LGBTQ rights have only made groundbreaking progress in recent years, starting with the legalization of gay marriage in 2015. Since then, members of the LGBTQ community have still struggled against discrimination and fought for basic rights, including representation in all areas. One area of representation is the introduction of gay relationships into media across every platform.
Often, the representation queer relationships receive in media such as TV shows and movies are more harmful than beneficial. Films often use different negative stereotypes of these relationships. Creators incorporate these stereotypes to enhance plots rather than make the queer relationships a genuine portion of the plot.
Queerbaiting, the practice of implying queer relationships in films, is a common way for filmmakers to include LGBTQ characters without including meaningful representation. Most films usually choose to create a character that could potentially be queer but suggest no history of queerness and hardly explore the true story.
On top of that, film makers often take LGBTQ characters and place them in situations in which they will experience sexual relationships with another seemingly straight character. Creators do this to profit off audience engagement and attempt representation to please certain viewers.
Even while queerbaiting and other harmful stereotypes have yet to be resolved or addressed by creators, another controversy has made for an even larger commotion among media users. Currently, there is a debate surrounding queer relationships in children’s media and whether LGBTQ representation is beneficial or harmful to young minds.
The earliest outward queer representation in children’s media was in 2005. An episode featured lesbian moms in “Postcards from Buster,” a spin-off series from the popular show “Arthur.”The backlash created a lot of issues, including PBS banning the episode in certain conservative states. Creator Marc Brown stood his ground, however, and defended gay marriage against all retaliation from viewers.
The exact same problem with representation in children’s media continues 17 years later, just like the fight for general LGBTQ rights and representation. The new Disney film “Lightyear” was released earlier this year and shone a new light on the debate of queer romance documentation in kids’ movies.
Only a singular kiss shared between two women caused one of the largest social media uproars seen in a long time. The unrest was partly due to being a movie associated with the extremely, if not most, popular producing company in the world.
The main argument on social media can be summarized best by a tweet from popular conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro.
“Children are not adults,” Shapiro’s tweet read. “What may be appropriate for adults is not appropriate for children. That this must be said demonstrates that our society is in a state of moral collapse.”
His argument has many fallacies. There is no evidence of heterosexual relationships impacting children’s minds, and has caused no controversy or uproar in history. If there truly is equal representation for queer relationships, why must adults act out against romantic relationships in kids' movies now?
Since the very beginning, almost every Disney movie plot revolved around romantic relationships and love stories. Of course, these are heterosexual relationships and have never been an issue for parents. If romantic relationships are truly inappropriate for children, then limitations should be fairly distributed among all sexual orientation of relationships, both straight and queer.
It seems to be that romantic relationships in children’s media are not the real problem and the backlash only has to do with positive LBGTQ representation and the extreme amount of homophobia in our society.
“Lightyear” filmmakers originally planned to cut the lesbian scene due to its insignificance to the plot. Creators wanted to avoid queerbaiting and carelessly sneaking in irrelevant LGBTQ representation.
Disney officials brought the scene back after receiving a critical open letter from members of the creative teams and executive leadership claiming producers cut almost every single moment of even slightly queer affection, regardless of protests from the creative and executive teams, according toForbes.
From the first significant queer scene in a children’s TV show 17 years ago and the legalization of gay marriage seven years ago, it is astonishing that a blink of a kiss shared between two women in a kids’ movie has still managed to cause this much chaos.
The fight for representation and equal rights for the LGBTQ community is far from over, and waiting for a logical counterargument against the representation of queers in media is getting old. The offensive stereotypes, the lack of effort and the mindless attempts at representation must come to an end.