers to teach people that you shouldn't treat people badly because they're "different", including gay people. Looks like some parents completely missed the moral of the story.

Ursula

Unnecessary!

Susan

There definitely were intimations that Ken in Toy Story 3 was at least a cross dresser if not gay.

lane

matt damon and brad pitt were totally gay krill in Happy Feet 2. but yeah, agreed- the group i saw it with mentioned that it was cool that they threw mitch's gayness out there

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