onward lgbtq character

Disney and Pixar are finally giving us our first openly queer animated character — so we hope. In recent years, Disney has made tiny little baby steps toward greater LGBTQ representation, with an “exclusively gay moment” in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, a minor gay character in Avengers: Endgame, and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it same-sex kiss of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. But those moments ended up feeling like insubstantial excuses for the House of Mouse to pat itself on the back for being so progressive, while toeing the line for overseas markets. Hopefully Pixar’s first official openly queer character, a cyclops officer voiced by Lena Waithe in the upcoming Onward, will change all that.

Onward will introduce Pixar’s very first openly queer character, voiced by out actor/filmmaker Lena Waithe (Master of None). Waithe is voicing a character named Officer Specter, a cyclops police officer who is one of the cops trying to catch elven brothers Barley (Chris Pratt) and Ian (Tom Holland) following their disastrous magic attempts. The Mary Sue reports that Specter’s dialogue in Onward includes her commiserating with a fellow officer about the challenges of raising kids in blended families.

“My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out,” Specter says, identifying her as the first openly LGBTQ character in Pixar history.

Onward producer Kori Rae said the line “just kind of happened” as the film was being penned by director Dan Scanlon and co-writers Jason Headley andKeith Bunin. “The scene, when we wrote it, was kind of fitting and it opens up the world a little bit, and that’s what we wanted.”

Scanlon added, “It’s a modern fantasy world and we want to represent the modern world.”

It would be a great piece of representation if it wasn’t so brief and easily cut out of the film for overseas versions. In its brevity, it’s no better than Disney’s past hamfisted efforts to show itself as progressive, but not too progressive. While the “exclusively gay moment” in the Beauty and the Beast live-action remake made some splashy headlines, once the film was released, it was clear that the moment was more implied than explicitly queer. The same-sex kiss in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was brief enough that it was cut out entirely of the film’s release in the Middle Eastern market. And while the Avengers: Endgame scene was able to rile up a few conservative moviegoers with its mention of gay dating, it was a line still uttered by a minor character — played by the heterosexual director at that. Waithe’s character is major enough to grace a character poster (alongside two other characters) but her line doesn’t seem substantial enough to make an impact on the rest of the movie at all. But hopefully we will be proven wrong.

Onward opens in theaters on March 6, 2020.

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