A lot of animated family movies teach the message of “Be yourself and proud of who you are”. For a lot of kids of any age, they need to be reminded not to let bullies or peer pressure get to them. But for some kids who are attracted to the same gender or present themselves outside of the masculine/feminine binary, simple “be proud of who you are” messages aren’t enough.
In 2013, Frozen came out and for a lot of people, “Let It Go” became a coming out anthem. But while the movie (mainly Elsa) does resonate with the LGBT community, it was actually meant to be about mental illness. Is there an animated family film that can be read explicitly as one for LGBT youth?
I think there might be. And that movie is none other than DreamWorks’ 2010 film Megamind.
This movie wasn’t a huge hit (Disney’s Tangled, which also came out that year, made more money) but it does have a following. It’s a superhero movie with a twist: what if the villain won? And once the villain does win, what happens next? In Megamind’s case, he becomes bored and lonely. He doesn’t really want power, he just wants people to appreciate and acknowledge him. Eventually he becomes a real hero and gets the girl. But I think a queer narrative plays a huge role in that story as well.
For starters, I think you can tell from the poster that he’s queer-coded like a lot of villains tend to be. Skintight, spiky, over-the-top outfits (and some makeup!) and a thin, waifish built. He also has some, ahem, foppish mannerisms, lives with a male best friend who wears a pink apron and raises robot children, can be really emotionally expressive (but not macho or manly), and gazes longingly at Metro Man (the male opponent) just as he does with Roxanne (the female love interest).
And you know what? He’s never demonized for any of this. He isn’t made to be the butt of a joke or gross, that’s just how he is. He’s FABULOUS, and isn’t forced to change, even after he becomes a hero.
What makes me think this is a queer narrative, beyond just how Megamind presents himself, is how his story of discrimination is eerily reminiscent of LGBT youth.
His parents had to send him away, and he spent his childhood growing up (raised by other men) in a prison. When he goes to school he is immediately seen othered by the teacher and the other children, getting no gold stars, put in the corner, and not picked to be on teams. So he has to be independent. Eventually, he decides “if they think I’m a villain, I guess that’s what I’ll be!”
That definitely sounds like a kid from a marginalized identity facing prejudice, and internalizing it. There are unfortunately cases of young kids with internalized homophobia who become aggressive and unhappy. This is a definite parallel to Megamind leading a life of villainy, but eventually realizing that it is depressing and meaningless.
After donning a disguise of a white straight man, Megamind gets closer to Roxanne. He falls in love with her (but still shows a yearning for Metro Man) and even ends up kissing her. When his disguise fades, everyone stops and stares at them with shock and horror. That can definitely be reminiscent of how LGBT couples expressing affection in public are viewed and treated.
Frustrated, Megamind tries to return to being a villain by battling Hal aka Tighten, a ‘hero’ he created. But it turns out the ubermasculine Hal is the real villain, who takes delight in hurting others and is creepily obsessed with Roxanne, feeling entitled to her. Megamind, in all his FABULOUS glory, defeats him and saves the day, becoming the new city hero and Roxanne’s boyfriend.
I think it’s pretty obvious that the blue alien Megamind is meant to be a metaphor for a person of a marginalized identity taking pride in who they are and becoming loved for it. And given his mannerisms, attire, his contrast to the villain, and how he idolizes a male AND a female character, I think it’s safe to say that a bisexual, gender-noncomforming Megamind fits very well. And he can still find love, he can still be a hero, that he doesn’t have to conform, and that he is AWESOME. I think this is something that all LGBT youth can remember when they feel like the world is getting them down.
Happy Pride Month!