The new Disney/Pixar Lightyear movie was released on June 17. It’s an addition to the children’s cartoon Toy Story franchise. With the release came controversy. The film had already been banned in 14 countries around the globe before its debut in theatres.
The contention is a kiss between two same-gendered characters in the film. I have not yet seen this kiss, but I will, so I can form my own opinions as a parent. However, admittedly I am a smidge more liberal than some other parents, and that in my own life has been a controversy in some circles of my associations.
I’m not sure if Lightyear was deliberately planned to be released in June — Pride Month, as a marketing tool to get the conversation revved on LGBTQIAS+ equality and the normalization in our society, or if it was just a coincidental summer movie release date.
Reading about the movie boycott reminded me of a phone call I had with my mother in 1997. She phoned me from Texas while I lived in Ontario to “warn” me and “advise” me about not letting my six-year-old daughter read a new book about witchcraft. The books were encouraging children to enter into satanic rituals and unholy practises, she said. There were book burnings, boycotts, and denunciation of the woman who came up with this blasphemy.
Being raised on fire and brimstone beliefs with the fear of God and spare the rod, my rebelliousness bolted out of the gate. I immediately purchased a copy to see what the hoopla was.
What parent raising children today hasn’t read the Harry Potter series? It is a norm of the millennial generation and has added shape to the modern-day pop culture. The franchise now embraces storylines of LGBTQIAS+ and is still not without controversy.
Those millennials have a lot to answer for teaching that the wooden spoon is actually for stirring cauldrons and that rainbows need to be grasped in the hands of humanity. Rainbows are no longer an unreachable vision in the sky; they symbolize equality.
Parenting is changing to embrace new normals. Change is not without controversy. Controversy is the forerunner of change.
Parents today are far more open-minded and accepting than some parents in my Gen. X age bracket and more liberal than my Baby Boomer parents.
It was a three-year-old little boy, one day in June 2002, that verbally slapped me into the face of reality about how I needed to parent. In a quiet mother and son intimate reading moment, with my arms around this toddler sitting on my knee, he touched my cheek and looked into my eyes. He told me God had put him “in the wrong body.”
Our family had not been oblivious to this little guy’s love of dolls, pure glee when he wore glittery princess costumes or his exuding pride at showing us his pink nails at daycare pickup. So, the fact that he was a colour in the LGBT rainbow was not news. The shock was he was only three years old. He found his voice with the only words he knew that he felt different from what we were telling him he should be.
I’m not often speechless. But on this occasion, my breath was caught in my heart. In that moment, I knew I had to open my mind and change the results of how I was taught to parent. I realized I had to put aside a pre-constructed framework of placing boys and girls in boxes of how they should act, dress, or the toys they should play with.
I had to put aside some religious beliefs, and the norms society preached that boys were slugs and snails and girls were sugar and spice. At that moment, my mind opened that this child was born to me for a reason, and I had to parent him to his own needs. I learned that “family rules” when raising children do not always apply to everyone, nor should they. The same can be said about the rules of society.
My newfound mindset created quite the stir in my church, with neighbours, friends, and some family members. Some would call it controversy.
At the moment of my son’s words, my heart opened with the knowledge that this child would have a journey different from my other children. I knew my job as a mom was to ensure he was safe and strong in his sense of self. I had to do this for his health and well-being so he could grow up knowing he was valued and equal.
Making sure he was safe not only necessitated allowing him to be his true self but included me as a parent being strong enough to carry us both through any adverse times. I learned to be vocal about equality, and human rights. I learned this is not without controversy. I teach that love is for everyone. Love can be shown in many ways. It can be shown through actions, words, demonstrations, flag flying, hugs, rainbows and even a kiss – like in a Disney movie.
Just like the witchery of a tale about a boy in boarding school shaping a generation, maybe a Disney kiss will continue to grow the rainbow.
-K-J Miller is the editor at the Northern View