We all know how much representation matters, whether in film, on our television screens or in literature. In 2018, Instinct covered how far the LGBTQ community has come on television. Then in 2019, we were thrilled to report that LGBTQ tv regulars were at an all-time high! Turning to movies, one massively popular film from 2021 is sparking discussion; a discussion that centers around the queer community. Released last June, the Disney-produced animated film Luca quickly took the country by storm. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is a summary of the plot from Disney.com and also the movie trailer.
“Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar’s original feature film “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca (voice of Jacob Tremblay) shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, Alberto (voice of Jack Dylan Grazer), but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: they are sea monsters from another world just below the water’s surface.”
The sweet coming-of-age story has resonated deeply within the LGBTQ community, as we see ourselves and our story mirrored on the screen. Pink News has previously reported that,
“It’s an all too familiar story for queer folk – a tale of a world-cracking friendship, feeling different and life-changing summer. After the film dropped on Disney Plus countless viewers were quick to see the two boys hiding their sea monster identities as an allegory for being LGBT+”
luca is so obviously a gay allegory it’s silly that disney tries to deny it
— taylorgrift (@taylorgrift) January 5, 2022
Finally saw Luca. That is a very gay movie.
I like it.
— SteveSekai (@Stevesekai) January 4, 2022
Luca director Enrico Casarosa recently spoke to The Wrap about the origins of the characters and their ‘outsider’ status saying,
“my version was certainly we were two geeks, losery, and so it’s not where I was coming from but it’s so wonderful and even more powerful for the LGBTQ+ community who has felt so much of as an outsider, right, where this is so real and stronger than my experience, I’m sure to have to grow up with that kind of a difference.”
Casarosa made sure to keep the door open to viewers’ interpretations and regarding a maybe coming out journey he said, “It wasn’t my experience, but I love that metaphor is reading in all these different ways.” Instead of saying yes it is this, and thereby saying without saying no it isn’t this the Oscar-nominated director said,
“The things we did talk a lot about is what is the metaphor here for being a sea monster, for being different? “And some people seem to get mad that I’m not saying ‘yes or no’, but I feel like, well, this is a movie about being open to any difference.”
As a gay man watching the movie last night, I did make connections between the character’s journey and the journey of so many queer brothers and sisters. Luca’s family, fearing for his safety, decide to send him to live with his uncle at the bottom of the ocean. Luca tells his best friends, Alberto and Julia, he had to run because his family was “sending him away.” The words conversation therapy immediately came to mind.
Luca and Alberto: more than just friends?
The theme of friendship is the driving force of the movie, however, if you sensed more than a friendship developing between Luca and Alberto you are not alone. Nick, 25, an event planner in Washington DC felt,
“I think there are definitely queer undertones in Luca. So much of the movie felt like it was alluding to a romantic moment between Luca and Alberto, with the ultimate act of love being Alberto putting his own happiness aside to give Luca the opportunity to fulfill his dreams.”
Speaking about the relationship of the two sea monster best friends Casarosa said the writers were
“really focusing on friendship and so pre-romance, [which is] kind of love. There’s a lot of hugging and it’s physical and my experience as a straight man certainly wasn’t that.”
A Disney film is going to have a happy ending and true to form the sea monsters are discovered and as they shrink away fearful for their lives until Julia’s father, an imposing and respected member of the town, ‘vouches’ for the two and stand up for them. At that point, two other townspeople show their true sea monster status, echoing the fact that queer people have always been here. Patrick, 59, a longtime Disney fan who lives in Hells Kitchen, loved the film and its message,
“I wish there had been a Disney movie liked this when I was a kid; a positive gay-friendly role model. My experience was littered with many fey villains like Scar, Captain Hook, and Jafar to name a few.”
In some of the final lines of dialogue, Luca’s parents, proud of their son but fearful of his place in a sometimes not tolerant world openly express their worries for his future. Enter the wise and all-knowing grandmother character with the knowledge we queer people know all too well,
“Some people will never accept him. But some will, and it looks like he knows how and where to find those people!”
Cue the waterworks. Luca is available now on Disney Plus.
(**This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.)