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Aug 31 2012

“Introduces”

Nancy French has a warning for parents about a new kids’ movie: “ParaNorman Introduces Children to Homosexuality”.

However, the second scene involves one of the subplots. Norman’s sister has a crush on a kid she tries desperately to impress throughout the movie. After she fails to turn his head, she finally asks him out.

“Sure,” he responds. “You’re gonna love my boyfriend. He’s like a total chick-flick nut.”

My friend saw the film in a “red state” and she reported that “you could hear the gasps in the theatre from parents” at the unexpected line. “I should have known something was up when the theatre manager made a huge disclaimer and offered refunds if we did not like the movie,” she wrote.

As a resident of a reddish state, I almost want to go see this movie just to witness the reactions. It must have been incredible to watch the sudden failure of these parents’ homophobic delusion that they can isolate their children from any knowledge of same-sex relationships. I find it implausible that the film actually “introduces” children to homosexuality itself; that would suggest that all these kids had never once encountered the concept of homosexuality before they saw ParaNorman, which is vastly unlikely.

I have no sympathy for these parents – while I’m sure they’re trying to raise their kids in a way they believe to be right, just as we are, the problem is that these people want our son’s classmates and friends to believe that his moms simply don’t exist. These are the people who would protect their children from being “introduced to homosexuality” by keeping them away from us. Say what you will about our family, but we don’t keep our children ignorant of the fact that homophobes, Republicans and religious people exist. We don’t even try. Why would we? These are concepts that they are, unfortunately, going to encounter in their lives – and likely sooner rather than later, thanks to people like Nancy French who think our truth is something their children can’t handle.

We can’t teach our kids that something is right or wrong if they don’t know what it is. I don’t know how these parents intend to do it – the statement “homosexuality is wrong” is meaningless to someone who you’ve prevented from knowing that homosexuality exists. By swaddling their children in ignorance, they’ve placed themselves in the double bind of expressing their disapproval of something without letting their kids know just what it is they disapprove of. Either they must finally address the topic they’re so reluctant to talk about, or attempt to avoid any mention of the subject at all until a movie like ParaNorman blows the whole thing wide open (and not a moment too soon).

William Bigelow of Breitbart.com also objects:

It’s a time-honored technique of the gay community to hide the fact that a character is gay until the audience has developed a real affinity for him/her, then catch the audience off-guard by divulging that the character is gay. …

If they really were “brave” they’d announce from the start that Mitch was gay and see just how many parents would take their children to see this movie.

Of course, this just mirrors how coming out often proceeds in reality: being LGBT usually isn’t the first thing you learn about someone, even if you know them well. And when this particular facet of who we are comes to light, the homophobe takes umbrage at the revelation that upends their previous assumptions. After all, they consented to love or raise or befriend or laugh at a straight cis person – not some queer. It’s remarkable how much this resembles the classic “pieces of flair” argument that transgender people should always disclose their history to romantic partners so that they can be rejected outright just for being trans. Bigelow takes it further, saying what even homophobes rarely state openly: that members of invisible minorities are obligated to announce their status in advance, so that bigots can simply hate them before getting to know them or developing any attachment or connection to them as individuals. It doesn’t sound quite so reasonable now, does it?

14 comments

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  1. 1
    Ace of Sevens

    This bears repeating: The bigots aren’t fighting for their right to disapprove of gays. They are fighting for the right to pretend they don’t exist.

    1. 1.1
      lochaber

      I think a large part of it is the “don’t ask, don’t tell”, “out of sight, out of mind”, and “what you do in your own bedrooms is your own business” attitudes that are often expressed by many of these people.

      But there is a non-zero chunk of the population that is outraged that an otherwise acceptable, respectable, and sympathetic character could be gay. They believe this is clearly an impossibility and a falsehood, and is just being put in as propaganda (after all, if the character was really gay, you could tell from the tubes and gerbils and luring kids into vans and such).

      I think there was a similar string of comments on the IMDB (maybe it was somewhere else…) shortly after V for Vendetta came out. One of the vocal idiots was all bent out of shape that they portrayed a sympathetic character as being happy in a same-sex relationship.

      Things have gotten a lot better, but unfortunately there are far too many people desperately clinging to their ignorance and hatred. :(

  2. 2
    Jessica

    If kids were first introduced to homosexuality with that line, they wouldn’t understand it. That line only makes sense if you understand that homosexuals can exist.

  3. 3
    Aaron Phoenix

    The idea that we should identify ourselves as LGBT upfront is, in my opinion, akin to a scarlet letter or worse the triangle and Star of David patches people were expected to wear during the Nazi reign of Germany.

    This is the problem with senseless hate for a group of people: There is no reason to hate them, and they are just like everyone else. There are no special danger qualities about us. We are just like everyone else, and so we blend in. We are not easily identifiable. So when someone feels they need to be concerned about “the queers” and be on the look out, they become frightened that they might not know what to look for.

    While I don’t hide my homosexuality, I refuse to let it be my identifying marker, and I know there is no way in hell these people will have their dirty, uncivilized idiocy inflicted upon us.

    1. 3.1
      Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

      Can’t remember having myself introduced ever as “Hi, my name is Giliell and I’m heterosexual”, so why should you have to do that? Just shitty heteronormacism: everybody’s hetero until declared otherwise.

    2. 3.2
      Nathaniel Frein

      I hadn’t thought of the Star of David or the Scarlet Letter, but those fit equally well.

      My first thought was how people used to treat lepers. Hand them a bell and make them shout “leper, outcast, unclean” while they rang the bell so people knew to get far away.

  4. 4
    omegageek

    I saw ParaNorman in the Baltimore metro suburbs with a friend of mine and even before the bit at the end, I associated the language used to bully/discuss Norman’s supernatural ability (even by his own parents) with that used against/for gay youth. When the ‘big reveal’ happened, I felt like the Grinch, with my heart growing at least two sizes in excitement.

    A woman sitting next to us with her family said, “Ewwww!” in a tone of voice like she was waiting for others to chime in. No one did. My good spirits came crashing down a bit, but at least it was only her and I guess that’s something.

  5. 5
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Huh, now I want to see that movie.

  6. 6
    Ulgaa

    I was just discussing seeing this movie with my son. I think we just might go this weekend.

  7. 7
    Randomfactor

    Gonna have to see it myself.

    Wonder how the writer would’ve reacted if the movie had been made in the 60′s, and the object-of-the-crush wanted his best friend to tag along, and he was black.

  8. 8
    Buffy

    What a terrifying world for conservative religious zealots. Movies and TV shows no longer depict a fantasy world in which everybody is Christian, mom stays at home cleaning and cooking in her dress and heels, the worst thing kids do is say “darn”, black people are all servants, Latinos are gardeners, and gay people don’t exist.

  9. 9
    Christoph Burschka

    It’s a time-honored technique of the gay community to hide the fact that a character is gay until the audience has developed a real affinity for him/her, then catch the audience off-guard by divulging that the character is gay.

    Yeah – if the homophobes gets to know a gay character as a person before finding out their sexuality, how are they supposed to properly hate them? How insidious.

  10. 10
    leftwingfox

    I got to see it a week ago. The line got a bit of a giggle here in Ontario. It works on multiple levels, the biggest being that it matches the central theme about stereotypes and expectations.

    The funny thing is, it’s _just_ one line. He could have said “girlfriend” rather than “boyfriend”, and nothing else would have changed. But it absolutely fits the theme of the movie, and the bigot “baaaaw” over the line drives home the fundamental theme of the movie.

  11. 11
    Ryan

    I think the thing that is really horrifying to these people is that they have to acknowledge that it is possible to be a homosexual and also a good person. Nobody likes the feelings associated with cognitive dissonance — not even religious fundamentalists. It would be much handier if they could just know in advance the the person is “bad”, so all the good things they do will obviously have some shady ulterior motive.

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