Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Luca: A Celebration of Friendship

(Guest post by Stephen)

"You and me, we can do anything!"

– Alberto, in Disney/Pixar's Luca

I have been eagerly anticipating Pixar's Luca for months, and was really excited when I finally got to watch it. My only complaint was that they didn't release the movie to theaters. It's only available on Disney+, but I would have loved to see it on the big screen. The film did not disappoint. But first, I want to share some background about why I was so excited.

A few years ago, I was at a men's retreat, face-to-face with another man, and was asked to say to him what I felt as I looked at him. My answer surprised even me: "I just want him to be my friend," I said. Then I broke down in tears.

For many years I avoided forming any close relationship with other men. I had a deep-set fear that my desires for connection with other men would be perceived as childish or unmanly, that people would think I was gay, or that perhaps it meant that I actually was gay. I was also afraid that I would be treated poorly, made fun of, or hurt. I don't think I'm alone in these fears. In fact, a researcher at NYU, Niobe Way, has documented how similar fears lead boys to become emotionally stoic and isolated. It seems to be a common cultural belief that men shouldn't or even can't form close friendships, but I have learned from personal experience that it doesn't have to be this way.

"Men are fully capable of connecting deeply with other people – some just need to relearn how to do it."

– Kim Evensen, Brothers

Deep, authentic friendships are necessary and needed for everyone in this world, including men. They provide an important piece of support as we experience difficult trials in our lives. The lack of such friendships is literally killing men, as loneliness and suicide among men has become epidemic.

It took me a long time to realize that not only does my desire for deep connection mean nothing more than wanting friendship, a normal human need, but that I can have that kind of friendship if I work at it. I have worked to create and foster multiple friendships over the last few years, and those friendships have truly been a lifeline to me. I can't imagine going back to the isolation in which I used to live.

This lack of societal sanction of deep friendships between men is why I've been so excited about the release of Luca. From the trailers and the interviews leading up to the movie's release, it has been clear that the film focuses on the beauty of friendship.

Pixar's Luca celebrates friendships. Luca and Alberto, two sea-monsters whose bodies transform to appear human on land, become fast friends. They push each other to try new things and get out of their comfort zones. Their friendship develops into something truly beautiful as they share their fears with each other, support each other, show affection to each other, and even have deep disagreements. The film is a journey in the authentic formation and expression of friendship.

I won't spoil the movie for you, but make sure you don't miss the end scene. It beautifully paints the deep love that two friends can have for each other. We need more of this love – and the expression of it – in our society. Luca is a masterclass in what that can look like.

For a different take on the messages in Luca, see here

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