Spoiler! Gay Character in ParaNorman Doesn’t Ruin Movie, Kids

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Religious conservative mom Nancy French warned other parents on a Christian website last week that the new animated zombie comedy from the makers of Academy award-nominated Coraline will introduce their youngsters to homosexuality. She even goes as far to urge them to leave the show early in order to avoid having to “answer unwanted questions about sex and homosexuality on the way home from the movie theater.”

First of all, if your child is so young that he’s never been “introduced” to homosexuality, ever, then he is too young for this movie anyway. It could definitely be argued that this movie is downright scary. There were a few scenes that even made me jump a little. The main character Norman is an 11-year old boy who is a pretty normal small town kid, other than his ability to see dead people. His unusual gift exasperates his parents at home and gets him bullied at school. The cool kids write “freak” on his locker and shove him in the halls…until the town needs him. See, Norman’s town of Blithe Hollow lives under a curse stemming from a 300-year old witch hunt in which seven townspeople hunted and killed the town witch. Each year, she unearths her wrongdoers as gruesome zombies and they haunt the town until someone (like Norman) can read her a story that will put her to sleep for another year.

So, as Ms. French writes, “Zombies, ghosts, witches…how can a parent go wrong?” Apparently her religion is cool with witchcraft, but not with gay jokes. Spoiler alert: When Norman’s flirty sister asks the school jock out on a movie date, he replies “Sure. You’re gonna love my boyfriend. He’s like a total chick flick nut.” Yep, that was the appalling “Into to Gayness 101” line.

She continues her rant with, “my friend saw this film in a ‘red state’ and she reported that ‘you could hear the gasps from parents at the unexpected line.’” Granted, I saw this film in a “blue state,” but all I heard was laughter.

Movie producers are notorious for their insertion of “adult” humor in animated kids movies, a nod to the parents in the audience to thank them for spending their money and time watching kids flicks. (Nancy French calls them “irritating one-line remarks.”) This movie is no exception. Between the ghost and ghouls, this film is so jam packed with one liners that a cranky conservative parent could scoff at, that it hardly seems fair to single out this one totally innocent (and funny) remark.

Norman’s uncle, for example, while demanding Norman to fulfill his promise to save the town asks Norman to “Swear!” to which Norman replies, “You mean like the F word?” I would imagine that might be brought up in the car ride home as well. And when the town is destroyed and burns out the first letter of the neon sign for hot dog joint “Witchy Wieners,” you’re left with…well, let’s just say it could be argued that the film has now also introduced our kids to both swearing and STDs.

Since we’re talking about a Christian website, I’d be remiss not to mention the religious references in the film. Norman’s (dead) grandma informs Norman that “…not everyone becomes a ghost after they die. It’s mainly folks who die suddenly or still have some work to do.” At one point, Norman’s mother says, “Not believing in the afterlife is like not believing in astrology.” Throughout the movie, there are zombies, people rising from the dead, and desecrations of corpses. And of course, the “bad witch” in the movie turns out to be a misunderstood little girl, not too different from Norman, who was persecuted and murdered by religious zealots who were afraid that her unique abilities were the work of the devil.

Most importantly, though, Nancy French failed to mention that when you strip away all the zombies and ghosts, the movie actually has very positive take home messages for kids about forgiveness and acceptance. The film depicts the problems that arise from persecuting those we don’t understand or who are different from us. It teaches bullied kids not to bully back but to forgive their enemies for the sake of a better community for all. Although Norman’s father initially wishes Norman would just be normal like his peers, he eventually comes around to accept his son for who he is, ghoulish differences and all.

In conclusion, Ms. French, if Ann Romney’s favorite show can be Modern Family, I think your kids can handle ParaNorman, gay one-liner and all (unless of course they sneeze and miss the line completely).

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