This post is a little late to the celebration, but it is here nonetheless! Disney’s animation studio Pixar has released a short film with the main character being a gay man, Out. This is a step for the company into becoming more LGBTQ+ inclusive. However, this step is not as big as I originally thought.
When I first heard about a short film by Sparkshorts on Disney+ having a gay main character who comes out to his family, I was excited. Disney has never had a main character be LGBTQ+ before. These characters have always been questionable in their identities or are side characters. So, to present the main character as being part of the LGBTQ+ community is unheard of from a Disney product.
So, I watched the 9-minute short on Disney+
At first, I was into it. There was no hiding the relationship between Greg and Manuel. Disney is well known for playing off LGBTQ+ characters as ‘just friends’. Not this time though. The state of their relationship kicks up even more when it is revealed that Greg hasn’t told his parents that he is gay. This is a great moment. Many young people that are out on their own are afraid to tell their families that they are LGBTQ+ for fear of rejection. It is also important to note how Manuel feels. He clearly loves Greg but does not want to be Greg’s dirty little secret around his parents. He is notably upset when Greg tells him he has to leave when his parents show up.
Then, the seriousness of the moment is over
A magic collar makes it that Greg and his dog, Jim, switch bodies. Just like any other story where the characters switch bodies, everything becomes crazy. Jim is now in Greg’s body and acting like a dog around Greg’s parents. Meanwhile, Greg is in the dog’s body trying to get them to switch back before his parents find a photo of him and Manuel. It takes Greg until the last like 2 minutes of the short before he switches back to his own body.
The switching of the bodies threw me at first. I thought it was just a funny way of downplaying the seriousness of Greg’s coming out to his parents. It wasn’t until Greg (as the dog) hears his mom say that she is hurt by Greg, not only for moving away but not telling his parents everything as he used too. It is in this speech that Greg’s mom says she hopes Greg finds someone who loves him and makes him happy. The final bit to her speech is what made me smile; she knows Greg’s gay. Once Greg (still as the dog) hears this, he comes to understand that he doesn’t have to hide from his parents.
Greg and Manuel then kiss near the end
I was completely surprised when Greg and Manuel kiss on the lips at the end. I didn’t think anything on Disney would allow a same-sex kiss. By allowing this brief kiss to air, Disney has stepped forward in the walk to include LGBTQ+ visibility on screen. However, they still have a long way to go.
Good, but not great
This short was good. I liked the art style. The characters were relatable, especially Greg and Manuel. Yet, compared to other shows I have seen with similar topics, it is not the greatest. Even if no comparison is made, there are still some issues with the whole thing.
First, I am not complaining about what the director did. The director and writers were amazing in telling this story. My issues are based mostly on Disney itself. This very good story was told as a Sparkshorts project from Pixar. The Sparkshorts are very short films made by Pixar employees with very little money and little time to make the film. As such, I know the film is going to be limited in what it can do. With its limited time and budget, it did very well in telling a real-life story. Having Out on Disney+ though limits its reach to audiences. Only those with a subscription to the streaming site can watch it. Yes, they can view the trailer and reaction videos on YouTube, but not just the film.
This isn’t my biggest issue with the whole short film
My problem was the limited speaking parts in the film. After all, most of the film is Greg (in the dog’s body) chasing Jim to get back into the right bodies. The main character, Greg, doesn’t speak much. His mother, with her yelling at the dog and her speech about Greg, speaks more than the main character. I can understand that the short is going for the theme that words don’t always need to be spoken. Yet, I wish more speaking, especially from Greg, would have been nice. Even if his parents knew he was gay, it would have been nice to just hear them talk about it, even briefly. I was somewhat waiting for Greg to tell his parents that he was gay and being bear-hugged by his parents.
Saying you are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or anything else under the rainbow is hard. Especially when it is being said to your parents. Children, teens, and adults still worry even if their parents are aware of the fact and welcoming to it. To come out is not just about coming out to another person; it is about coming out to yourself. I feel like Greg deserved to come out to himself verbally. He was scared to tell his parents about his gayness and about Manuel. He hid the photo of his relationship. I don’t know if I want to say he was a little ashamed about it or not, but he was definitely not proud of himself enough to tell his parents. As such, he didn’t come across as being confident in who he is. This is something that a lot of LGBTQ+ youth feel in our society.
Don’t be afraid to say your gay!
I want a main character in a show or movie to come out and say they are gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer/anything. Young LGBTQ+ people deserve to know that their voices are meant to be heard. That their identities are valid. Characters are allowed to go around and say how much they are attracted to the opposite sex. Which is fine to do but it has to be equal on all sides of the playing field. If heterosexual characters are allowed to say they love someone or they are totally into the opposite sex, then so is LGBTQ+ people. It has nothing to do with shoving gayness down a child’s throat. It is about equality. Heterosexual, cis-gender society is always in the public viewpoint. As such, non-heterosexual and non-cis-gender people should also be in the viewpoint. They are as much in society as everyone else.
So, while Out was a very good short film, Disney still has a way to go in being more LGBTQ+ inclusive. I want the day to come (and may the day be soon) when children/teens can watch a show and see the main character verbally say “I am LGBTQ+!”