THE MITCHELLS VS

The new animated feature from Netflix treats its protagonist's identity matter-of-factly but with care — which is exactly how it ought khổng lồ be.

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Maya Rudolph as Linda Mitchell, Abbi Jacobson as Katie Mitchell, Mike Rianda as Aaron Mitchell, Doug the Pug as Monchi & Danny McBride as Rick Mitchell in "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" on Netflix.Netflix
It might only be one line in the final scene of the Netflix animated family film “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” but with it the movie embraces queer representation beyond anything Disney, the most celebrated children"s programming company, has ever been willing to vì in its animated movies.

“Are you & Jade official?" mom Linda Mitchell (voiced by Maya Rudolph) says khổng lồ her daughter, Katie (Abbi Jacobson). "And will you bring her trang chủ for Thanksgiving?”

As a straight parent, I’m grateful lớn see more queer representation on children’s programming. I"ve seen for myself how early heteronormative conditioning starts for young children; it"s often before they have any awareness of their own identity & usually before they are born. My husband and I were saddened — but not surprised — khổng lồ receive well-meaning gifts of baby clothing that read “Ahoy ladies!” and “Ladies’ man” when our own child was born, items that projected onto him an orientation that was entirely presumptuous & contradictory khổng lồ our parenting philosophy.


When kids can’t see people like themselves in books or on the screen, it is easy for them to feel invisible.


The world can be a scary, stigmatized place, và I don’t want to mimic that kind of environment at home. To achieve this, I believe avoiding assumptions is key — but so is demonstrating that loving people and loving families come in all varieties. So being able to lớn see diverse families and diverse people represented in family entertainment is an assist I sorely need as a parent.


Representation of all kinds matter — from canonical queer representation lớn positive representation of black people, Indigenous people & all people of color. When kids can’t see people lượt thích themselves in books or on the screen, it is easy for them khổng lồ feel invisible. Over time, feeling invisible in the world might lead them lớn feel lượt thích they don’t matter when they vày or like there is something wrong with them when there isn"t.

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Accurate representation helps people feel less alone, especially people from marginalized communities. Helping LGBTQ children feel seen enough to talk khổng lồ someone, khổng lồ seek help, is vital when you consider that The Trevor Project’s 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 39 percent of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the prior 12 months, a percentage that rises to lớn more than half for transgender và nonbinary youth specifically.


The world can be a scary, stigmatized place, and I don’t want to mimic that kind of environment at home.


Queer youth deserve lớn see characters lượt thích themselves — và characters that represent them accurately, not characters where their identities are merely hinted at and certainly not ones where they are stereotyped as trope-y villains or sidekicks. They deserve to see themselves as the protagonist of their own stories, like Katie Mitchell.


In "The Mitchells vs. The Machines," Katie"s queerness is part of who she is, but it"s not the only characteristic that makes her noteworthy.

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“Katie is the kind of character I would want to look to và be inspired by & want khổng lồ be like,” Jacobson, who voices her, said. “She’s totally herself, wildly creative, a great big sister, hilarious, queer, excited lớn dive into her passions.”

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While my 7-year-old giggled và guffawed through the entire movie, at no point did he even particularly take chú ý of Katie’s initial coded — as she puts it — “weirdness,” or later confirmed queerness. He was simply enthralled with this cool teenage protagonist who loves rainbows & drawing, just lượt thích he does.


And, just as important as Katie is, it"s important for kids lớn see a parent like Linda Mitchell, who supports & loves Katie for who she is. As a mom to a growing first grader just starting khổng lồ figure out life, I want him to lớn feel safe in coming to me no matter what he might struggle with down the road. Linda Mitchell being there for Katie demonstrates that for him (and maybe for parents who will watch this movie with their kids).


This isn"t the only show we"ve been able to lớn watch together with this kind of presentation: PBS’ “Arthur,” Nickelodeon’s “Legend of Korra” & Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe” are among the shows lớn lead the way, and Netflix’s “Representation Matters” collection celebrates diversity of all sorts.

One of the shows, “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” has become a family favorite because of its fascinating story và excellent music — but we also love it for its well-executed representation of LGBTQ characters of color and its infusion of Korean pop culture & language. My son, lượt thích many kids his age, did not blink an eye when Kipo’s best friend Benson told her he was gay.


One day, perhaps, my kiddo will appreciate growing up with "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" và a character who is unapologetically herself.


Still, for decades, Disney has refused to lớn create an explicitly LGBTQ character in one of its movies, let alone confirm or deny the assumed queerness of its beloved major animated movie characters. Most recently, in the magnificent “Raya & the Last Dragon,” while the flirtatious energy between Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) và her nemesis Namaari (Gemma Chan) electrified the scenes, the studio stopped short of making any official claim of romance. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Tran disclosed that she chose khổng lồ inject thắm thiết feelings between her character và Chan’s but quickly clarified that the issue wasn’t addressed by Disney in the text.


Similarly, in “Frozen” & “Frozen 2,” despite Elsa becoming an LGBTQ icon outside the films and the movies’ hit songs “Let It Go” và “Show Yourself” both widely considered coming out anthems, Disney has chosen khổng lồ leave the matter mở cửa to interpretation.

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“The Mitchells vs the Machines” is, of course, not perfect: Every listed writer, director, producer and art director in the press notes presents as a white man with the exception of a sole female production designer. It"s a stark contrast from the diverse voice cast & exemplifies a long-existing problem in Hollywood — a problem I sincerely hope improves soon.

One day, perhaps, my kiddo will appreciate growing up with "The Mitchells vs. The Machines" và a character who is unapologetically herself, who finds “her people” both at home and in the world and proves she can vày anything lớn which she puts her mind. Or maybe — & better yet — diverse representation in movies will become so much the norm that he will take it for granted.


Michelle Yang is an advocate who speaks and writes about the intersection of Asian American identity, feminism, và mental health. A proud "takeout kid," who grew up working in her family"s restaurant, she"s contributed to CNN, InStyle, Shondaland, and more. She tweets