Disney-owned animation studio Pixar is the latest group to join the “It Gets Better Project” with its new video debut featuring the personal stories of its gay employees.
Started in September by writer Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller, the “It Gets Better Project” began with a YouTube video of the two men posted both in response to the disturbing trend of reported LGBT youth suicides and as a way to provide hope and inspiration to LGBT youth who face bullying and discrimination. Soon after, the campaign earned national acclaim with personalized videos from celebrities, politicians and organizations.
Titled “It Gets Better, Love Pixar,” the eight-minute video features the stories of Pixar employees who dealt with the confusing childhood and the repressive teenaged years that were made even more complex as they realized they were gay. In the video, the employees also share when it “got better,” as they talk about finding support from friends, acceptance from families and happiness within themselves and finally sharing a similar message of hope and promises that it does indeed get better.
While there is no denying the heartfelt emotion of Pixar’s employees, one has to wonder what took them so long? This past summer, Pixar faced criticism following the release of Toy Story 3 for sexist and homophobic depictions.
Dana Rudolph, publisher of Mombian.com and writer for Change.org, expressed her disappointment in Pixar’s latest blockbuster over what she called “LGBT-phobic gags.” Although Rudolph dismisses the notion that Pixar was homophobic in its depiction of some characters, she says that the multi-billion dollar company may have not been cognizant of how the movie possibly reinforced stereotypes among certain audience members.
As an example, Rudolph cites the story’s treatment of the Ken Doll character as “either the ultimate metrosexual, obsessed with fashion and in love with Barbie, or as a closeted gay man or transgender person.”
I’d like to give Pixar and [writer Michael] Arndt the benefit of the doubt and say they were trying to make us aware of our own silly assumptions about gender, rather than trying to make the point that men with feminine characteristics are inherently something to laugh at. Or maybe they’re saying that Ken’s closet has a glass door, and he might as well come out already. […] Even if they had good intentions, however, I fear they will be lost on most audiences, especially the younger ones—and reinforcing homophobic or transphobic stereotypes is nothing to toy with.
An article written by Natalie Wilson in Ms. Magazine expressed similar sentiments admonishing the film’s coupling of misogyny and homophobia:“Pairing homophobia with misogyny, the jokes about Ken suggest that the worst things a boy can be are either a girl or a homosexual.”
When asked about her thoughts on Pixar’s new video, Rudolph says she believes in its sincerity while calling to attention their company policy that offers equal benefits for its LGBT employees. Still, she knows that it is going to take more of a concerted effort to continue raising awareness on this issue while the saving lives of young people who believe they have nowhere to go and no one to talk to.
“I don't think any one video, or even any one effort, like "It Gets Better," is the solution to preventing anti-LGBT bullying,” she says. “I think it's going to take a number of efforts from many different people, organizations, and communities. I think every little bit helps, however, and the more people who speak out against bullying, the better.”
Any mobilizing effort that provides love and support to LGBT youth who are struggling with their lives should not be discredited, but we have to take it one step further and demand that these national campaigns are actually doing what we want them to—fighting for LGBT equality on all fronts. Rudolph calls on the idea of making sure corporations and individuals back their platforms up with actions such as “donations to anti-bullying and suicide prevention programs or support for appropriate legislation.”
And what are her suggestions for Pixar?
“I think Pixar in particular could do good by taking the brave stance of including an openly LGBT character(s) in an upcoming film,” she says. “Maybe they could include pair of lesbian Volvos or Subarus in an upcoming Cars sequel.”