[Unpopular Opinion] Children and Homosexuality

Recently I’ve been thinking about the implicit messages that children devour in media that is directed at them. What message do we send to  boys who watch Dora the Explorer when we make a spin-off show called Go Diego Go so that they can have a male influence instead? What message do we send to the girls who read The Titan’s Curse only to discover that a strong group of girl’s are seemingly irrationally man-hating? What message do we send to children as a whole when the only romantic relationships in the ever-popular Disney and Pixar movies are heterosexual?

This last question is one that has been bothering me for some time. After recovering from watching Toy Story 3, a movie that could be argued as being just as much for people my age as children (I know that more people my age were in the theatre when I went to see it, and we were the ones who were grossly sobbing through a third of it), I realized that Disney and Pixar movies have a lot of romantic relationship. I grew up on Disney movies whose plots revolved around a romantic relationship (especially when the protagonist was a woman), and not one of those relationships was homosexual. I can’t even remember a minor relationship that was homosexual. Why is this?

Well, simply put, homosexuality is considered to be outside the norm. It is seen as perverse and innately sexual in nature rather than “romantic.” We can’t be exposing children to sexuality! That is an adult topic from which we must protect our precious children! Except, we’re already exposing children to sexuality: it’s called heterosexuality.

The way I see it, if you’re going to claim that you shouldn’t include homosexuality in children’s media because children shouldn’t be exposed to sexuality, then heterosexuality should be erased from children’s media as well. And if you’re worried that your kids are going to have too many questions, well then you shouldn’t have become a parent in the first place. Children are smarter than they seem, and if you raise them in an environment that is accepting of differences then they will grow to become accepting of differences. I think the first step to that is incorporating differences in the media children consume.

Buzz/Woody otp

About megtao

Student. Writer. Nerdfighter. Fights for love, justice, and awesome.
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11 Responses to [Unpopular Opinion] Children and Homosexuality

  1. Briana says:

    I think there’s just a lot going on here.

    For one, supporting homosexuality didn’t become cool until relatively recently. Now, portraying a a homosexual relationship makes your show/book/whatever cutting edge and progressive and tolerant and all sorts of awesome things. In the past, when most of the Disney movies were made, for example, including homosexual characters would have just resulted in boycotts. Smart companies, which primarily exist to make money no matter how much we think they should support ethics and whatnot, just can’t go there.

    (Anyway, Disney just got an African American princess, so we can’t really hold them up as a model for any kind of diversity. Someone on Facebook posted (so I am unsure of the accuracy of the statement) that they won’t even include Merida in their princess line because she doesn’t have a prince.)

    Also, homosexuality isn’t just considered to be outside the norm–it is. A very small percentage of the population is homosexual, compared with those who are heterosexual. By definition, it isn’t normal–which is not inherently an insult. So while having no homosexual characters in a show might not be realistic, having a million of them in the same show wouldn’t be realistic either. It might make sense to criticize Disney, then, for having no homosexual characters, but I certainly wouldn’t criticize Sleeping Beauty for instance–a movie in which there only are about eight characters.

    The “not exposing children to sexuality” argument is interesting. Obviously we can’t erase all sexuality, if by that we mean just showing two people who are in love, maybe holding hands and perhaps kissing once. If they have parents, one would hope they would see that in real life occasionally, so taking it out of media wouldn’t accomplish much.

    But I’m going to argue against you and say it is valid for parents to withhold images of homosexuality from their children. I think our country is in a time of transition in attitudes towards homosexuality, and some people are confused and some people have very complex feelings and opinions on the matter. If adults have not yet decided what they think, it can be immensely difficult for them to discuss the issue with their children. I know this sounds horrible to those who think homosexuality and homosexual marriage is ,obviously wrong and should be unequivocally supported–but there are just some people who are working to come to grips with how times have changed. It isn’t always easy to decide homosexuality is good when you have heard it’s bad your entire life. And as long as these people are just questioning the matter, and not in any way bullying homosexuals, I think we need to respect that and allow them to come to grips with their own opinions before they pass them on to their children.

    Of course, this is a personal choice parents can make. I’m not advocating that no company can produce a children’s movie with a homosexual relationship–just that parents have the right to withhold it from their children.

    • Briana says:

      Sorry about the crazy italics at the end!

      • megtao says:

        (It won’t let me reply to your latest comment, but this is in reply to the latest comment…)

        I wasn’t saying that she was a lesbian, nor do I agree with that interpretation. I was simply pointing out how I could understand why companies like Disney would avoid issues like homosexuality because of a fear it would affect its popularity.

        I chose Disney because it’s the most recognizeable children’s company. I’m not sure why family-friend and anti-homosexuality need to be linked. Again, homosexuality is not innately sexual any more than heterosexuality is innately sexual. And I don’t think we can assume there weren’t openly homosexual couples in the past. History is written by the winners, and seeing as our society is so heteronormative I think we can safely assume those with heterosexual ideologies were the winners.

        Again, I disagree with these statistics as I believe much of heterosexuality is due to construction and societal pressures.

        I know change will take time. I don’t expect anyone to change their minds overnight. I am not asking that people change their minds. What I’m saying is that children’s media should contain diversity, including diverse sexualities.

        Think about the level of heterosexuality that appears in children’s movies. So you have what, a kiss? A courtship? A dance? If this was shown as a homosexual couple there is no reason for this to become a huge talk about sex. You know what you say if a kid asks about it: “it’s because they’re in love.” Simple. It really is that simple.

        And of course you’re allowed not to know, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to shield children from it. Just because you don’t understand, doesn’t mean they won’t. In fact, if they’re raised understanding they’re less likely to see it as a complicated issue.

        There’s no such thing as supporting something a little bit. Discussing homosexuality doesn’t necessarily mean discussing sexuality, and it’s really not that complicated. And by avoiding the topic all together, yes, it is teaching children to be prejudiced.

        I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, though I appreciate your contrasting opinion.

    • megtao says:

      This is a great response, but super long, so I’m going to do my best to respond to all the different pieces!

      1. It’s not about being cool. I agree that it doesn’t make sense to expect homosexuality to appear in Disney movies like Snow White, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be included in the more recent children’s films, like Toy Story 3, which is I focused on it in my post. (Some people said that Merida was a lesbian because she didn’t choose to have a prince at all, and it got a large amount of flack for this, so I understand WHY large children’s companies like Disney and Pixar choose not to include homosexuality, but what I’m saying is that it’s WRONG.)

      2. I’m not really sure how accurate that statement is (that homosexuality is such a small percentage of the population). I mean, there are high amounts of homosexuality in giraffes, so why wouldn’t there be the same amount in other animals, including humans. It seems more likely to me that heteronormative conditioning makes people who are, say, bisexual, more likely to choose a heterosexual partnership, or to hide or ignore their homosexuality in order to not have to deal with the harassment it entails. And it was a large enough part of the population to find itself into the bible, so it’s not like it’s a new trend or anything. Let’s pretend for arguments sake that it is a small portion of the population, like maybe the amount of natural red heads? Because we’ve got a couple main characters representing that field. What about princesses? Talking toys? Talking animals? I’m not equating homosexuals to any of these, I’m just saying that ignoring a portion of a population because there’s not enough of them in the real world isn’t something that children’s media is known for doing.

      3. Taking it out of the media would even the playing field. But I think this is the reason why it’s even more important to include homosexuality in children’s media because many children aren’t exposed to it in their home life (especially because of the barriers homosexual couples have and continue to face when it comes to having children of their own).

      4. I don’t think it’s right to say because people are uncomfortable with a natural part of life that it’s right for them to protect children from it. I mean, the US has never had a woman President, and it may be hard for people to come to grips with the fact that women are going out into the business world and into politics, but that doesn’t make it right for parents to “protect” their kids from it. This argument only holds weight because we’re talking about homosexuality and homosexuality has become implicitly connected with perversion, so people feel like they need to protect kids from it. I don’t think that’s right. It just isn’t right.

      5. Yes, of course, parents have the final say, but when that final says includes teaching their children bigotry, even if that’s not their intention, I say that they’re wrong to do so.

      Thanks for your reply. I really enjoyed reading it and being able to converse on this topic.

      • Briana says:

        Sorry. I used the word “cool” a little loosely. I meant to say that it is currently more socially acceptable, not that it will earn you groupies or something. :p

        Yeah, I’m not sure about the whole Merida thing. I really don’t think the lesbian interpretation has grounding. Perhaps she is one; I don’t know. But the whole POINT was that all three of her princes were unmarry-able. They were intentionally made crazy and unappealing. It would have been a stronger statement had she chosen not to marry an actual prince charming.

        Disney is just a bad company to examine for this in general though. They’ve built their brand to be family-friendly, and that inevitably means being conservative staying away from controversy as much as possible. Also, in terms of their fairy-tale retellings—their source material didn’t have homosexual characters either. Some of their movies are set in the past. So, while people with homosexual tendencies did exist in the Middle Ages, for example, it would be somewhat historically inaccurate to portray a couple that was open about their homosexuality in Sleeping Beauty. (Though I’m sure you can take issue with the realism of fairies, or the historical accuracy of their clothes or something.)

        Ten percent was thrown around as the number for awhile, until relatively recently when some studies determined two percent of the population was more accurate. I’m unsure off-hand if that’s just for homosexuals, or if it includes bisexuals or other orientations, as well. Doubtless there’s room for error, but I think it’s safe to say that there are more heterosexual people in the world and that the gap is fairly significant.

        I just think that it’s understandable that any major social change will take time. Many young people think it’s obvious homosexuality is a good thing because, to a certain extent, that’s all they’ve known. Older people have more history, personal and social to deal with, and I think we should allow them to do it. If you have been taught and have firmly believed for fifty years that homosexual acts are immoral, I think it’s unfair for anyone to expect you to change your mind about that overnight.

        Thus, while some people are struggling between thinking homosexual acts are wrong and the media telling them that they’re rotten intolerable bigots (no one wants to be a bigot), I think they have a valid reason for not trying to discuss what they think it is a very complicated issue (not an obvious black-and-white one) with five-year-old children. Because then you just get into discussions of how it’s more “natural” for men and women to have sex than man and man, and then you’re talking about sex with a five-year-old….

        So I’m not talking about people who are simply uncomfortable with (ie don’t like) homosexuality, but about people who just don’t know. I think you’re allowed to not know. But if you have no idea what you think about a complicated issue, it makes no sense for you to expose a young child to it.

        There’s a misconception that not-supporting-homosexuality-and-homosexual-acts-100% is the same as hating and being prejudiced against homosexuals, and I don’t think that’s true. Waiting until children are older to discuss the very complicated issue of sexuality (and all the theories about how it’s socially constructed and whatnot, which a child would not understand) is not the same as teaching children to be prejudiced.

      • Briana says:

        Sorry. I just meant that I had heard others thought Merida might be lesbian, and I am bit confused because there doesn’t seem to be evidence either way. I’m sure NO ONE would want to marry the three suitors Pixar gave her! (At least that was their intention!)

        We can assume it for certain historical periods. Ancient Rome? Definitely open homosexuality. In medieval or Renaissance Europe? Maybe someone was open about it, but laws and prevailing attitudes on the matter would make most people hide it. Except that the medieval world didn’t have the concept of “homosexuality” at all. They would only discussion homosexual actions, and not assume that you had some innate attraction to members of your own sex that in some way defined your identity.

        I think saying “They love each other” is overly simplistic. It seems fair that if you bring up a controversial subject with your child—with anyone—that you make sure they are aware it’s controversial. I wouldn’t want my child (in today’s world; it will probably be different even a few short years from now) to go around blithely telling everyone he is in favor of gay rights—if he is not fully aware that there are people who disagree with him, and some of those people may be very unpleasant about it. And I think it’s only fair that, if you mention there is another side to the issue, you fully explain the other side (why they think it’s more natural for male/female sex, which gets you into sex), instead of just saying, “They’re stupid and prejudiced.”

  2. You’ve touched upon two issues here that are both incredibly important to me. 1) gender issues and 2) homosexuality in media.

    Your first paragraph hits the nail of the head to pointing out how we stupidly decide to enforce gender roles on children. In my opinion children only think something is a “girl” or “boy” book/movie/show whatever, because we (society) tell them it is. All that context is constructed and they way it is set up and entrenched in our daily life is insulting to both boys and girls. Especially when feminism/female independence is depicted as “man hating”. Ugh.

    and as for homosexuality. Everything you said I found myself nodding along to. Recently this study was released on the impact of Strong Female Characters http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/08/30/strong-female-characters-may-negate-effects-of-violent-media/
    I think a similar argument can be made in terms of how LGBTQ characters are depicted in media and how that influences society.

    And I don’t think it’s valid to withhold images of homosexuality from children. Like you said, we don’t with hold images of heterosexuality. It’s only an issue if you MAKE it an issue. If your young child see’s two (hetero) people kissing and ask you what they’re doing, how would your explanation differ when you’re explaining why to same sex partners are kissing?

    I think you said it best when you said this “Children are smarter than they seem, and if you raise them in an environment that is accepting of differences then they will grow to become accepting of differences.”

    Because really, IMHO, it’s as simple as that.

  3. I do agree with this, that there should be at least one or two homosexual characters or gender identification outside of the physical gender when it comes to all forms of media, including children’s movies.
    The interesting thing is that there actually was a movie geared at children recently with a homosexual character – Paranorman.

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