Although it’s only a brief joke at the end of the movie, Paranorman has been praised in many circles for bringing us what’s believed to be the first gay character in mainstream animation. Now screenwriter/co-director Chris Butler (who’s gay himself) has been talking to AfterElton about the movie and its gay character.
When asked about why he decided to reveal at the end that buff jock Mitch is gay, Butler says, “There are very good reasons why it was left to the end. The main thing being that the most important theme in the movie is about not judging a book by its cover. In fact, it’s a literal plot element in the movie. There is a book that’s judged! I wanted to make every character in the movie guilty of judging someone else, usually misjudging. That’s all of the characters, the good ones, the bad ones. It’s every character. They all look at someone else, think they know who they are without getting into a conversation with them, and judges them. I wanted to make the audience complicit in that. It’s not just Mitch; there are plenty of stereotypes that are presented in this movie. As soon as you see anything, you think, “I know that character. I’ve seen this before.” That was the fun thing for me. It was saying, “Yes, you’re watching this movie where all these people are learning not to judge each other, but hopefully you are too.” This stereotypically macho jock who you’ve seen in every teen slasher movie, you think he’s straight and he’s going to get the girl. But you don’t know him! You don’t know who he is. That was important to leave for the end. Plus, I thought it was a funny joke.”
But was there any resistance from the studio about including a gay character in a family film? “Honestly? I never had any resistance from the studio,” Butler says, “That’s what’s really special about Laika [ParaNorman‘s animation studio]. I don’t think there’s any kind of agenda going on, but I think that Laika is brave and wants to create movies, tell stories that maybe no one else is doing right now. I think it’s them a really exciting place. That’s not to say — we did Coraline, and while that broke many of the formulaic boundaries of kids’ movies and in some ways it’s more terrifying than ParaNorman — but that’s not to say what we’re all about. What it says is that Laika is bold and willing to go there. There are plenty of things being developed at the studio that are really exciting because the other studios aren’t making them. They’re not the creepy-movie-for-kids studio. We are maybe the studio that is taking more chances creatively and that is exciting.”