RECAP — Disney-Pixar’s first LGBT character is here and reaction is mixed

Published 2020-02-28 13:59

Alberta teen calls the cyclops-unicorn cop character 'garbage'

Animated powerhouse Disney-Pixar has introduced its first official LGBT character, but not everyone is impressed.

The cyclops-unicorn police officer named Specter, mentions "her girlfriend" during one scene in an animated film called Onward, in theatres March 6. 

The character’s sexuality has been confirmed by the film’s director, Dan Scanlon.

Some say they’re offended by the stereotypes embodied by Officer Specter, while others say the inclusion of the character is something to be celebrated.

Watch the latest episode of RECAP to hear host Myah Elliott and sidekick Preeya Narcis dish on the debate.

You can find the episode on the CBC Kids News YouTube channel and be sure to SUBSCRIBE!

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Is it progress?

Calgary teen Jane MacNeil, 17, said they were interested in seeing the film Onward because of the representation it promised.

That quickly changed.

Jane MacNeil was frustrated by Officer Specter's lack of screen time and dialogue. (Dana Pugh)

“I was so excited when I heard about it, and then so crushed,” said Jane, who identifies as a non-binary lesbian, meaning they use gender-neutral pronouns instead of she/her or he/him.

Jane’s concerns

First off, Jane said, the character is ugly.

Secondly, they’re a police officer. The police have a history of conflict with the LGBT community, they said.

Finally, the character was only given a small part in the film.

Jane, who said they feel “desperate” for representation in the media, wishes the character wasn’t even included in Onward.

The character is “garbage,” Jane said.

Representation is important, they said, but not without consultation with LGBT people.

The character of Officer Specter is voiced by gay actor Lena Waithe. (Disney-Pixar, Allison Cake/CBC)

“I feel like it could have been done better,” said Jane.

To solve this dilemma of a lack of LGBT representation in film, Jane creates their own media or consumes content from smaller producers.

The internet isn’t too pleased

The dangers of ‘cancel culture’

According to Maureen Bradley, a self-described queer professor at the University of Victoria, having LGBT characters in children's entertainment is “a big frickin’ deal.”

Rather than judge the film before seeing it, she encourages young people to give it a chance.

Bradley, who’s a filmmaker and teaches a course on Pixar films, fears that “cancel culture,” or a boycott of Onward, will only hurt LGBT communities.

Maureen's work focuses on writing, film and queer media. She presently teaches a course on Pixar.(Allson Cake/CBC, photo submitted by Maureen Bradley)

“When I see censorship culture, I get very scared,” she said.

Marginalized people have been hurt by censorship more than anybody, she said, because it meant absolutely no LGBT characters existed in the past.

Expecting Disney-Pixar to get it perfect the first time is unrealistic, she said, but at least this starts a dialogue.

Still not enough

Despite all this, Bradley has issued a call to action for Disney and Pixar.

“Bump up the representation tenfold,” she said.

And for LGBT kids?

“Go make your own stuff,” she said.

This will allow kids to control their own representation, Bradley said.

CBC Kids News reached out to Disney-Pixar for a comment but didn’t hear back.

Want to hear what Myah and Preeya think about Onward and LGBT representation in animated films? Check out the latest episode of RECAP:

About the Contributor

Myah Elliott
Myah Elliott
CBC Kids News Contributor
Myah Elliott is the host of RECAP, a weekly video roundup of buzzed-about news and pop culture that is powered by CBC Kids News. She’s one of the biggest movie fans you’ll ever meet and she also loves music. You won’t catch Myah relaxing too often because she’s on a gap year and fills her time with a part-time job, thrifting, TikToking and learning all she can about marketing and social media. Episodes of #CBCRECAP are uploaded right here every Friday and are also on CBC TV and CBC Gem on Saturdays.

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