Last month, The Independent published an article in which everyone’s favourite stoner Seth Rogen expressed his regret over the homophobic jokes made in the 2007 cult-comedy classic, Superbad. Rogen started writing the film at just thirteen years old, and given the way the teenage characters delivered these jokes so casually, they were, according to Rogen, “to some degree glamourising that type of [homophobic] language in a lot of ways”. Better late than never for an apology, I guess.
And that isn’t the only issue that has arisen focusing on LGBTQ issues in cinema lately. Around the same time, Twitter user Alexis Isobel called upon Disney to give their Frozen heroine Elsa a girlfriend in its recently announced sequel. The tweet garnered over two thousand retweets, and soon the hashtag #GiveElsaAGirlfriend became a popular trend as thousands of other users voiced their support for wider representation of the LGBTQ community within popular culture. The demand for an LGBTQ Disney hero or heroine has been pretty high for a while now, and the character of Elsa indeed seems to be the most logical character to go with given how many people have already read Frozen as a metaphor for ‘coming out of the closet’, anyway.
Now, the thing about both of these issues is that the movies in question are both targeted at young people, be it a six-year-old or a sixteen-year-old. When you’re in your teens and trying to figure out your sexuality, the last thing you need is a popular film making you the butt end of ignorant and cheap comedy – especially if you’ve already had to grow up with little to no representation in the first place. Furthermore, The Guardian also addressed the issue with an article stressing the need for more representation of LGBTQ parents within kids’ movies; by doing so it would hopefully make LGBTQ families feel more included, while also helping to put an end to any prejudice within families with straight parents or children.
Typically, when you’re young you’re at your most impressionable, and having these derogatory stereotypes and erasure of your sexuality constantly being bombarded at you can therefore be fundamentally damaging to your self-esteem. Is this really your sexuality, for example, or are you just ‘confused’? Should you really come out, or would it be safer just to pretend you’re straight and not have to deal with such ingrained homophobia? Given how integrated certain movies are in popular culture, cinema can be a wonderful vehicle for social change – but, in that same sense, it can also be a tool to reinforce outdated and harmful view points.
Fortunately, industry members seem to be becoming more and more conscious of these issues and the impact cinema can have on them, so the opportunities for positive change are a lot more likely to happen than they were ten years ago. Indeed, Seth Rogen made his recent apology for Superbad’s ignorance towards homosexual equality while promoting his new film Bad Neighbours 2, which has been praised for its respectful portrayal of a gay character as well as its unashamedly feminist angle in regards to American sororities. Then there’s also the latest trailer for Disney’s upcoming sequel Finding Dory, which reportedly features a lesbian couple with a young child.
Film is a fundamental way of shaping society and if, from a young age, we can provide children with films that tell them, it’s ok to be gay!, then the homosexual struggle and poor mental health in LGBTQ teens will be greatly enhanced; the erasure of LGBTQ individuals and issues will eventually come to an end.
It’s baby steps, sure, but it’s happening and, hopefully, it will pave the way for bigger things in the future.
Words by Samantha King