Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toy Story 3 is homophobic (but see it anyway) !

So strange that I noticed no homophobia in "Johnny Baseball", and yet found several examples of it in the otherwise excellent "Toy Story 3".

All the homophobia centered around (who else?), Barbies' sexually ambiguous, ascot-wearing boyfriend, Ken.

I can actually list the offenses, which are shocking to me, considering this film is from Disney:

1. Ken's initial entrance, in lavender puffy short-shorts and shirt unbuttoned to his navel, which drew a collective "Ewwwww!" from the audience.

2. At one point, Barbie disguises herself as Ken by putting on his space-suit and helmet. Her high heels, however, are exposed when she walks away. The duped character notices them, but assumes it's just Ken wearing heels (again!), and produces an amplified, jaded "ECHHHH!".

3. In the punch line of an eye-rolling gag during the credits, a note in "girlish" handwriting delivered to the main characters, complete with swirls and hearts and hugs, is revealed to be Ken's writing, rather than Barbie's.

4. At one point Barbie, miffed at Ken, rips off his ascot, fuming: "That's MY scarf!!!"

5. At one point, Ken is called a "girl's toy" (which is, apparently, the ultimate insult) and "a purse with legs."

Really, Ken's whole character is just one long gay joke. It was really just cheap.

I googled some of the reviews, but only one critic, Scott Mendelson of The Huffington Post, even mentions this motif, saying that "the running gag concerning Ken's ambiguous sexuality is amusing even as it flirts with homophobia."

To me, it does more than just flirt.

Which is really too bad, because the film was just wonderful in every other way: imaginative, funny, heart-breaking, beautiful. You care so much for these characters.

But the portrayal of Ken ruined it for me: really, making him a shallow, clothes-obsessed stereo-type is just a tired cliche, and not worthy of the rest of the film. The gay jokes just seemed to roll out at hyper-speed whenever Ken was around, like an uninspired episode of "Three's Company". I just felt that something more original could be done with that character, rather than pandering to the audiences' homophobia, which, sadly, is still alive and well.

Ken, initially a bad guy, redeems himself towards the end of the film (there is ultimately only one villain in the story). But I could never give myself to the story completely, because I felt excluded and mocked in some way.

And that's a shame.


  1. Hey John,

    Thanks for this. I agree that it is homophobic, even if I thought it handled much of it OK until the end.

    The biggest issue I had was the revulsion of the characters at the end when they get the glittery letter that turns out to be from Ken. It is one thing if it is just laughed at like we shouldn't jump to conclusions. But instead they are horrified for some reason in a way they didn't seem to be the whole rest of the movie.

    Whereas I could see the rest of the movie as making FUN of the stereotypes and such, the end credits reverse anything in the movie and cast the whole thing in a clearly homophobic light, and it is a TERRIBLE example for children.

    No wonder I grew up hating myself, with this so deeply ingrained in our culture. A discussion about this movie on Change.org has people DEFENDING all its homo content saying we are overreacting. They don't even see it, it is so insidious and acceptable to cast hate at us.

    When our supposed allies refuse to see this, and give us a hard time for pointing it out, how is that progress?

  2. Hey Univeral Citizen
    I'm sorry: I just found your comment now, I'm still getting my sea legs here. Thanks so much for reading, and for your post. I lot of my friends thought I was CRAZY to react the way I did re TS3, but I really did feel that way, and I'm glad that I'm not alone. What was really sad is that the movie was so wonderful in EVERY OTHER POSSIBLE WAY.
    anyway, good luck, and thanks again!


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