Monday, June 8, 2020

Coming Out

People will automatically be turned off by the very fact that sexual orientation is the topic of Pixar’s newest SparkShorts entry Out, available on Disney Plus. This short (and by extension, this article) is not for those people. Instead, this short is for those who want to see a story about personal growth, about love and acceptance, about parent-child relationships, about being true to yourself. Disney has a rich history of addressing these topics. Finding Nemo is not a documentary about clownfish; it’s a story about a complex father-son relationship and about what it means to be a nontraditional family. Aladdin is not really about how to use magic to accomplish your goals, and more about being true to yourself -- truly loving yourself. And Out is less about “being gay” and more about overcoming fears and accepting yourself and others as they are.

And yes, there’s a magical rainbow in the end.

This short made me cry. But then again Pixar seems to have a history of doing that to me. I watched Out several times with my kids, and even more by myself. Sure, it’s got some fun moments (house music equals magic!) and who can resist when the dog pees the floor as a way to keep the mom finding out her son is gay! But Out made me cry because I believe everybody can relate to the fear of being rejected. Disappointing a parent. Having a secret found out.

And that’s the beauty of this short: it’s relatability. That’s the beauty of Disney in general, especially Pixar. They present feelings and emotions that everybody can relate to, even if the exact situation might tend towards fantasy. I’ve never been a lost toy, or a love-struck trash robot stuck in a dystopian future, or a widower trying to find adventure in a helium-powered mobile home. But I think we can all relate to the feelings associated with these extreme situations: having an existential crisis, finding love wherever it exists, trying to connect with those we have lost. So it’s true you might not be a gay man who undergoes a body switch with his yippy dog. But I’m sure you can relate to being in love. To being scared of what others might think of you. To wanting to be loved and accepted for who you are.

We are living in some really tough times. A pandemic has changed our world, has affected businesses, and has generated more social change than anything else in recent history. Wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters have gripped our attention. Innocent people are dying, and people are protesting and rioting in the streets. Life is not easy right now. What better time than now for a message about love and acceptance? There are those who will look at Out as nothing more than a political statement. But I look at it as a plea for us to love our children unconditionally. To accept ourselves wholeheartedly. To live boldly and to love boldly. And that's a message our world could use right now as we all navigate our way Out of heartache.

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