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

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by Jacob Combs
August 29, 2012 4:17 PM
38 Comments
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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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38 Comments

  • Christian | January 21, 2013 1:45 AMReply

    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 | December 31, 2012 6:29 PMReply

    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 | December 31, 2012 6:29 PMReply

    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 | November 26, 2012 2:36 PMReply

    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.

  • Justin | December 31, 2012 6:25 PM

    Hahahaha you make me laugh!

  • Mitt Romney | November 2, 2012 5:54 AMReply

    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 | September 17, 2012 7:55 PMReply

    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

  • J | September 23, 2012 1:59 PM

    Preach it! I dislike the old kind of TV & films where everyone is either all good or all bad. The characters were never 3 dimentional. LIFE is 3-D. We all have good, bad, & indifferent in us. Same-gender-loving people are hurting no one with their choice of romantic partner, so that's the 'indifferent' part.

  • Anon | September 16, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    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.

  • mhm | January 2, 2013 3:58 AM

    Yes but it states that he is the first "openly gay" character. This means that he openly states that he is a homosexual. Not just implications that a character may be gay.

  • Astro | August 31, 2012 5:42 PMReply

    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.

  • TONY | November 26, 2012 2:38 PM

    Then "Astro" tell me why homosexuality is justified? Where do you place your moral authority? What makes your opinion right? All I hear is feeling based rhetoric void of any truth.

  • Anonymous | August 30, 2012 9:26 PMReply

    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?

  • Frost | April 11, 2013 3:57 PM

    People like you are who cause hate in the world.

  • i hate you | February 4, 2013 4:09 PM

    People like you are not allowed to like Tim Burton. Go away.
    Plus this isn't even a Tim Burton movie.

  • Anonymous | September 4, 2012 11:48 AM

    I can't believe everyone is taking up for this movie. Let me set you strait. the comments that you gave are inappropriate, but let's actually talk about the content in the movie. All you people have taken what one person said and actually justified the movie. No, the movie doesn't claim to be a kids movie. Happy meals are not just for kids. But they sure design them to be appealing to to kids. The same as cartoons. It's not being horrible keeping your children from being exposed to the beliefs of homosexuals. There is a time and place for everything. And I as a parent will decide when my child is mature enough to process that information. So to Hollywood, stop sneaking your beliefs on my family, actually stand up for who you are if you are that proud. Let people acknowledge you when they are ready, not when you want them to.

  • Anonymous | September 3, 2012 6:07 PM

    STFUAGDIAF

  • Wendy | August 31, 2012 10:56 PM

    Why do people always got to necrophilia and bestiality like it's the next normal thing? OH NOES, PEOPLE WITH THE SAME GENITALS HAVE SEX AND THAT'S ICKY ICKY POO POO. Grow up, you dolt. Most pedophiles are straight. Get your hand out of your pants and go outside and see the world for a while before you start spewing your misinformed, ignorant, bigoted ideals.

  • Rubi-kun | August 31, 2012 4:33 PM

    Most gay people aren't pedophiles. Most pedophiles are actually straight. Children adopted by gay couples are less likely to be abused by their parents than children of straight couples. And Tim Burton actually did do a necrophilic romance a few years ago called The Corpse Bride. XD

  • Michael | August 31, 2012 2:44 AM

    First, Tim Burton didn't have anything to do with this movie. Second, nobody ever claimed this was a "chldren's movie." Third, your ignorance of who made the movie and narrow definition of animated films as "children's movies" is only outmatched by your social ignorance and narrow definition of "normal" behavior. Congratulations, you're an idiot.

  • Alonso Duralde | August 30, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    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.

  • Tony | November 26, 2012 2:44 PM

    Alonso....what do you base your statement on? You must have a foundation of truth to promote what you speak? However, I believe that your beliefs on homosexuality reflect your agenda based bias, which is based upon man's wisdom and fallible. In your "everything is ok" mindset, can we then say that love can include a man marrying multiple partners? Can we then say that men can marry young boys? Or how about people being able to have sex with animals? If you said no to any of these, then why? What do you base your statements on? Beliefs built upon a foundation of lies (man's wisdom) allow for very subjective arguments. However, if we base our moral foundation upon the authority of God's Word, then we have peace. Just because you want something doesnt make it right.

  • M | August 30, 2012 1:57 PMReply

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

  • Jess | August 31, 2012 10:59 PM

    The difference being that it wasn't a part of his character, it WAS his character. It was a punchline. He has the word 'gay' in his name. He's not a character, he's a stereotype to be laughed at.

  • garciamr | August 30, 2012 8:56 AMReply

    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.

  • Nana | August 31, 2012 11:01 PM

    You claim to be concerned about what kids 'shouldn't see', but really it's just your own ignorant and mediveal ideas that you're pushing onto them. There's only one kind of acceptable person in the world of people like you, and everybody outside of that just doesn't exist. It's really a despicable and sad way to think.

  • Anon | August 31, 2012 10:55 PM

    Ah, so you're the type who would shelter your children so much and then drop them into the world like a baby bird falling to their death out of a tree. Bravo. You're ignorant.

  • Jahan | August 31, 2012 3:07 AM

    You know what's not normal? To be concerned about what other people do with their hearts and genitals. What makes you the authority on right and wrong? You're a disgrace.

  • Vanessa | August 30, 2012 1:10 AMReply

    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.

  • SLJ | December 30, 2012 9:31 PM

    Exactly!! Well said!

  • Ian | September 3, 2012 8:32 PM

    Thank you! it seems that barely anyone got the main moral of this movie. it is encouraging to see posts like this.

  • Stan | August 31, 2012 10:58 PM

    @Anonymous - Really, how dumb are you? Go the fuck outside.

  • Joe | August 31, 2012 3:01 AM

    To Anonymous:

    You're the joke. You're equating being gay, or fatter, or smaller, etc. to crime-committing people? Obviously that's not the point. We shouldn't be afraid of or treat badly people who are different.

    But if someone commits a CRIME, that is totally far and away from the point. Go away troll.

  • Anonymous | August 30, 2012 9:18 PM

    So you're saying we shouldn't treat murderers, serial killers, pedophiles, & zoophiles badly, just because their "different"?

    What a joke

  • Ursula | August 29, 2012 10:21 PMReply

    Unnecessary!

  • Ezra | August 31, 2012 10:57 PM

    Oh no! Gay people exist! I'm clutching my pearls.

  • Susan | August 29, 2012 5:50 PMReply

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

  • lane | August 29, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    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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